Bronx Eats: Dominican Street Snacks on Webster Avenue, Belmont
Located in walking distance of the Zoo and downhill from East Fordham Road's hectic shopping district, Fordham Plaza is a pavilion ripe for a street food boom: an ideal candidate for a Bronx culinary nexus. Unfortunately, this potential remains largely untapped and—while the flea market continues to thrive—few exciting food vendors have opted to join in the fray of roasted nuts, fruit stands, and the generic halal carts.
There are, however, some reasons to stick around. Posted up south of the intersection at Webster Avenue and Fordham Road, just west of the Plaza, is what I've long only known as "the Fordham Dominican Cart." (As far as I'm aware, the cart has no other name than the placard that adorns its facade, "The Best Dominican Food In New York.") This isn't a bad sign either; often these kinds of places need no real calling card, so deeply entrenched in the community as they already are. The stock display photos don't do justice to the quality of their food, a big step up from your average empanada slinger found on streets throughout the borough's southern reaches. Take the alcapurrias ($1.25; stuffed fritters made of green plantains and tubers), which have, beneath the crust, a gooey texture not entirely unlike sticky rice paste.
Better suited for lunch are the tostones con salami ($5 or $7; also available with beef), a simple comfort dish. Both the salami and green plantain are sliced and fried fresh to order. While the salami gets a single run in the fryer, the tostones, now a psychedelic yellow, are flattened under a bacon press and given a second, shorter fry. The finishing touch is a heavy shower of salt to tickle your tongue.
The salami is in itself nothing special. But the calm flavor—not too oily, nor too deeply fried—pairs well with the heartier tostones, as aggressively starchy as they are. And there's something endearing about the way the weathered proprietor, working aside his wife, nurtures the floating discs that translates into the food itself.
A classic beverage from the Dominican Republic, morir soñando ($3; "die dreaming") makes a fitting dessert. It's nothing fancy: a concoction of orange juice, condensed milk, and sugar, shaken and poured over ice. But you won't find anything else that tastes so literally like a creamsicle, the sensational flavor giving justification to its reverential name. While a whole cup might be enough to send a sugar-starved toddler on a rampage, cutting yourself off proves difficult.
Given the city's ongoing beautification of the Plaza, aimed towards making the busy intersection more pedestrian friendly, serious eaters and locals alike can remain hopeful for an influx of higher quality food vendors. Really, few places in the outer boroughs are more fit for a gathering of hawkers. In the meantime, there's always Best Dominican: offering solid, straightforward street food.
The Best Dominican Food In New York
Intersection of Webster Avenue and Fordham Road, The Bronx, NY 10458 (map)
About the author: Chris Crowley is a former Serious Eats intern and the author of the Bronx Eats column. You can follow him on twitter here, or pay a visit to his new food blog, Sound Bites, over on Wordpress.