Dried Shrimp and Chili Bharta at Neerob
I’ll come out and say it: Neerob is hands down the borough’s finest restaurant. There is so much love in this place that you can quite literally feel it. We aren’t talking about the realm of white linen dining, but rather the epitome of the low-brow, outer boroughs experience. It's a community spot that transcends its original function; though owner Mohammad “Khokon” Rahman is not shy to admit there were always bigger plans breakthroughs in mind. Just about everything with fish is well worth your stomach space, but the bhartas ($1-$3; ask for a sampler platter and try them all) are particularly good. Mashes of vegetables, lentils, and sometimes fish (often dried), they’re defined by the ubiquitous use of mustard oil. Variations include spinach, lentils and green banana, roasted eggplant, and shutki (a dried fish preperation that smells heinous but tastes sweet.) Me? I’m a sucker for the crunchier dried shrimp and chilies, which packs a vicious kick.
Neerob: 2109 Starling Avenue, The Bronx, NY 10462 (a href="https://maps.google.com/maps?q=neerob&hl=en&client=safari&oe=UTF-8&hq=neerob&t=m&z=15">map); 718-904-7061; neerob.com
Crab Pastelillos at Lechonera La Piraña
The mastermind behind Lechonera La Piraña, Angel is one of the city’s unheralded culinary treasures. (Like most of the Bronx, he gets skirted over in favor of hipper or more accessible spots. Vendy who?) With its colorful, occasionally eccentric character character and dedicated local following, his food trailer captures just everything that we love about street food. This is lavish praise, no doubt, but accurate nonetheless. While pork is the star of the show, I actually prefer his transporting crab pastelillos ($1.50). Not a one-trick pony, like so many street side empanadas, these are spruced up with a homemade sofrito blend and vegetables. No matter the weather, they’ll bring you right to the beach.
Lechonera La Piraña: Corner of 152nd and Wales, The Bronx, NY 10455 (map)
Sauce Clare at Bate
A short walk from Yankee Stadium, Bate has been serving up Guinean food on Melrose Avenue—known as the commercial center of the Bronx’s Ghanaian community—since 2009. A combination of French and Islamic influences distinguishes the cuisine, which makes ample and creative use of leafs. There’s straightforward grilled or steamed whole fish ($14), muskier potato leaf stew ($10), the intimidating teton de mouton ($10), and other delights. But novices will likely find a more forgiving introduction in the tomato-enriched garden egg stew known as Sauce Claire ($10). Goat lovers need apply.
Bate: 860 Melrose Avenue, The Bronx NY 10451 (map); 718-401-2283
Egusi at Ebe Ye Yie
Ebe Ye Yie is a stalwart of the Bronx’s West African culinary scene, a restaurant that has been slinging fufu and peanut soup since the '90s. Skip the more pedestrian peanut butter soup and elect for Egusi ($12), a stew thickened with the eponymous pumpkin seeds and served with spinach, habanero, offal, and lamb’s head. Soak up the liquids with sour banku, a steamed, fermented dough.
Ebe Ye Yie: 2364 Jerome Ave, Bronx NY 10468 (map); 718-220-1300
Burek at Dukagjini
There is nothing to have here but burek ($4) and espresso ($2); which is to say, you should order everything. The brilliant, flaky pastry achieves its stateside apex in New York's most beloved burektorja. If you're limited to just one "slice," the spinach is particularly delicious.
Dukagjini: 758 Lydig Avenue, Bronx NY 10462 (map); 718-822-8955
Carnitas at El Atoradero
Beer, thyme, and tequila are just three of the ingredients used to flavor these bodega carnitas, some of the best the city has to offer. Cooked the right way, in a deep cauldron, you can get them on huaraches ($2), picadatas ($3), sopes ($2), quesadillas ($2), or even to top a pupusa ($2). It's worth asking, too, if you can get a container to go.
El Atoradero: 800 East 149th Street, The Bronx, NY 10455 (map); 718-292-7949
Mole Poblano at Estrelitta Poblana III
Village Voice critic Robert Sietsema agrees, few Pueblan restaurants in New York do mole poblano ($10) as well as Estrelitta Poblano III. I used to eat here weekly, when I still lived in the neighborhood, and would occasionally indulge in this generous rendition. Here is pictured the equally delicious cemita ($6), which is one way of admitting that I could never once be pulled away from my fork once I got wind of that rich sauce.
Estrelitta Poblana III: 2328 Arthur Ave # 5, Bronx NY 10458 (map); 718-220-7621
Pastrami at Loeser's
I won't argue that Loeser's pastrami sandwich ($8.95) is the city's best (read: its not), but I will say this: for now, it's as close as you'll get to time traveling. Counterman Freddy Loeser has been running shop since he opened the place up almost 52 years ago with bar mitzvah money. What's changed? Nothing, really. There's just the right amount of sharp mustard to compliment the pastrami's well-spiced flavor; if you're inclined towards corned beef, Freddy's Russian dressing is stellar.
Loeser's Kosher Deli: 214 West 231st Street, Bronx NY 10463 (map); 718-601-6665
Pollo Frito at Nanno Billiard Cafe
My friend Baron Ambrosia introduced me to this Dominican bar cum lunch hall, several cuts above your average Dominican diner. He stumbled upon the place while looking for a filming location, explaining he didn't want "to use Caridad 3000, or whatever." Food changes daily, but you can except some form of pollo frito ($8) no matter the calendar.
Nanno Billiard Cafe: 185 East 167th Street, Bronx, NY 10456 (map); 718-293-0607
Pizza at Mario's
In his <a href="http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/real-pizza-of-new-york/id394041454?mt=8"Real Pizza of New York" app, Jeff Orlick writes: “the pizza man has been making pies here since he was 14 and doesn’t seem to be leaving anytime soon. And why should he?” So he's no Dom DiMarco, but that's pretty awesome, no?Jeff believes Mario’s is putting out the borough's best pie ($14, off menu), and whether you agree or not, there’s something to be said for checking into a still kicking holdover of the fast-fading Arthur Avenue. (One whose kitchen hasn’t totally checked out, for that matter.)
Fahsa Salta at Arth Aljanatain
A small but growing Arab community in Van Nest finds its culinary apex in this welcoming Yemeni restaurant, which distinguishes itself with a flavorful fahsa salta ($8). A bitter fenugreek seed-laced stew of celery, onion, potato, tomato, and shredded beef cooked in broth that—so the story goes—has its origins in the Turkish occupation, makes a grand enough entrance to provoke season cries of, "volcano! volcano!"
Arth Aljanatain: 700 Rhinelander Ave, Bronx NY 10468 (map); 718-918-9191
Pumpkin Burek at Tony & Tina's
Tony & Tina’s still calls itself a pizzeria, but those in-the-know are well aware that there’s no reason to go here for anything but burek ($4) and yogurt ($1.50). The best of the bunch is the coiled pumpkin burek, which has none of the grease that plagues the more savory options and is filled with a sweet pumpkin purée. Just keep your eyes peeled, as they're likely to sneak it into the microwave for a reheat. (Radiation and burek don't mix well.)
Tony & Tina's: 2483 Arthur Avenue, Bronx NY 10458 (map); 718-733-8094
Chotpoti at Starling Coffee Shop
Hot Flat Soppresatta at Calabria
And then there’s that soppresatta ($14.99 a pound) from Calabria, one of the city's finest sausages. The store is, as far as I’m concerned, the only must-go destination along Arthur Avenue. As one commenter pointed out, "This store wins the prize for most sausages, cylindrical cured meats, etc.. They must be #1 in America. Some places hang a few for display. Calabria clearly has them hard at work, a working display of genuineness." Go for the hot flat, which has a sweeter and more concentrated flavor than the sausage links with a prickly heat that creeps down your throat towards the end of the chew. (If you're looking for company, Edible Queens' Joe DiStefano begs you not to forget the culatello.)
Calabria Pork Store: 2338 Arthur Avenue, The Bronx, NY 10458 (map); 718-367-5145;