Bronx Eats: Sancocho Saves the Day at El Economico, Marble Hill
Save the peculiar framed cut-out art that adorn the walls, El Economico doesn't look or feel all that different from your standard Dominican diner in New York. The menu, too, is typical with standards like mondongo, mofongo, roast pork, and the like. But my interest was piqued by the pig ears in garlic sauce (what more do you need?), then disappointed when I was told they weren't available. But there are other reasons to pay a visit.
Some time ago, a friend had pitched their Dominican-style roast chicken ($4 for 1/4th, $8 for 1/2, $11 for whole) as one of the tastiest in the city. A trip back up to Kingsbridge Heights had been in order for some time, and after a few bites of a nearby kapacha that verged on cafeteria quality, I was looking forward to some herb-encrusted redemption. But something must have changed since my informant last checked in, because that chicken was weak.
Though that's not too say the roast chicken was a total loss. There were juicy bits with fragrant touches of the oregano-heavy rub, but too much of the meat was as dry and flavorless as a sun-baked tire. The limes wedges were perhaps a conceit to this reality; the thin garlic sauce it came with had a sharp flavor but bore an unpleasant resemblance to laundry detergent. The rice and beans ($4) should be avoided like stale wonderbread. The rice itself was several days past the point where it should be fried, the beans little more than pasty, ornamental globs.
The meal would've been lost had a tasty bowl of sancocho ($4 for small, $7 for large) not come to the rescue. In my time lurking at lunch counters, I'd somehow consistently missed this classic soup of starchy vegetables—despite the fact that, as my friend pointed out, it can be found on nearly every Dominican menu.
Here, the bowl is filled with pork and chicken accompanied by starchy bedfellows including soft potatoes and yellow-tinged yuca. Thick and an opaque, earthy green, the soup has a robust flavor bolstered by undercurrents of oregano. Comforting enough to make you forget the chill outside, and to feel at home even in an unfamiliar and dimly lit dive. A loss on the Bronx's roast chicken front, for us, turned into a gain on the borough's soup game.
5589 Broadway, The Bronx, NY 10463 (map)
About the author: Chris Crowley is the author of the Bronx Eats column. Follow him on Twitter, if you'd like. In person, your best bet is the window seat at Neerob, or waiting in line at the Lechonera La Piranha trailer.