Bronx Eats: Arepitas and Chimis at El Rincon de Las Frituras, Kingsbridge
Given the Bronx's relative lack of serious street food, something I've lamented about in the past, we're quick to jump at the sign of any interesting sidewalk bites. So when I first spotted this Dominican chimichurri* truck while passing through the neighborhood, I took note. An encouraging mention in the Daily News convinced us to give it a closer look, and we went in with high hopes. But despite a strong initial showing in the fritter department, the fare proved to be middling.
* In the Dominican Republic, chimichurri refers to a spiced variant on the hamburger.
Our first visit proved to be the most satisfying. We kept it light with an order of two arepitas de maiz ($1; Dominican cornmeal fritters), a shot in the dark that proved fruitful. The arepita's flavor was genius in its simplicity, little more than the interplay of the corn's natural sweetness with the licorice undertones of anise seed. The texture of the crust was more crunchy than crisp, giving way to a forgiving soft interior.
But the promise of a great edible deal in the borough was broken by inconsistency on a subsequent visit. On a more recent trip in the early afternoon, we were served an arepita that was dense and lukewarm.
We quickly found out, that with the exception of the chewy arepitas de yuca, none of the other snacks lived up to that first bite. Particularly bad were the pastele en hoya ($4; green banana tamales), with sour-tasting meat texturally indistinguishable from the plantains.
Still, most people aren't coming here for tamales. They're coming for the chimis, and the insurance against a hangover that they provide. So what about 'em?
You can't expect the world for $4, and what you get is a satisfying sandwich that exhibits some evidence of cost-cutting. For the price, it's a tasty deal. The bread is slightly dry but holds together well in spite of all that's stuffed inside it; the cabbage adds nice crunch the flavor gets lost in that sea of sauce. (A word for the wise: if your Spanish is serviceable, we seriously recommend telling them to go light on the Russian dressing. It has a nice tang, but is slathered on with the heaviest of hands.)
Still, the meat is much more flavorful and better seasoned than what is cooked at Mount Eden's El Rincon de Los Taxistas. Of the four options, we preferred the chuletas, strips of roast pork cutlet, and the de res, a thin patty of beef with plenty of oregano. Both were good, and would do wonders after a night of heavy drinking.
But the best reason to drop by won't be until summer, when the truck's selection of chilled tropical juices will be a life saver for those looking to escape the heat. On a 98 degree afternoon, few things are so satisfying as chinola (passion fruit) over ice. And us? We're looking forward to trying that morir soñando.
El Rincon de Los Frituras
On East Kingsbridge Rd between Jerome Ave and Davidson Ave (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.