Today is a momentous day in your life: it is Derek Jeter's final season as a baseball player—a Yankee lifer!—and you are attending the game. Okay, okay, but first you've got to answer that eternal question: where to eat?
You could stick to the stadium's improved but pricey concessions, or you could be bolder, save a few (read: a lot) of bucks, and venture out into the surrounding neighborhood. The Bronx is a wonderful place to eat if you know where to look, and we have you covered.
In the three years since our first guide to eating around Yankee Stadium, I've scoured the streets flanking the majestic Grand Concourse, turning up anything and everything delicious. This year, in addition to our cast of picks within a 15 minute walk of the stadium, we'll include a few of the borough's best eats that are just a bit further afield, should you be making a day of your trip for the game.
$1 Street Pupusas
At the northwest corner of 167th and the Grand Concourse, right outside the D train entrance, you'll find one of the Bronx's best cheap eats: pupusas for the low, low price of $1. Who doesn't love griddled corn cakes stuffed with gooey cheese or fatty pork? Come on! And these ones deliver a lot of bang for your buck.
Available stuffed with a combination of pork and cheese only, they're capably griddled, small enough you can treat them like the lightest snack, and, most importantly, consistently high quality. That's more than you can say for most of the city's pupusas, which come at a higher price, no less.
Jamaican Patties & Carrot Cake
Concourse Bakery's patties are, no exceptions, my favorite in the borough.
While so many patties have homogenous, mushy fillings encased in dry, nearly inedible shells, the pastry here is flaky and the fillings sport real strips of scotch bonnet, which lend a characteristically citrusy punch, and chicken. The texture is much more appealing. Do the right thing and stuff your chicken or veg patties—skip the beef—between some pillowy coco bread for bulk.
The best thing this bakery puts out, though, is their carrot cake ($2), once deemed the best in the city by the Village Voice. Concourse sells the ideal slice, spice-forward and unashamed of it, moist and crumbly without being too much of either. Ask for a corner slice, and enjoy that deliciously firm and flavorful crust. It's easily the best dessert in the neighborhood, an anecdote for the aggressively sugary sweets you'll typically find in the south Bronx.
PSA: You can get one of the best meal deals in the South Bronx, full of cheap eats as it is, by picking up a couple pupusas and a slice of this carrot cake. That's a lot of deliciousness for a mere $4.
The Bronx's Best West African Food
Despite the departure of our beloved Maryway, which served one of the city's very best plates of mafe, local options for West African eating remain excellent.
You could hit up the downtown branch of Ghanian favorite Papaye, where you can sweat over deep bowls of searing peanut soup.
But you'd be missing out if you didn't heed the call of Melrose Avenue's esteemed Bate, where you'll find the borough's finest West African cooking. At lunchtime, soups and stews abound. You'll find Guinean standards like sweet potato leaf stew ($14), a big bowl of tender greens with smoked turkey, dried fish, and goat, is flavored with the rarest ingredient in the neighborhood. That'd be fakoye, an herb indigenous to Mali, that has a slightly fermented flavor redolent of pu'ehr tea.
Less intimidating but still delicious are their Sauce Clare, a tomato and garden egg stew, and yassa chicken, wherein the bird is first marinated in lemons and then baked.
Stews, you'll discover, are the name of the game at lunch. Come dinner, though, the fare becomes more protein-centric, with plates of roasted guinea fowl and lamb chops paraded out with aplomb. Make sure to ask for some of their homemade shito ("pepper, please?"), a chili relish that often includes fresh tomatoes, garlic, onions, dried fish, and more. At Bate, they've been known to roll out a mustard-flavored variety. It's supremely delicious.
Heavenly Jamaican Street Food
A former Vendy Awards nominee, Fauzia is the worst-kept secret in the neighborhood. As far as street food goes, you can't do better for variety.
Fauzia peddles what she calls Jamaican fusion, meaning you'll find dishes ($6-8) like stir fried mock chicken and tofu tiki masala alongside sides of collard greens and okra with tomato and corn. Whatever you do, don't skip her banana pudding ($2.75), available Wednesdays and Fridays.
Should you have time for a sit-down meal and are interested in Jamaican, you have two options within earshot of the stadium: The Feeding Tree, much ballyhooed, and Flava's International Grill. The former is the neighborhood's most well known restaurant; stick to escovitch fish ($13), snapper that is fried and then marinated in vinegar, and curried goat ($8.25) for the best meal. Flava's is best for their $5.99 lunch special. While the sauce on the jerk chicken is deep and punchy, the chicken is baked to dryness. Consider the meaty stewed oxtail and candied yams instead.
Molino Rojo is a workaday restaurant. They're not going to win any awards, but the location is convenient and they turn out some satisfying dishes. Their lechon, roast pork ($8.50), is a solid lunch, best eaten as a sandwich with some mojo de ajo, a pungent garlic sauce.
But the real treasure is the Dominican-style cuchifritos ($9.50; fried pork bits). Ask nicely for the fatty pieces—they're worth the extra cardiac collateral, and need nothing more than a squeeze of lemon or lime.
Farther Afield: The Borough's Best Mexican, Nigerian, and Puerto Rican Food
Some of the city's best food can be found a short ride away from the stadium. In nearby Mott Haven, you'll find incomparable Puerto Rican lechon at Lechonera La Piraña, and what is quite possibly New York's best Mexican restaurant, at Carnitas El Atoradero.
Piraña, open from Friday night through early Sunday evening, is my favorite street vendor in the Bronx. His lechon is the borough's best, but it's the salty-sweet crab empanadas laced with a sultry sofrito that I can't go without.
At El Atoradero, Lina Chavez is cooking the homestyle Mexican food New York has been waiting for. There you'll find delightful renditions of meatballs served in a smoky chipotle sauce and stuffed with tender quail egg and an irresistible mole poblano. There are rare Mexican specialties like a chickpea cake studded with dried shrimp, and classic Michoacán-style carnitas, cooked with tequila, beer, oregano, and much more in a deep cauldron.
Farther north off the Freeman Street stop, you'll find the borough's best Yaroba cooking at Patina African Restaurant.
Drop by for the banga soup ($10) made with the fruit of the palm tree. It's delicious, funky from its fish base and sweet from tomatoes, perked up by the vivid heat of habanero chili. The eponymous palm fruit has the same musky flavor of palm oil, but it's cleaner, richer, and brighter. You're well advised to try the ifo riro ($10) too, flavored with a paste made of scotch bonnets, onions, and bell pepper as well as both dried and smoked fish. The leaves are soft but not mushy and seasoned just right, demonstrating a more sophisticated grasp on flavors than you'll find elsewhere.
About the author: Chris Crowley is the author of the Bronx Eats and Anatomy of A Smorgasburg Pop Up columns. 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.