Editor's note: Chris Crowley has written about sandwiches, Ghanian food, street food, and just about everything else in the Bronx—so we figured it was high time he had his own column. Here's "Bronx Eats," a look at anything and everything edible in the borough.
The Bronx is a borough of hidden treasures, a place where you can find an unadorned street cart selling Jamaican fusion in the shadow of Yankee Stadium and the longest-running kosher deli in the city. So in another sense, Pioneer Supermarket on Allerton Avenue wouldn't normally grab your attention—but it's one of the borough's many culinary surprises.
Step inside and a quick glance will reveal a typical inventory, with an obvious slant towards the local West Indian and Hispanic populations: slabs of slated fish and Mexican-style ricotta alongside Malta Goya. But veer left, a quick trip through produce, and you'll strike gold.
The high shelves of the grocery aisles give way to the open air of the deli counter, revealing two glass cases. Hidden behind the fogged class of the first case are steam trays housing heaps of Dominican food prepared in house. Look back into the open kitchen, and you might see something stewing in a large pot.
Whatever else you try, don't miss out on their mangu ($3.95), the country's unofficial breakfast dish. Cooked daily for the early birds, their supply usually runs out by noon. The Dominican cousin to Puerto Rico's mofongo, mangu consists primarily of green plantains that are boiled then mashed, and mixed with butter or oil and cold water. Other recipes call for vinegar, milk, or stock, as well. Variations exist on several other islands in the Caribbean, including Cuba where, in a nod to its West African origins, it is called fufu de platano. Here, it is served with sides of scrambled eggs or, its most famous companion, salami. Sautéed onions are an optional addition, at no additional cost.
With bites alternating between a smooth puree and lumpier chunks, mangu has a consistency unsurprisingly similar to mashed potatoes, a quality that, for the American, will speak to its enormous popularity as a comfort food back home. Enriched by the butter, it's not light picking.
Sliced thick and fried, the salami has a crisp, dark red surface guarding a softer interior laden with spices. The addition makes for a hearty meal. An order comes with an irregular number of slices tossed on top, which, after your first nibble, you may be tempted to gobble up right away. Do your best to savor them; the best bites combine both worlds. Sunny and airy, the scrambled eggs are lightly salted and cooked with white onions, grilled chicken, and cubes of ham. A smaller side of salami is included, as well. Cooked in strips to near-translucence, the sautéed red and white onions add a dose of vibrancy to the otherwise tepid colors of the dish. Packing a wallop of sweet flavor, they aren't necessary—but an excellent addition. Either way, you can't go wrong.
For something lighter, their fried yucca with red onions ($2.50)—the same served with the mangu—is not quite so dynamic but still satisfying. The yucca, crystalline white inside, breaks apart easily, and is excellent with the deeper flavors of coffee.
There's no seating, so chow on the go. But don't get discouraged as two excellent options for picnicking are well within reach. Head south to Pelham Parkway if your itinerary involves the zoo, or, better yet, east down Allerton Avenue to Bronx Park for some outdoor eating.
790 Allerton Avenue, Bronx NY 10467 (map) 718-547-6550