A cheerful Guinean outpost on a quiet corner of Melrose, Bate is the area’s destination restaurant. Soups and stews form the backbone of the menu, and are served with rice, vermicelli, acheke (ground steamed cassava), yucca couscous, and fufu. There’s Sauce Claire ($10), a soup of garden egg and tomato with chunks of submerged goat; earthy cassava (Sauce Feuille) and potato leaf stew with rice ($10); and tete de mouton ($10; lamb’s head soup) with potatoes and carrots.
Other dishes feature proteins in more prominent roles, like guinea fowl ($15) with acheke. Whole fish is served both steamed (owner recommended) and fried ($13), its skin cooked to supreme crispness. Served with a fresh tomato, onion and cucumber salad tossed in vinaigrette and reminiscent of Mediterranean cuisine, both are tasty.
Additional heat comes by way of “pepper." Three varieties of the fiery West African chili sambal, an indispensable condiment, are available here: dry-burn inducing mustard, potent black, and a brighter, tomato-heavy red.
860 Melrose Avenue, Bronx NY 10451 (map); 718-401-2283
Fauzia's Heavenly Delights
Fauzia Abdur-Rahman, a 2008 Vendy finalist and former social worker, has been serving food outside the Bronx D.A.’s office for the past 15 years. Her menu largely changes daily, buffered by mainstays of grilled chicken and fish, rice and beans, and a mixed vegetable dish.
Mixed in with rice and vegetables, the grilled fish has a pronounced aquatic flavor with a hint of smokiness. It’s some of the best you’ll get from a cart. Chicken comes curried (Tue/Thu), stewed (Tue), barbecue-style (Tue), or jerked (Mon/Fri). Vegetarian offerings include a refreshing stir-fried mock chicken (Tues/Fri), tofu cooked in a sweet chili sauce, and tofu tiki masala (Wed). Main dishes (sm. $6, md. $7, lg. $8) come with two vegetable sides. Options include collard greens, hearty lentils, okra with tomato and corn, and spinach and black eyed peas. For those disinterested in forks, an order can be packed into a pita (everyday) or roti (Tuesday). When temperatures climb into the 90s, Fauzia introduces a cold food menu.
Banana Pudding from Fauzia's
Whatever you do, don’t pass up on Fauzia's banana pudding (Wed/Fri, $2.75). More than any other dish, it lives up to the lofty "Heavenly Delights" moniker. The smooth pudding is full of slices of fresh, soft banana and crunchy Nilla wafers. It's hard not to come back for more, and multiple servings are encouraged.
Nano Billiards & Cafe
A pool hall and bar that serves lunch specials, a meal at Nano will change whatever preconceptions, if any, you’ve harbored about Dominican food. There’s no menu, just whatever has been cooked that day. As an owner explained, with dramatic flair, “we can’t predict what we’re going to have the next day."
Usually, though, you’ll find some version of stewed chicken, fried chicken, beef, pork chops, and pork belly. On a Wednesday, for example, you might find locrio ($9): pork chop and belly mixed with orange-stained rice and soupy beans. In stark contrast to the dry chiccarrons all too commonly found at Latin luncheonettes, Nano’s pork belly is expertly cooked. Pollo fritos comes several ways, including the bread crumb-free version pictured here ($8). Just don’t miss out on the bacalao or salted cod fish ($8) when it's available. When served in an oily, marginally acidic white sauce with bell peppers and sweated tomatoes over rice, it's seriously refreshing.
185 East 167th Street Bronx, NY 10456 (map)
Weekend specials aside, Maryway offers a daily menu of 3 staples (all $9, with smaller $8 containers for takeout) churned out according to need: a fantastic mafe, colorful thiebou dienn (“cheb”), and thick okra soup.
Served with a plate of fluffy white rice and chunks of bobbing lamb, the mafe could rank among the city’s best. Its not just an advertisement for Skippy, though, and the all-too-often overwhelming (unsweetened) peanut butter flavor is mild and tempered by a rich creaminess that retains the grittiness of its nutty source. The cheb, jollof rice topped with stewed carrots, fish, cassava, cabbage, and eggplant, is highlighted by the tasty vegetables. Okra soup, too, will satisfy naysayers.
For those in need of a caffeine jolt, El Nuevo Noble, seemingly like any of the Latin diners that pepper Boricua, offers café con leche ($1) that’s superior to any of the bodega brews nearby.
218 East 170th Street, Bronx, NY 10456 (map); 718-401-2283
Rounding out the area’s West African trio, Papaye offers decent renditions of Ghanaian standards: mish-mashing waakye ($8-10, a precussor to hoppin’ john featuring black eyed peas, rice, and spaghetti), peanut butter soup with omo tuo or fufu ($10-13), and palaver sauce ($10-12, spinach and ground melon seed). Proteins, which tend to be pick-and-choose, include chewy goat, cow’s foot, bone-on chicken, and fried tilapia or croaker smothered in a dark-red gravy.
Utensils come along for the ride, but doing things right requires a more playful attitude: rip off shreds of your given starch and use it scoop up the soup. “Pepper” (shitor din in Ga) comes in two varieties—a fishier black and fresher red—is, as always, a necessary addition.
For sure, better Ghanaian fare can be had further uptown, at such places as Ebe Ye Yie, Sankoofa, and the 183rd Street and Grand Concourse location of Papaye. If it's Ghanaian food you’re after and you’ve got to keep it close, you won’t be remiss to find yourself on McClellan Street.
196 McClellan Street, Bronx, NY(map) ; 718-681-3240
The Feeding Tree
Featured in both the New York Times and Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, The Feeding Tree is the area’s most well known restaurant. When it comes to sit down West Indian, it’s not a game changer, but still a solid option.
Escovitch fish ($13), or fried red snapper, is served with a salad of cabbage, orange bell pepper, corn, and pickled jalapeno. The skin is oily, with some very subtle heat, and the best meat is found on the underbelly. While the jerk chicken ($8.25) is disappointingly cool and unrecommendable, both the curried goat ($8.25)—tender meat in a buttery, green gravy—and ox tail ($10.50), which carries more then its fair share of fat, are good. Each entrée (for more variety ask for half-portions) comes with a cabbage-heavy salad, a fried plantain, rice and beans, and cornbread.
892 Gerard Ave, Bronx NY 10452 (map); 718-293-5025
Flava's International Grill
A recent transplant from Third Avenue, Flava’s serves Jamaican and soul food basics, complemented by a juice bar, geared towards the take-out crowd. (Their $5.99 lunch special is especially easy on the wallet.)
The curried chicken is bland at best; the barbecue and jerk far outshine it. Baked naked in the oven and then finished with the sauce, the jerk-style chicken won’t satisfy purists—but the sauce is excellent, with a deep flavor and kick. Stewed oxtail, with extra gravy, is meaty and a decent second option. The sides ($2.00-2.50, included with main dish), though, are where the kitchen does its best work: baked deep dish mac and cheese, enhanced by the salt shaker, and, their best offering, honey harping candied yams.
854 Gerard Avenue, Bronx, NY 10452 (map); 718-292-2900