Sweet Potato Cake from Dominican Street Vendor
With all the Dominican restaurants in the Bronx, you’d think it’d be easier to find a dessert that isn’t a pre-made slice of tres leches cake or flan. This anonymous street vendor serves up several traditional sweets you'll be hard pressed to find elsewhere. My favorite was her sweet potato cake. Flavored with cinnamon and cloves, its dense but moist, with a subtle sweetness drawn from the batata. Read more »
Burek at Giovanni's, Belmont
Tony & Tina’s has been a favorite pilgrimage of New York’s food-obsessed for some time and the undisputed king of burek west of the Bronx Zoo, but the quality has declined over the last few years. Giovanni’s, another pizzeria-cum-burektorja, began offering burek as well, has usurped that crown with their wood-fired gems. The phyllo is shatter-crisp, the fillings much more creatively flavored. So much beef burek is overloaded with black pepper and tastes like Hamburg Helper, but here roasted garlic, seriously beefy flavor, and a more cautious hand make for the first beef burek I’d come back for. Read more »
Sweet Potato Leaf Stew at Bate
Bate has consistently produced the best West African food in the Bronx for almost four years now. Like most restaurants serving this cuisine, lunch is limited to two to three dishes drawn from a larger menu. On Tuesdays and Saturdays you’ll find their sweet potato leaf stew, served with smoked turkey and goat, and—here’s the kicker—flavored with fakoye, a rare Malian herb that has a fermented, musky flavor reminiscent of pu ehr tea. It’s one of your few chances to try the herb in New York City, and a deliciously earthy one at that. Read more »
N'duja from Calabria Pork Store
Calabria Pork Store is, hands down, one of my favorite places on the planet. It's maintained its old world aesthetic into the 21st century—I mean, what other pork store in New York functions as a cave? Sopresatta is their specialty, but you shouldn't leave without some of their housemade n'duja either. A Calabrian speciality, think of it like a sharply spicy, incredibly moist, and porky pâté. Read more »
Chili Rellenos from La Morada
La Morada's chili rellenos are some of the best I've had in New York. Available daily, as either jalapeño or poblano peppers, they aren't chilies blitzed by the fryer into submission. Stuffed with the mildly sweet, fresh cheese queso de tropico, they're best when served in this sauce of tomatoes, onion, and serrano peppers. Soupy and rich, it packed a punch of delightful sweetness and a subtle but racy heat. Read more »
Oaxacan Specialties from La Morada
You won't find them everyday, and you might have to request them made on a special day, but La Morada cooks up several Oaxacan moles and other dishes you won't find elsewhere in the Bronx. Especially good is their mole verde (pictured), made with garlic, scallion stem, cumin, pepita (pumpkin seeds), cilantro, and jalapeños. Bright and refreshing with a prickly heat, it's so delicious you'll want to drink the sauce from your plate. Read more »
Roast Pork at Saigon Market
Monfongo Al Pilon at 188 Cuchifritos
The mofongo at 188 Cuchifritos could be the Bronx's best. Get yours with chicharrones y queso, a trifecta of fried, fried, and fried. The cheese and chicharrones are served on the side and mixed into the plantains, which have a deliciously uneven texture and are lightly seasoned with a vinegar-forward pique criollo. This is comfort food of the highest order.
Alcapurrias at Mama Isabella's
Good alcapurrias, like any fritter, need to be served fresh lest they lose their virtues. Too many are left to die under the heat lamp, but exemplar renditions are worth all the misses. Mama Isabella's is at the top of their game in the Bronx, with a crisp shell that has a surprising amount of give and a slightly sweet, beefy filling that slips out as easily as molten cheese. You'll have to wait until spring for these, but in the meantime Lechonera La Piraña offers a very adequate alternative. Read more »
Mafe at Saloum
When 167th Street’s Maryway closed, the Bronx lost its best mafe. We’d been searching for a worthy heir even since, and found one in the mafe peddled by Saloum. This is not the gloppy, one-note, too-heavy-on-peanut butter-and-extra-light-on-everything-else mafe you may have encountered in Harlem.
You'll be spooning the sauce over rice, too busy relishing the just slightly sweet, comfortingly rich, and seductively earthy flavor to notice the sneaky heat as it creeps up on you. The heat is never blistering, just a faint, mellow hum of capsaicin.