On June 8th of last year, we lost one of the greats of the culinary industry. Anthony Bourdain was a chef, author, James Beard Award winner and host of his own television show called Parts Unknown. He was loved by pretty much everyone who got to witness his candid storytelling, and reckless disregard for norms and regulations. He was interested in what makes people tick and used food to bridge the gap. He turned into my lighthouse, I always try to remember the thirst for knowledge and respect for cultures he exuded, I made it my goal to achieve.
He had a few segments of his show filmed right here in New York City, but of course the one closest to my heart is the episode filmed in the Bronx. He went to quite a few places that day, and lord have mercy, I’m not sure how he pulled it off. I managed to visit four of the places, and then I was pooped! I tried to see these places through his eyes, and taste the food and atmosphere of our Bronx.
Xochimilco Family Restaurant
Located in the South Bronx, which is slowly getting modernized, is this small family owned restaurant with old fashioned table cloths, waitresses with heavy accents, soccer playing on the televisions. Ordering my food wasn’t easy, my waitress spoke very little English, but that only got me excited, because I knew that meant I was about to have some very authentic food.
I (of course) ordered two tacos, one with Carne Enchilada (spicy pork), and one with chicken. They were loaded with onions, lettuce, tomato, cilantro, cheese and sour cream, they were a delight. I also ordered a couple of enchiladas with mole (upon the waitresses recommendation), and I can’t say enough about it. It was drenched in mole, which was more than ok with me, topped with cojita cheese, and it was heavenly.
For more info on Xochimilco click here
Ali’s Roti Shop
Next up was Ali’s Roti shop. It’s quite a hike from the South Bronx, I took the subway, listening to some music. This spot is small, mostly take out, unless you want to sit at the sparse bar seating alongside the wall or the window. The kitchen is separated by Plexiglass, and a lovely Caribbean lady took my order though a square hole. I had no idea what I was doing apparently. I looked the menus up and down, and while I can cook some pretty decent Caribbean food, this was obviously authentic as can be, and possibly out of my league.
Roti is basically flatbread originated in India, however many cultures and countries have taken it into their food regimen, and thankfully so. Here you can order whatever you like with a roti on the side, or you can order it wrapped inside a roti. Did I tell you I had no idea what I was doing? OK. I ordered curry chicken with roti on the side, and curry chicken wrapped in a roti. I meant to get more of a variety, but I didn’t get it right. However it turned out to be very good, so no complaints here.
For more info on Ali’s Roti Shop click here
188 Bakery Cuchifritos
This was probably my favorite stop on my little journey. I came to the US in the late 80’s, which was a time where Puerto Ricans just ruled the city in many ways, some of my best friends are of Puerto Rican decent, my twins are actually half Puerto Rican. So Cuchifritos are right up my alley, I just love their food. Rice and beans, deep fried goodies, chicken, stews, whatever your heart desires. This place is packed with patrons, it’s loud, it’s fun, and yes, it’s authentic. Nothing here seems to have changed from the Cuchifritos from the 80’s. I felt nostalgic and hungry, even though I just ate.
My order was to go, I had one more stop, and I was getting tired, I ordered my usual for chuchifritos visits: one Alcapurria (fried stuffed green plantains) and one Papas Rellena (fried stuffed potato). It’s a must. I also took home an order of Chicharrones de Pollo (fried chicken chunks) with rice and beans. I had the Alcapurria and the Papas Rellena as soon as I got home, and the rest for lunch the next day, and by God, this was some of the best food ever. I’m planning on returning asap.
For more info on 188 Bakery Cuchifritos click here
Bronx Beer Hall
This little bar is located inside a food hall of sorts smack in the middle of Arthur Avenue. Arthur Avenue is known as the Little Italy of the Bronx, and of course you can score some amazing Italian food in this area. Personally I love the shops and delis here, everything is just so fresh and delicious. Fish, bread, cold cuts, cheeses, seafood, all of it is available here, and it’s top notch. The Arthur Avenue Retail Market has pretty much everything under one roof, and in the middle of it all is the Bronx Beer Hall, consisting of a bar with about 10 chairs, and a few tables. There are no mixed drinks here, just beer and wine, and after I shopped for a few fresh things to take home, I sat at the bar, having a beer, trying to channel Anthony Bourdain, who found all these places. I felt bummed that I only mustered up four spots, but I’m sure he would have given me a thumbs up. It was a perfect end to a perfect day in the Bronx.
For more info on Bronx Beer Hall click here