Washington Heights isn’t as far as you think. Ok it kind of is, but it’s worth a trek uptown for authentic Dominican food and an out-of-Manhattan experience without actually leaving the city.
You’ll work up an appetite climbing the unexpected hills that make up the neighborhood streets. For a quick and inexpensive bite, hit up one of the three Empanadas Monumental locations for Dominican style empanadas. The savory turnovers are fried instead of baked, giving them a light and crispy texture.
If you love plantains, you’re in the right area; and if you don’t, you will become well acquainted with the ubiquitous ingredient. It is the star of the Dominican and Puerto Rican staple mofongo, mashed and fried garlicky green plantains filled or topped with vegetables, chicken, pork, shrimp or beef and a soupy gravy. It can also be seen in patacones, green plantain sandwiches that use the starchy banana in place of bread and yoyos, sandwiches utilizing the sweet, ripe plantain. Places like Cachapas y mas offer a variety of these and show off the community’s increasing Venezuelan influence with a selection of arepas and tacuchos as well.
For a comprehensive Dominican dining experience, and some of the best rotisserie chicken you’ll taste, visit Malecon Restaurant. You’ll smell it before you see it as the restaurant keeps a glistening batch of chickens continuously roasting in its front window, tempting anyone who passes by. Crispy, juicy, perfectly seasoned skin gives way to moist and tender meat. The menu encompasses many traditional pork, steak and seafood items and includes daily specials like salt cod stew and tripe soup. Open late on weekends, this neighborhood treasure is always buzzing with families and locals looking for home-style comfort food. If this was my neighborhood, I would probably recharge with a cortadito about five times a day, they’re only a dollar.
It’s not all old school tradition in the Heights and places like Mamajuana Café are fusing the old with the new to create Nuevo Latino fare. Named for the ancient “miracle” potion created by the native Taino Indians comprised of herbs, spices, rum, wine and honey, the restaurant sits on trendy Dyckman Street on the border of Inwood and Washington Heights. Bring some friends so you can savor as much of the innovative menu as possible, starting with the ropa vieja arepa, shredded braised beef on a crispy corn cake. The chimichurri topped churrasco steak is not to be missed and while its surprising to see thin crust pizzas (cocas) at a Latin restaurant, the short rib, onion and blue cheese Coca will assure you it’s a great idea. The passion fruit tres leches is a perfect example of an updated classic with its distinct layers and textures and soaked but never soggy cake base.
Photo Credit: Patty Lee NYDaily News