Writing this blog post proved to be a bit difficult. See, what you're reading here is really the umpteenth version of what I finally decided to publish. And the reason for that is simple: I'm still trying to wrap my head around what it is that I ate. Listing it is easy, of course. White rice, red beans, fried plantains (tostones), boneless chicken chunks (chicharron de pollo), mofongo (mashed plantains with cheese and pork chunks inside of it), fried pork chunks (chicharron de puerco) which is referred to as Chicharrones Dominicano and Dominican frying cheese (queso frito). I had to edit and re-edit a few times in order to keep this concise because, quite frankly, I don't think enough can be said about this place or the emotional state that I was in during and after my experience.
This place has too damn much to offer.
Fans of Anthony Bourdain know about this place because of an episode of his CNN show "Parts Unknown" that briefly highlighted it when he dedicated an entire episode to The Bronx. And those that have known about this spot for much, much longer have undoubtedly been screaming about it from their rooftops for years. Located right off the Grand Concourse on 188 Street this place could easily be missed considering that so many of the businesses that surround it also have a no frills look to them. It took me far longer than it should have to spot it across the street when I was trying to find it. Walking inside I was surprised at how small it was. I suppose it's true when they say that the camera adds 20lbs because I had expected it to be a bit bigger. Granted, I could tell from "Parts Unknown" and several pictures that I saw online that it wasn't a large place. But I was not expecting such close quarters. Snatched a seat at the counter and looked around at the menu. So many options. All of them read beautifully. When my head stopped spinning from looking at all the words on laminated paper plastered on their walls advertising pretty much everything that I wanted to eat I let the smell finally hit me and my stomach grumbled. I was in Latin Heaven.
If you sit down at the counter you're right across from a drink station that offers up a bevy of cool bebidas that include tamarindo, pina, uva, avena and parcha to name a few. To the right is a food station with comida that was being kept piping hot and was ready to be bagged up the moment someone walked in demanding it to go. There was mangu (smashed plantains), arroz (rice), habichuelas (beans) and pork. So. Much. Pork.
When the meal arrived I tore into it. I want to reiterate that: I unabashedly TORE IN to IT. This place has somehow managed to make something as simple as rice and beans taste like they were made en el campo con amor. Now, for me personally, one major problem that I have with Latin restaurants, regardless if they're Dominican or Puerto Rican, is that I never feel like they put any effort in to that specific dish. White rice seems to more or less taste the same to me wherever I go and beans can either be overly seasoned or painfully under seasoned. But here? Different ballgame. I felt like I was eating red beans from a recipe that was handed down to the cook either by his/her mother or grandmother. These did not taste like any beans I've ever had at a restaurant in my life. They tasted homemade. And the rice? Fluffy and smooth. Absolutely perfect.
The chicharron de pollo alongside tostones were served with a generous portion of sauce to pour over your fried plantains or boneless chicken chunks if you want to get a little nuts.
Next up was mofongo, which came with three small chunks of queso frito. Full disclosure: I had never had mofongo up to this point in my entire life. I always have been and will continue to be all about mangu. But to say that I wasn't impressed with what I used to consider mangu's weird little cousin would be a lie. Mofongo, or should I say the mofongo I ate at 188, was legit and on point. Color me way impressed.
When I was pretty much done devouring my meal I stayed seated and took in the vibe of the whole place. There was a crowd at the cashier's, rotating chairs of patrons who'd come in for a soup or a Cuban sandwich or a cup of coffee or a massive Dominican breakfast and then would bounce. The energy was palpable. This place was alive with amazing smells, amazing food and culture. But alas, I wasn't really, truly done. I had wanted what I had seen on television and what I had read about in articles. I wanted Chicharrones Dominicano.
BEST. DECISION. EVER.
Now here's the part of my blog entry in which I just want to scream out GO NOW AND EAT THIS! If you are a fan of pork, if you are a fan of fried pork, if you are someone who has a damn pulse then I implore you to go to 188 Cuchifritos and order this plate. It will rock your socks off. The chunks of pork are wonderfully crispy on the outside. At first glance it might seem like biting into it might look like a daunting task. I was half expecting to bite down on a rougher surface than we actually got. In actuality, it almost melted in my mouth. It has a perfect combination of fat and meat on the inside that has a smooth and buttery texture. I don't think I have ever tasted something on this level before even when eating pork at dedicated BBQ joints. This is, hands down, their signature dish. And this is absolutely one of the most incredible food moments you'll ever experience if you're dedicated to eating the best of what New York City has to offer. Every bite that I took was absolute pork perfection.
When I finally relinquished my seat I had to take some goodies to go. A pastelillo (more commonly known as an empanada) full of tasty ground beef and relleno de papa (stuffed potato fritters). Let's just say had these disappointed I wouldn't have mentioned them at all.
GO. NOW. AND. EAT. HERE.