Posted by: Jeffsayyes | September 17, 2010

Fritura Truck Ambassador – Sara takes us to Washington Heights

After finding the late night chimichurri truck in Corona, I wanted to see how it measured up against the best in the city. I knew Washington Heights was the place to go, but which trucks are the most prime? I needed an ambassador. So I looked up my yelp friend, Sara M., and asked her to show me and some friends the ways of upper upper Manhattan.

She agreed and asked to meet us at Corcho Wine Room on Dykman for 2 reasons:
1) To show us how parts of the neighborhood have gentrified,
and 2) To get us sauced.

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Walking down Dyckman reminded me of a beach town, with the restaurants centered around cocktails spilling far onto the big sidewalks. Lots of clamoring and cars parked then buzzing by. It was nearly touristy and definitely not the Washington Heights I was taught to stay away from. Along the way we passed a cafe/wine bar named after an aphrodisiac. This was what I think Miami is like.

And getting sauced was an integral part of the experience. Sara explained that most of the people at fritura trucks have something to do with partying. Whether it be revelers themselves or the people who help them revel; at 2,3,4,5,6 am, they are released from clubs or bars and meet at the street food. Plus, the food tastes better with a mind full of inebriates and new tainted drink in hand.

The first truck she took us to was Chalupa (boat) at the corner of Dyckman and Sherman. This is Sara’s uncle’s favorite spot. The first thing everyone noticed was the custom neon sign on the driver’s side of the truck. Woaaahhhh… This is a whole new side of professionalism to trucks that most of us islanders aren’t used to. We made our way around to the selection side and again, the display was worthy of mouth agape. Gizzards and pig ears and tongues and tripe and chicharonnes. More and more selections on display under the glass. These are not the trucks I am used to.

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We got orejas (pig ears), chuleta de puerco (pork chop) and Longaniza (sausage) and a plate of tostones (fried green smashed plantains). The oreja was revelatory: a new light in the culinary landscape. I love it. The ears were tremendously fatty, with a line of cartilage to hold it together – making it more crunchy than chewy. Admittedly, it’s a lot to take in, more than one piece in a row will probably ream you with guilt and bloating.

The tostones were very good, and the closest thing I’ve gotten to my own double fried version.

For drinks, we split 3 Morir Sonados. These tasted similar to creamsicles, with similar composition: orange juice, sugar, concentrated milk ( maybe other things ). For some this was too intense, some it was just right. This was not the first drink of the night that was recommended to mix with alcohol. This would become a pattern.

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Across from a club at 202nd Street between 9th and 10th Avenue was our second stop, Patacon Pisao or El Dugout (431 West 202nd). This has recently garnered attention because of their expansion to a storefront in Elmhurst. This truck has basically the same menu. I liked the truck’s version better though, the ingredients here seemed more alive and messy.

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More than a few of our crowd thought this was the favorite of the day, mainly because is was so “different.” We had the patacon Full, which is a sandwich using plantains as the bread, stuffed with chicken, beef and roast pork, along with lettuce, tomato, cheese and a special spicy Russian dressing-like sauce.

But more of a hit were the cachapas. This is a fried cornmeal pocket, with all the fixins of the patacon Full inside. It tastes like an intense tamale or like a deluxe Ecuadoran humita. It even tasted similar to a very soft arepa (like the arepa lady’s).

For drinks, we ordered passion fruit (chinolo) and cherry drink. These definitely tasted more like “drinks” than “juices”. And again, as suggested by Sara earlier in the night, these could definitely use the help of a flask to add some layers to it.

We didn’t get the cheese sticks, but they seemed like something worth a crack at. Next time….

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Sara told us about a legendary Dominican drink, mamajuana. This is a very special concoction made from fermenting herbs in rum for a month or so. You can’t buy it directly, bu you can get the set-up at botanicas. Every place has a unique recipe. From her tales, it seems this drink either will inspire death or extreme life. Research online has pointed me to it’s potency as an aphrodesiac.

Also native to Washington Heights is the nutcracker drink and nemos, it’s frozen version. They’re a nearly guaranteed way to get drunk. You can find these at juice bars or corner stores (illegally), which are handy when the liqour stores close between 10pm and 8am. Then if drink isn’t enough, this area is home to the best purple haze in the city.

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At 204 and 9th was our last truck, El Peluche (The Teddy Bear). They had the most amazing maduros (sweet plantains). Waiting for us on the cart they were drenched in oils, and from our plates I have never tasted a plantain more rich than they were here. A little heavy, but definitely some superlative.

This cart was remarkable because unlike the first cart, some of the ingredients on the table were not cooked all the way. They weren’t reheated, they were fried fresh, and therefore more tender and juicy. And for other items like chicken wings, double fried probably did them better. We told the man we wanted 10 dollars worth and they gave us a portion. It worked out well.

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We also had chimi’s from this truck. These are similar to a whopper, with the hamburger patty, cabbage and secret sauce. What made these versions so good was the fluffy and fresh bun. It was definitely lovely and I want some more.

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Something notable to me at these trucks was that there were no rice and beans. The fried masses were mostly unaccompanied. The only choices of relief were starchy tostones, yuca or sweet maduros.

Throughout the night, with the locals watching us snap pictures, this group of young whites and asians who clearly did not live here, we heard cries of “Are you tourists??” They were kind of excited, like they were happy and surprised that people would be interested in their neighborhood. We told them No, we’re from New York, but the truth is – Yes. We are tourists.

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Thank you 1000x to the lovely Sara and her buddy Mary for taking us on a crawl of their favorite trucks. I learned a lot and everyone we met were quite jovial. Hopefully this will inspire more people to take the trip up. Thanks again.

Links:
Corcho Wine Room
Sara’s reviews on yelp
Eat the World NYC at El Dugout Patacon Pisao
Rundown of Chimichurri trucks from Remezcla
All about nutcracker drink
gothamist on nutcracker
Patacon Pisao on yelp
The Nutcracker from The Uptown Collective

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Responses

  1. I’m starving. I LOVE Patacon Pisao cachapas. The maduros look like they’re worth a pilgrimage. Great stuff – hooray for Sara and Mary.

  2. Wow that patacon looks absolutely delicious, and so does the ladies.

  3. We gotta find one in Jackson Heights

  4. [...] Check out the entire post: Here [...]

  5. While I loved your article, please do your research before you go to other neighborhoods and find out exactly where it is that you are visiting.

    Just so you know. You weren’t in Washington Heights. You were in Inwood.

    It perplexes me how people still manage to mistake the two. Just because there are a majority of Dominicans in the same two neighborhoods doesn’t mean it’s the same historically, and geographically.

    Also, the neighborhood is not “gentrified” as you may think. Every single popular restaurant on Dyckman is mostly Dominican owned. The term gentrification is overused and racist in my view.

  6. can’t gentrifiers be dominican? I do usually think of it as negative, but it can be used just to say wealthier people moving in. Wine bars are clearly a sign of upward mobility, isn’t it?

  7. Guys I’m a proud Latina but that fritura stuff doesn’t look appetizing, I recall a special on Spanish television showing how many of the owner of these mobil stands spit in their oil and have low poor health standards and you might be eating mouse droppings in your friend food, sorry but if you see oily stuff make sure the you are getting your food from a place that is sanitary, I wish our Latino people could stop eating so much friend food daily and maybe that way overweight and diabetes wouldn’t be so much of an overwhelming problem. Being proud of your country and your food doesn’t mean necessarily eating the unhealthy items on a menu. Sorry for the rant, and keep doing what you do, it’s great.

  8. *fried

  9. Im hungry now after looking at all this food! Im happy you are open to different foods! That says alot about your character! :)

  10. Glendy, you bring up a good point;diabetes and heart disease. Sound scientific research supports the fact that it is not what your consuming but NOT consuming that is making people sick. The body over works and compensates by robbing what it needs from bones and organs. Even if covered in grease the nutrional benefits outweighs the con. The advice is always to remove salt, egg yolks, butter, sunlight, fat, from our diet. By removing salt we remove iodine which the thyroid gland needs, egg yolks which has much need vitamin d plus supports the brain, butter has beneficial propertie, and the majority of diseases is in response to vitamin D deficiency, not just any vitamin D, but D3 which we can only get between the hours of 10-3pm.1 thing I do avoid is pork. If the medical community spent more than 2 wks on nutrition than they would have realized a lomng time ago, that it is not the above is not a cause but a response to lack of minerals and vitamins. Yes there are fats to avoid and they are canola and corn. I learned this 12 yrs ago and boy do I enjoy my food now! Thanks Jeffrey for this posting! It’s good to know that these trucks are still in operation! The chimichurri would go for 2.50 back in the day! These trucks have been in operation for over 20 yrs!

  11. […] Pisao started out as a local legend in Inwood. A few years ago, they expanded to a local-centric location on Grand Ave in Elmhurst, and now they […]


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