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.
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.
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.
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.
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….
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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