The Port Chester Latin-American Food Crawl
We’ll tell you what to get and where to get it on this tour of Westchester’s most densely packed food Mecca.
Photography by Emmanuel Faure
Find Mexico’s traditional pastel de tres leches (cake of three milks) at La Flor de Jalisco Bakery. (Above, left to right): Sweet treats—salpicon with ice cream and a cup of choco milo—at Sweet Cream; pupusas, stuffed, griddle-fried corn cakes, at El Tesoro II; molcajete Azteca, the most popular dish at Kiosko Restaurant; frozen fruit pop at Paleteria Fernandez.
Port Chester, New York. This once derelict inner-ring suburb, wedged between Rye and Greenwich, Connecticut, has morphed into a foodie’s paradise, thanks to the city’s diverse immigrant communities. The chevron formed by Main Street and Westchester Avenue encloses a lively world of restaurants, all serving the comfort foods of Latin America. You’ll find Salvadoran pupusas, Peruvian grilled chicken, Mexican carnitas, Brazilian churrasscos, Colombian arepas, and Uruguayan churros. You could even do this crawl by following your nose.
But which restaurants are the best? To sort the wheat from the chaff, we enlisted the help of Adam Clyde Christensen—native Angeleno, confessed taco obsessive, and local authority on Port Chester’s food scene. His thoughtful, informed postings on Chowhound.com have steered foodies to Port Chester’s treasures for seven years—practically since the beginning of the website. (And Chowhound regulars take note: you wouldn’t believe it after reading his posts, but Adamclyde—as he’s known on the board—is actually quite slim.) With his sage advice, and the additon of some of our own favorites, we’ve compiled this best-of-the-best Port Chester crawl.
One warning: you might not want to eat for a month or so before attempting this crawl. Alternately, you can do the crawl as we did, in installments—with plenty of light meals and walking in between.
Asi Es Colombia Bakery and Restaurant
174 N Main St
This modest bakery-cum-restaurant IS as homey as an American diner, serving stick-to-your-ribs Colombian food to an all-day clientele. Asi Es’s casual, brightly lit room is dominated by a flat-screen television broadcasting a lively stream of salsa videos. Diners occasionally bust a move as they stand, or tap their toes as they sit, or maybe sing a phrase or two. It’s a cheerful kind of place.
Lunch is an especially good time to visit Asi Es, for then its incredible bandeja paisa (translated as “typical platter”) is available. Here, thin, crisply seared steaks are accompanied by a giant portion of unctuous, pork-laden red beans, fluffy white rice, a fried egg, and chicharrón—a scored baton of crisp, deep-fried pork rind. Lighter eaters might opt for Asi Es’s version of pulled pork, arepa con carne desmechada. Here, a plate-sized arepa (corn cake) supports a pile of succulent shredded pork, which is tender and highly seasoned with scallions and peppers.
118 N Main St
Don’t look for gummy bear “mix-ins”
at this new Colombian ice cream parlor. Instead of dare-you-to-eat-it candy mash-ups, you’ll find lush ice creams in a changing variety of house-made flavors. We especially loved Sweet Cream’s Colombia-specific flavors: arequipe, the national version of dulce de leche; panela, or Colombian sugar-cane syrup; and choco Milo. The last is chocolate and vanilla ice cream flavored with Milo, an internationally popular (though not in the U.S.) powdered chocolate drink made by Nestlé.
Pollo A La Brasa Misti Restaurant
110 N Main St
Forget Boston Market, whose rotisserie chick-
ens are always slathered in that mysterious, gelatinous orange stuff. Port Chester’s Pollo a la Brasa Misti has all the convenience of the bigger fast-food outlet, but with a whole lot more local flavor. This Peruvian eat-in/take-out restaurant has speedy service, phone-in ordering, and a handy parking lot out back. It’s the perfect midweek option. Keep the number in your speed dial and you’ll always have something quick and nutritious when you get home late from work.
The chickens, sold by the half or quarter, are rubbed with a sticky, garlicky, pepper-flecked sauce, and then rotisserie-broiled until the flesh is practically falling off the bone. Served with a mild yellow mustard, each order comes with iceberg salad and your choice of fries or rice. While you’re there, don’t miss Misti’s papa rellena (stuffed potato). It’s like a huge, deep-fried potato knish stuffed with seasoned ground beef, onions, eggs, and olives.
Los Gemelos Restaurant and Tortilleria
167 Westchester Ave
Los Gemellos is a fully operational tortilla factory, whose corn discs you can find wrapping the burritos and tacos of several local restaurants. If you’re the sort of diner who likes entertainment with your meals, visit Los Gemelos early in the day. When the machines are running, you can watch the assembly line in operation as you eat.
One of the best dishes at Los Gemelos is its carnitas tacos. This traditional dish of Michoacán usually involves slow-braised pork shoulder, finished by searing it in its own rendered fat. Los Gemelos avoids the dryness of many local carnitas dishes by deep-frying the entire, huge cut of pork. This leaves amazingly greaseless, moist, and tender pork shreds, dotted with crisply caramelized exterior pieces. The succulent carnitas are loaded into a soft, fresh, corn tortilla with crisp chopped onions and cilantro, and then served with a side of hot sauce. Order two and pair your tacos with a refreshing horchata. This sweet, cold drink is made with milky puréed rice, vanilla, and cinnamon—it’s like rice pudding you can sip through a straw.
Brasil International Café
103 Adee St
This Brazilian churrasquiera (or grill restaurant) is prob-
ably not the best option for vegetarians. Its lunchtime buffet—which the restaurant actually considers a first course—is overloaded with pork ribs, beef and peppers, roasted chicken, and dobradinha—a traditional Brazillian dish of tripe and white beans.
After tucking into a big plate of that (at the reasonable price of $3.99 per pound), the real churrasco begins. Look for coracao (roasted chicken hearts), contrafile (shell steak), alcatra (sirloin), consela (beef ribs), frango (chicken), lombo (pork loin), and fraldinha (skirt steak). The meats are strung across horizontal spits and roasted in shifts throughout the day on a wall-mounted vertical broiler. While not particularly veggie friendly, Brasil International is an excellent place to take someone on Atkins: this restaurant is all protein, all the time.
Amazingly, Brasil International Café is a bakery too, serving a wide selection of Brazillian sweets—apparently to competition eaters who can actually manage another bite. Popular choices include quindim, or coconut flavored flan; pudim, or pudding favored with leche condensado (caramelized condensed milk); and beijinhos (or “little kisses”), small, spherical coconut cookies.
33 N Main St
Paletas, literally translated as “trowels” or “paddles,” are a recent phenomenon in Mexican cuisine. First made in a single post-war shop in the Mexican state of Michoacán, these refreshing, brightly flavored fruit pops are now popular all over Mexico.
It’s tempting to confuse Mexican paletas with American ice pops, but that would be quite
wrong. Instead of the artificially colored, chemical-laden frozen sugar-water that you buy off the side of an ice cream truck, paletas are sophisticated, all-natural treats. They’re simply frozen fruit and vegetable purées offered in a stunning array of intense flavors.
Some paletas are made with milk (like avocado, plum, passion fruit, and rice pudding), while others come in pure fruit varieties (like strawberry, tamarind, banana, and mango with chili). The colorful selection is absorbing. It’s the kind of shop whose vast, intriguing choices will have you planning a return visit as you walk out the door.
El Tesoro II
14 S Main St (914) 937-2086
Pupusas, the stuffed, griddle-fried corn cakes of El Salvador, are the things to get at this small combination Guatemalan/Salvadoran restaurant. El Tesoro’s hot, tender disks come stuffed with pork or cheese and are served with the traditional Salvadoran accompaniments: curtido, a tangy, picked-cabbage slaw; and thin, salty tomato sauce.
Our favorites at El Tesoro II are its cheese- and pork-filled pupusas—
although, at only a buck fifty each, you might as well try all three. The cheese pupusas have all the textural beauty of a well-cooked grilled cheese sandwich with crisp, corn-flavored crusts yielding to oozy, cilantro-flecked cheese. El Tesoro’s pork-filled pupusas offer another type of contrast. Here, a spicy, salty, crumbly interior is ameliorated by neutral, crisp-grilled corn shell. Both pupusas are eminently crave-able, and both make ideal hand-held snacks.
Uruguay Bakery Ltd
204 Westchester Ave
Even though Krispy Kreme is bent on world domination (with branches in Australia, Kuwait, and Hong Kong), don’t think that America has cornered the market on doughnuts. France has its beignets, Italy has its zeppole, and Spain has its churros, which emigrated, along with Spanish settlers, to much of South America. These extruded batons of star-shaped, deep-fried dough are denser and chewier than the insubstantial Krispy Kremes. Also, unlike American versions, the churros’ browned, crisp-fried ridges create a satisfying exterior crunch. Rolled in cinnamon and sugar and served with hot chocolate, they’ve long been a breakfast staple in Spain.
While Uruguay Bakery Ltd. sells the usual version of churros, those in the know visit the bakery/café/candy store in the morning. Then they can tuck into churros con dulce de leche. These shorter, fatter, deep-fried treats come filled with oozing caramelized condensed milk.
La Flor de Jalisco Bakery
217 Westchester Ave
If you’re looking for all-butter icing
and natural coloring, La Flor de Jalisco is probably not for you. But, if you’re looking for a gaily colored, traditional Mexican pastel de tres leches (cake of three milks), La Flor is just the spot.
At La Flor, the three milks in question—cream, evaporated milk, and condensed milk—are poured over firm yellow cake, which has been pierced to allow the milk to penetrate. The result is a unique dessert—part cake, part pudding—served icy cold in a paper cup along with a spoon. Pastel de tres leches has the universal appeal of a wedge of yellow cake and a glass of frosty milk, all united in one sweet, wet bite.
Kiosko Restaurant and Bar
220 Westchester Ave
The walls of this loud, happy Mexican
restaurant are covered with comic book-like posters of buff Aztec gods lording over Earth as busty, fur-and-feather- garbed women cower at their feet (this artwork is just begging for a black light). But despite its campy posters, the kitchen at Kiosko is quite serious—serving earthy Poblano specialties like platos de barbacoa enchilada de chivo (goat barbecue), tacos al pastor (spit-roasted pork with pine-
apple) and molcajete Azteca, Kiosco’s most popular dish.
While Americans have become used to seeing molcajetes at Mexican restaurants (you’ve seen the lava-stone mortars used for mixing guacamole, too), few area restaurants explore the thermal properties of the stone. At Kiosko, each molcajete arrives at the table hot and fragrant with its sizzling contents. (The effect is similar to that other hot-stone dish, Korean bibimbap.) In Kiosko’s molcajete, though, you can expect fragrant, protein-rich assortment of sizzling skirt steak, salt-dried beef strips, seared chorizo, and grilled chicken breast, all doused with the vibrant house salsa. If that still sounds meager, the dish is accompanied with a side of rice and beans.
Julia Sexton is a New Rochelle-based food writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and many other publications. When not too sticky from eating paletas, she manages to write for Westchester Magazine.