Courtesy, Puerto Viejo
Latin American restaurants are an essential ingredient to the revered dining destination that is New York City. Latinos make up 29 percent of the City’s population—that’s 2.4 million residents—making not only Hispanic cuisine but the community at large integral to the culture of NYC.
With Venezuelan and Colombian arepas in Brooklyn and Queens, and comfort Cuban food in Chelsea, the restaurants across the City represent the diversity of the Latino community. Here are 10 of the best Latin American eateries.
672 5th Ave., South Slope, Brooklyn
This family-owned Salvadoran restaurant is known for its homestyle cuisine. A must-try are the pupusas (thick grilled corn cakes), El Salvador’s national dish. Try the loroco variety, which is a leafy green, similar to spinach or watercress, and the pupusas revueltas, stuffed with pork, refried beans and cheese. Eat them with curtido (a fermented cabbage slaw) and salsa roja (tomato sauce), which is traditionally served with pupusas.
308 Willis Ave., Mott Haven, The Bronx
La Morada is an Indigenous family-run, award-winning Mexican restaurant in the South Bronx. Loved for its Oaxacan cuisine, the restaurant also earns praise for its reverence and respect for Indigenous recipes, such as the intricate moles (a traditional Mexican sauce of many spices, tomatillos or tomatoes, chilies, dried fruit or sugar, nuts and seeds), tlayudas (large fried or tostada corn tortilla typically covered in meat, cheese and beans) and enchiladas. La Morada is also a pro-immigrant activist space; they provide a meeting space for pro-immigration rallies, have hosted events for groups like the anti-gentrification collective Take Back the Bronx and serve as a soup kitchen to the Bronx community.
Llama San. Photo: Matt Taylor Gross
359 Sixth Ave., West Village, Manhattan
Llama San serves Japanese-Peruvian cuisine (Nikkei), developed in Peru by Japanese immigrants. The restaurant is helmed by chef Erik Ramirez (also of Llama Inn in Williamsburg), who is of Peruvian and Japanese heritage. The kitchen is equipped with a Japanese konro grill, and they serve dishes like scallop ceviche with yuzu kosho (thick, paste-like Japanese condiment made from chilies fermented with salt and yuzu, an Asian citrus fruit); aged duck with cilantro and banana; and an Iberico pork tonkatsu.
Arepa Lady. Photo: Alexander Thompson
77-17 37th Ave., Jackson Heights, Queens
Maria Piedad Cano is the eponymous Arepa Lady, and she’s been delighting neighbors and visitors with fluffy corn flour Colombian arepas for more than 25 years. The Arepa Lady originally began as a pushcart on Roosevelt Avenue in Queens. Due to its popularity, Cano (a former lawyer from Medellín, Colombia) was able to turn that cart into a sit-down restaurant in 2014. Sample arepas de queso (cheese), choclo (corn arepas) and rellenas (chicharrón- and chorizo-stuffed arepas).
47-46 11th St., Long Island City, Queens
A local favorite of Long Island City, this Peruvian outpost serves classic, artfully plated cuisine. Their ceviche and raw seafood items are very popular, including rotating specials such as the tuna tiradito, laced with passion fruit, jalapeños, chia and rocoto oil; and ceviche classico with lime, red onion, choclo, cancha and sweet potato. For comfort food, try the arroz con mariscos, a Peruvian-style paella.
66 Ave. C, East Village, Manhattan
An Alphabet City institution loved for its authentic Puerto Rican food, Casa Adela, founded by the late Adela Vargas, opened in 1976. Popular items are the mofongo, which is fried crushed plantains made with garlic and pork crackling; tostones (smashed and twice-fried green plantains); and chicharrón de pollo (crisp fried chicken pieces served with rice and beans).
Courtesy, Puerto Viejo
564 Grand Ave., Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
Owner Cristina Abreu, originally from the Dominican Republic, opened Puerto Viejo in Prospect Heights in 1986. Visit this Brooklyn restaurant for their traditional pernil (slow-roasted marinated pork leg or pork shoulder) and bacalao guisado (cod stew); pastelón de carne (mashed ripe plantains layered with beef and cheese); and their popular Chimi Burger, a black angus beef burger behemoth served with Dominican slaw and yuca fries.
207 W. 14th St., Chelsea, Manhattan
This Cuban eatery in Chelsea is named after the famous ice cream parlor in Havana; co-owner Beatriz de Armas opened the stateside Latin diner in honor of the beloved Cuban institution. With a neon light that glows 24/7, Coppelia beckons New Yorkers to try Cuba’s delicious cuisine. There are classics like Cubano and medianoche sandwiches, arroz con pollo (yellow rice and chicken) and ropa vieja (shredded beef in tomato sauce).
Arepera Guacuco, Bushwick. Photo: Jordana Bermúdez
44 Irving Ave,, Bushwick, and 360 Throop Ave., Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn
Bushwick and Bed-Stuy have both been blessed with Arepera Guacuco, a Venezuelan-style arepas spot. Standout menu items include pabellón (shredded beef, white cheese, sweet plantains and black beans), pernil (shredded pork shoulder) and vegetarian arepa offerings. The arepas come with fresh white Venezuelan cheese called queso de mano. Among other Venezuelan dishes served here are tequeños (cheese sticks), seafood soup and many iterations of platanos (plantains).
35 E. 21st St., Flatiron District, Manhattan
Flatiron’s contemporary fine-dining restaurant Cosme serves Mexican specialties paired with Hudson Valley ingredients. Chef Enrique Olvera dazzles with mole de la casa with wild spinach and hoja santa (a Latin American herb); duck carnitas; and crispy octopus tostada with chintextle (Oaxacan smoked chili paste) and sorrel. The famous corn husk meringue with corn mousse makes for a perfect dessert with a touch of sweetness and slightly smoky crunch.