There’s no doubt that Hispanic and Latino Americans have played a vital role in shaping NYC’s cultural identity; after all, they currently account for approximately 28.6% of the total population. And nowhere is that more succinctly expressed than through food—stroll through almost any Brooklyn neighborhood, and you’ll likely find both Cuban sandwiches and Mexican tacos, Puerto Rican stews and Spanish paellas, and a wide swath of hyper-regional restaurants, each representing unique culinary traditions throughout Central and South America. So help commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month (which extends through October 15th this year), by celebrating the vibrant, multifaceted cuisine, embodied in a few of the borough’s best Latin eateries.
Cuban: Pilar Cuban Eatery
Inspired by traditional Cuban paladares (intimate, family-run establishments), this petite cantina serves rustic comfort food on the outskirts of Bed-Stuy. As much as possible is made by hand, including the house-smoked chorizo, rich stocks and flaky empanada dough, or locally sourced, such as the classic Cuban sandwich bread, made especially for Pilar by a nearby bakery.
393 Classon Avenue, Bed-Stuy
Roberto Santibañez boasts quite a resume (top restaurateur and culinary consultant, James Beard award-nominated cookbook author, and member of The Culinary Institute of America’s Latin Cuisines Advisory Council), but his esteemed Park Slope restaurant is entirely without pretension. He offers unfussy, affordable renditions of beloved dishes from his native Mexico City, including Enchiladas Suizas, Pork Adobo, and Chile Relleno with spinach, raisins and pine nuts.
434 7th Avenue, Park Slope
Puerto Rican: La Isla Cuchifritos
While the menu boasts a wide range of Latin options, we’re partial to the array of Puerto Rico-inspired fried pork bits, i.e., cuchifritos, that line the windows of this Bushwick storefront. Try crunchy strips of pig ear, caramelized chicharron (skin) and dark links of morcilla—a thick blood sausage.
1439 Myrtle Avenue, Bushwick
Venezuelan: Caracas Arepas Bar
Caracas specializes in the griddled Venezuelan corn cakes known as arepas, which are split, filled, and transformed into all manner of portable, intensely savory sandwiches. Vegetarians will adore the La Del Gato—a mass of squeaky Guayanese cheese, velvety sweet plantains and buttery avocado slices, but pork enthusiasts should head straight for the Pernil—melting hunks of shoulder drizzled with spicy mango sauce.
291 Grand Street, Williamsburg
Salvadorian: El Olomega
The Red Hook Ballfields are a microcosm of awesome Latin American eats, but El Olomega actually won a Vendy in 2013 for their cut-above Salvadorian fare. In addition to paper bags full of crispy plantain chips and thick, icy cups of horchata, the truck peddles an extensive selection of pupusas; grilled, corn flour pancakes wrapped around chicken, cheese, beans, jalapeños, mild loroco flowers and more.
Spanish: El Born
Recently opened in Greenpoint, this sleek spot offers an array of Spanish tapas, both traditional (patatas bravas, bouncy lamb meatballs) and non (warm zucchini with Iberico ham and blueberries, pan-seared tuna with panko breadcrumbs). Still feeling peckish? Supplement your small bites with hearty, family-style platters of meat and shellfish-studded paella (rice) or fideua (short noodles).
651 Manhattan Avenue, Greenpoint