Establishments that sell frituras and cuchifritos typically showcase their wares in a window facing the street. Incandescent bulbs keep things warm, or at least do their best. To spot the freshest items, however, check the glass — the meeting point between hot air radiating from just-fried food and the cooler air outside — for beads of condensation. (Scott Wiener has made this same observation at by-the-slice pizzerias.)
Shown, in the sweating display window and in biteaway view: a relleno de papa ($1.50), or ground-meat-filled potato fritter, that at first bite threatened to burn my lips. Also shown: a bacalaito ($1.50), or cod fritter, purchased on a previous visit without giving freshness much thought. Sometimes, dumb luck pays off.
2000 Third Ave. (109th-110th Sts.), Manhattan