Concon-solation prize: Stewed eggplant, a Tuesday-Thursday special, was already 86'ed when my dining buddy and I nosed into this Dominican deli. A plate of pernil ($6), with the crunchy, bottom-of-the-pot rice called concon (cone-Cone) and ladles of beany gravy, was more than enough encouragement for a return visit.
Bello Deli 5009 Broadway (213th-214th Sts.), Manhattan 212-567-0734
A quipe (Key-pay) is the Dominican version of a Levantine kibbeh. The original takes on many guises; the variety adopted in the West Indies has an oblong, deep-fried shell of bulgur surrounding seasoned minced meat. Many quipes served by Upper Manhattan storefronts and street vendors are bland; sometimes they hint sweetly at cinnamon. This one offered not only the nuttiness of bulgar but also, as my dining buddy observed, an Old World flavor profile including pine nuts and cumin.
John's Fried Chicken 512 West 207th St. (at Post Ave.), Manhattan 212-567-6489 (one of several locations) www.JohnsFriedChicken.com
Gateway to the beach resorts on the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic, the municipality of Punta Cana is evoked here, in Washington Heights, by little more than a palm tree on the awning. But use your imagination, and in a countertop scuffed by the passage of many plates, you might see bright sky and fluffy clouds.
My gallina — the meat of an old hen, made somewhat more tender by long cooking — was accompanied by black beans and white rice cooked together ($6 total). In Cuba especially, this black-and-white combo is known as moros y cristianos, or simply moros; in the Dominican Republic, it also goes by the name congrí. Several ladles of gravy were splashed across the beans and rice, at the counterwoman's invitation. Does anyone ever decline this offer?
Punta Cana 3880 Broadway (at West 162nd St.), Manhattan 212-740-0643
With just the right amount of blueberries, perhaps the proprietor could prepare a blend in that same shimmering cerulean. As any squeegee man will tell you, however, this particular liquid is suited for cleaning windshields and not slaking thirst. (Display space may be at a premium, sure, but right next to the menu is an odd spot for wiper fluid.) I warmed up instead with a hot cup of ginger tea (small, $1) and also carried off a paper cone of gofio.
Mobil Snack Shop and Sqweeze Juice Bar 3740 Broadway (155th-156th Sts.), Manhattan
Leche cortada, the vendor called it. This was his shorthand for a walkup clientele who knew what's what, and who could see that almost all his wares, whether served in a cup or in cookie-like form, clearly fell into the category of "dulces" — "sweets." He didn't need to trouble with the full name, "dulce de leche cortada" — a "sweet of curdled milk."
The dulce de leche I once bought from a nearby bakery was, in retrospect, a more caramelized version that perhaps also relied more heavily on brown sugar. Raisins are typical; common flavorings include vanilla extract, lime peel (removed before serving), and cinnamon-like sticks of canella (one rested at the bottom of my cup). Invariably the recipes specify that as the milk cooks down, the resulting curds mustn't be broken up too finely; leche cortada should have a fudgy richness, but it ought to have some texture, too.
Dominican sweets table Broadway near the southeast corner with 160th St., Manhattan Hours very irregular
My early investigations into yaroa, three years ago, revealed very little. Empanadas Monumental, which by all accounts brought this heavily layered Dominican dish to Upper Manhattan, has roots in the provincial capital of Santiago de los Caballeros — Santiago, in common speech. There, I've since discovered, yaroa became a beloved nighttime street food at the turn of the last century.
Caridad offers a domesticated rendition, a casserole, albeit one topped with mayoketchup. (I haven't partaken.) Though "Santiaguera" identifies it with the D.R.'s second city, the original dish may be named for an outlying town where a home cook first prepared it for family and friends: Gurabito de Yaroa. The word "yaroa" itself is in Taíno, a language spoken by some of the indigenous inhabitants of the region; its meaning is a mystery, to me.
Burrito de cecina ($7.50), featuring salty dried beef. I don't know that this presentation qualifies as "wet" — typically that style of burrito is drenched in red chili sauce, not lightly dressed with sour cream — but eating was a knife-and-fork operation.
Guadalupana Deli & Victoria Restaurant 3825 Broadway (159th-160th Sts.), Manhattan 212-928-5989
Dulce de papaya, piña, y pasas de uva (pequeño, $1.50). For her tiny stand — it's little more than a folding pushcart and a comfortable chair — the soft-spoken Dominican confectioner also prepares the granular style of dulce de leche.
Dominican sweets vendor Near the southwest corner of St Nicholas Ave. with 181st St., Manhattan Mid to late afternoon is your best best
Or, in Spanish "Casa a Salvo de Plomo," the motto on the cap of the worker in the foreground. His hands shield the human figures, and their food, from the threat of lead poisoning, symbolized by the chipping paint that frames the bottom of the mural.
"Lead Safe House" Christopher Cardinale and Youme Landowne, 2004 2183 Amsterdam Ave. (168th-169th Sts.), Manhattan