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I currently reside in the East Village in Manhattan, New York. The neighborhood includes an interesting mix of yuppies and hipsters, most of them hailing from such far off lands as Connecticut, the Upper West Side, and - gulp - Chicago. There are also the old neighborhood stalwarts, old-timers of many ethnicities who moved in long before the great influx of the last two decades, mostly with tattoos and mean looking dogs. Some might be able share interesting stories involving street gangs, horse and smack, and Bob Dylan. Who knows?

The real soul of the neighborhood though, the backdrop, the terra firma if you will, are the residents who were there long before the East Village was hip to kids from Connecticut, even perhaps before writers and artists and other aspiring junkies moved there in the 60s and 70s. And of course, the children of those residents, and their relatives who still come over from distant lands in the Spanish-speaking Carribbean.

Thankfully this Carribean/Puerto Rican/Nuyorican backdrop, gives an otherwise bland (as far as food goes, I won't profess to pass judgment on other aspects of the E. Village) landscape some seriously interesting peaks. Even if they are few and far between.

One of those peaks is Casa Adela, a small storefront of Ave. C, also known as "Loisada Ave." Unlike many of the "cuchifrito" places in the neighborhood that specialize in fried snacks sitting under heat lamps (which can be delicious) and vast selections of steam-table stews, Casa Adela mostly prepares its food to order, and does so carefully. It doesn't hurt either that the food is delicious, unique, and very affordably priced.

My friend and I ordered some mofongo to start. We were informed that it would take about 20 minutes. I knew this was a good sign, a thought that was quickly confirmed when I saw one of the proprietresses banging on fried plaintains and pork cracklins and other fixins in a traditional giant wooden mortar and pestle - the pilón.

We also ordered entries of each octopus salad and a fried chicken cutlet (a sort of chicken milanesa, to use Mexican terms familiar to all of us Chicago folk). Choices of sides included brown (flavored, not the healthy crap) or white rice, black or red beans, fried plaintains (tostones) or a small salad. I believe you can choose either rice and beans, or plaintains and salad.

All of the food was spectacular. The chicken cutlet consisted of a pounded breast (not too thin, though) fried-to-order that was crisp on the outside and juicy within.

The octopus salad was pleasantly sour and tangy, containing large chunks of soft octopus with pieces of onion and green pepper, and the occasional bite of fresh cilantro. This was heavenly poured over white rice.

Mofongo was my favorite bite, and I'm still thinking about it. Made fresh to order, the shapely mound contained a perfect ratio of crispy/chewy plaintain and pork bits to mashed parts, and was garlicy as all get out. Sadly, we neglected to ask for the traditional accompaniments, garlic sauce (similar to what gets put on jibaritos in Chicago) and consomme on the side. Being that my friend and I were first-timers, I don't think we got VIP service, but they were still nice as heck, if a bit gruff.

All of the sides were great - who doesn't like fresh tostones, especially covered in hot sauce - they had Matouk's on the table! Rice wasn't over-cooked. And the beans were silky and full of delicious liquor. It was a great meal.

We ordered flan for dessert and got a delicious, albeit small, piece of creamy custard in a cinnamon-y caramel sauce. The entire bill was $30 without tip.

If you are in the East Village, you'd better check out Casa Adela.

Casa Adela
66 Avenue C
New York, NY 10009
(212) 473-1882
Between 5th and 4th

Here's a picture:
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"By the fig, the olive..." Surat Al-Teen, Mecca 95:1"
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Sounds like an oasis in a sea of posing. NB: in Cuban and PR spots, Milanesa often indicates a breaded cutlet (eg, pollo o bistec empanizado) covered with tomato sauce, ham and cheese -- as opposed to the more generic and I suppose proper meaning in Mexican places where Milanesa describes a plain schnitzel.

PS, in Argentine spots, Milanesa denotes a plain schnitzel with a la Napolitana meaning with sauce, cheese and ham (apparently, folks in Latin America don't connect this sort of thing to Parma the way Americans do). A caballo is with fried eggs.
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Thanks for the info Jeff. I don't recall what it was called on the menu, but it certainly wasn't milanesa. Pechuga de pollo something.

Eating at Cafe Adela made me realize I've probably missed some good places like this in Chicago. Of all the things I've eaten that great city, I'm a bit embarassed to say that I've only had a jibarito once (it was eye-rolling amazing) at some place way way out west on Armitage on a rainy day while I was waiting for my windshield to be replaced. In fact, I don't think I've had PR food in Chicago on any other occassion. My first introduction was in Brooklyn, ages ago.

But back to Adela. I spied other tables ordering what appeared to be excellent versions of other classics - bacalao, guisado de res, and bistec encebollado, the latter complete with cheapo, overcooked, over-marinated ribeye. Just tha was its spose be.

I'll be back later this week or weekend. I can't stop thinking about that damn bacalao.
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"By the fig, the olive..." Surat Al-Teen, Mecca 95:1"
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Habibi wrote:gives an otherwise bland (as far as food goes, I won't profess to pass judgment on other aspects of the E. Village) landscape some seriously interesting peaks.


Maybe I've been in Chicago too long, but the two meals I had in the East Village last month--lamb face salad/liang pi noodles at Xi'an Famous Foods, brussel sprout pizza at Motorino--would scarcely qualify as 'bland.' The neighborhood was precious, no doubt, but I ate well.
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Habibi wrote:Eating at Cafe Adela made me realize I've probably missed some good places like this in Chicago. Of all the things I've eaten that great city, I'm a bit embarassed to say that I've only had a jibarito once (it was eye-rolling amazing) at some place way way out west on Armitage on a rainy day while I was waiting for my windshield to be replaced. In fact, I don't think I've had PR food in Chicago on any other occassion.



Puerto Rican food is highly underappreciated in Chicago despite a large, relatively compact community (2d to NYC) and meaningful number of restaurants. The cuisine is certainly overshadowed by Mexican for obvious reasons, but also by Peruvian, Columbian, Argentine and, in the past few years, Cuban. Of course, much of the interest in Chicago for off-the-radar ethnic foods comes directly from LTH, and has for some time. After early enthusiasm for Papa's Cache Sabroso's pollo chon and the Humboldt Park food trucks, and intermittent reports on Cafe Central, not much is said about Puerto Rican on the boards. Perhaps the scene is a bit static, maybe the cuisine doesn't have a proponent here these days, or some combo of the 2. It's too bad, because Puerto Rican here is very good and is more different and unique than people tend to recognize, leaning more into West African than other Latin American foods. Various soups and stews featuring the nasty bits so in vogue these days have long been cornerstones of the PR menu with stuff like mondongo (tripe), chuchifrito (pig ear), and patitas (pig's feet), as well as stews based on goat and various seafoods, particularly octopus. And with these stews, one has mofongo, the best use of yuca I know. Here's an example of such stews from Las Palmas here: http://www.lapalmarestaurant.com/meals.html I'd also put up pasteles against any country's tamales. The rustic, pork and offal heavy codex of PR cooking should appeal right now.
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Just a quick update. Had a cousin in from Chicago and we had an awesome breakfast of Mofongo con Pernil on Saturday. Pitch-perfect, chewy, toothsome fried/mashed plaintains with pork skin bits, drenched in garlicky gravy, next to some of the best roast pork I've ever had. Our next few meals were Chinese and Japanese, and the PR roast pork put the char siu (Chinese BBQ) or chashu (roast pork used in Ramen) we ate to shame shame shame. Not even close.

If you go to NYC, go to Casa Adela, and get a plate of Mofongo. You will not be dissapointed.
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"By the fig, the olive..." Surat Al-Teen, Mecca 95:1"
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