Rebecca McAlpin for The New York Times
By DAVE COOK
Published: July 22, 2009
But why all the trouble, when two slices of white or rye might do just as well? Because Venezuelans love their plantains “morning, afternoon and night,” explained Liliana Velasquez, owner of El Dugout (
That affection is shared by the Dominican clubgoers who know the truck as Patacon Pisao, or “flattened plantain” (a name it shares with a catchy merengue song). When the truck window opens for the evening around 7 (it closes around 6 a.m.), a small crowd is often on the sidewalk, maneuvering forward to place orders with the manager. One of the most popular requests is the “full” patacón ($5), a combo of chopped griddled beef, pork and chicken, typically dressed with lettuce, tomato and a piquant pink sauce. Preparing the sandwich might take 15 minutes; many folks tide themselves over with a tequeño ($1), white cheese deep fried in pastry dough.
When the patacón is finally handed down, it’s wrapped in foil, which serves more than one purpose: fried plantain is not very absorbent, and every bite threatens to send sauce squirting out. Peeling back the foil little by little helps keep the patacón hot (and those dancing shoes unsullied). The starchy plantain and savory meats are an especially satisfying pair on a cool evening.
Even so, the patacón Maracucho gets many curious looks, said Larry Villalobos, owner of the nearby Cachapas y Mas (107B
But just as in
Mr. Villalobos also owns a truck, parked by night near the Metro-North Tremont station, called Patacon con Too (4184 Park Avenue, at East Tremont Avenue, the Bronx, 718-362-0705). “Too” is pronounced “toe,” reflecting the Dominican pronunciation of “todo” (“everything”), as in, “give me a patacón with everything on it.” The mozzarella is found in a version with ham and cheese ($5), but the star of the menu is the patacón Dominicano ($5), which swaps out the ham for silver dollars of fatty salami.
For a patacón Maracucho in a full-service setting — perhaps with a glass of beer, wine or sangria, before lolling against a banquette while listening to gentle Latin tunes — to the best of my knowledge the city’s sole option is El Cocotero (228 West 18th Street, at Seventh Avenue, 212-206-8930, cocotero-restaurant.com). A kitchen that turns out full-blown entrees also shows its hand in patacón fillings like asado negro ($8.95), pot roast in a sweet onion-and-red-wine sauce, and carne mechada ($8.95), stewed shredded flank steak. They’re moister than their uptown counterparts — enough, on occasion, to challenge the firmness of the “crispy green plantain crostini,” as the restaurant describes them. Thankfully, even here, they arrive in a protective wrap.
Of course there are arepas, the familiar corn patties, in many styles. But El Cocotero also offers a baked-goods alternative to the patacón: carne mechada, ham and cheese, and a half-dozen other combinations that can be ordered between bread, in a pressed sandwich. Though served with a salad, a side of plantains is never far away.