Poco Dinero—Mucho Sabor

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“What should I get?” I canvassed the seven people pressed up against the metal steam trays in Abuela’s Cocina. A white-coated woman said definitively, “Stewed chicken. I get it every single day.” If variety is the spice of life, or at least snacking, then predictability offers comfort and the pleasure of anticipation.

Abuela’s is a scrappy, no frills, no menu storefront in which Milka Luciano has dished out “Spanish Food” (i.e., Puerto Rican and Dominican fare), just like grandma makes, for 10 years—and for poco dinero, too. I didn’t regret ordering the stewed chicken,

Photo by Nancy J. Brandwein

which is distinguished by its Puerto Rican “sofrito.” A base of chopped vegetables, Abuela’s sofrito is made from pureed cilantro, garlic, tomato and bell peppers. For a small plate ($5), large enough to share, you get one meat course—from roast pork (pernil) to codfish stew (bacalou)—and can choose between white and yellow rice, or rice with pigeon peas, and black or red beans. This is food for workers, trabajadores who need sustenance to get through the day. In fact the bread pudding was heavy as a brick ($1.50). But the flan ($1.25) was as delicately rich as a French crème caramel, the burnt caramelized sugar pooling at the bottom of the tiny cup.

Abuela’s Cocina
1762 First Ave. (betw. 91st and 92nd streets)

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