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September 9, 2006

Review: La Parada
Posted by Teresa at 07:06 PM * 51 comments

The La Parada restaurant (nice people, Comidas Latinas, eat in or take out) violates that basic law of the universe that says, Fast, cheap, good: pick two. It manages all three. I know most of you aren’t overwhelmingly likely to be in the vicinity at mealtime, but if you are, it has by far the best food in the neighborhood, and it’s remarkably inexpensive.

Breakfast there is a little challenging if your basic breakfast meat isn’t salami, served with yuca or mashed green plantains plus eggs. The lunch especial is better: yellow rice, their nice soupy red beans, and your choice of beef, pork, or chicken, for $3.95.

They’re very proud of their roasted chicken, pollo rostizado. At dinnertime you can get a half chicken, plus rice and your choice of beans or fried plantains, for $6.00. If you want a whole chicken, it’s $9.00. They’ll frequently throw in a green salad.

You can get the same deal for a shifting weekly lineup of other entrees. Today’s Saturday, so the available dishes are bistec salteado (pepper steak), chivo guisado (goat stew), carne de res con zanahoria (beef with carrots), chuleta en salsa (pork chop in sauce), spaghetti con pollo (spaghetti with chicken) sancocho (Spanish soup), mondongo (beef tripe soup), and the glory of their menu: pernil, which is Caribbean-style roast pork.

La Parada’s version of pernil could raise the dead. On holidays like Easter, they cook some prodigious number of these roasts, and sell out of them by late afternoon. During Ordinary Time they have pernil every night except Tuesday, and sometimes sell out of it as early as 7:00. Not that their other stuff isn’t good too, mind you, so don’t worry about getting there and finding they’ve run out of it.

They also make a serious fresh-squeezed orange juice. I appreciate that. If you’d rather have a beer with your takeout, you have to go to the Diaz Grocery at the south end of the block, which is amusing because they’ll be playing the same telenovela you’ve been watching at La Parada while they’ve gotten your order ready.

There are only two things you have to watch out for. One is the big strip of fatty skin that inevitably accompanies a serving of their pernil. I can’t imagine eating it straight. I toss it into the bag of pernil skins I keep in my freezer, to use later in my cooking. The other peril is that you can’t open a takeout container of their beans without squirting bean broth halfway across the room. Whatever you do, don’t open it toward yourself. I just aim it at their yellow rice, since I spoon beans over my rice anyway.

Check it out. We’ve been doing our best to keep these people in business, but it wouldn’t hurt to have some help doing it. (La Parada, 855 Fourth Avenue (between 31st & 32nd), Brooklyn, 718/369-0115. Free delivery.)

Comments on Review: La Parada:
#1 ::: Hobbyns ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 09:55 PM:

Yeah, thanks very much! All I need is for someone to be gloating about cheap, excellent food, while I'm stuck here in this place where I'm having a hard time finding any (that is, good food that doesn't require me to auction off my first-born son to afford it!)

Still, it's always uplifting to hear that such places still exist... If I'm ever in the area I will definitely look them up.

#2 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 10:04 PM:

Where are you, Hobbyns?

#3 ::: Paul Weimer ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 10:35 PM:

I'm coming to visit the Homeland (aka NY) next month. I'm definitely intrigued by this review.

#4 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 10:38 PM:

If I get to Brooklyn someday, I promise, this place is on the list.

#5 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 10:49 PM:

What P. J. Evans said.

Whine. Then again it is our RenFaire season and by the end of day I'm too tired to tackle anything complicated. Fambly has been very good about having dinner ready for me to eat.

And thanks again for the beautiful black fan! It has been tolerable in temperatures (usually it's hotter/sticker than hell these first weekends), but it's been STILL and humid, so a GOOD fan is an important asset.

#6 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 10:50 PM:

Okay, when I come to make peach pie for Anna, I'll get take out from La Perada. I just had dinner, and I'm still hungry after reading about the pernil....

#7 ::: D. ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 11:04 PM:

Well, it looks like either the 25th St. or 36th St. stations on the 4th Av. Line will put one within walking distance (Google Does Not Recognize the Subway). So when I get back later this year, that'll be something to check out. (Probably for lunch.)

#8 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 11:08 PM:

Paula, I'm glad the fan is coming in handy. I don't know how I'd get through summer conventions without one. It's nice if they're pretty, but essential that they move air noiselessly and in quantity.

P J Evans, if you ever come to Brooklyn, the canonical restaurant to try is Junior's. It's best on a Sunday afternoon, when the church ladies are there in their Tex Avery hats. Midmorning on a weekday can be nice too -- during breakfast hours, their idea of a bread basket is miniature breakfast pastries made onsite.

#9 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 11:23 PM:

Now wait a minute...their Pernil could raise the dead?

Why does anyone NEED it on Easter?

#10 ::: Annalee Flower Horne ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 12:29 AM:

Xopher... that was for the win.

There's a chain in Oklahoma City called Chillino's that's like that. Absolutely delicious, fast, and criminally cheap. It started out as a small, family-owned restaraunt, and then just spread all over the city, leaving the greasy scent of ruined IHOPs in its wake.

#11 ::: s.d. shaver ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 12:34 AM:

Oooh, necromancy a la pernil! Sounds wickedly delicious.

Alas, the likelihood of me being in Brooklyn anytime soon is low. Wonder if there are any Puerto Rican-style eateries in St. Louis? I've tracked down Brazilian, Korean barbeque, and Jamaican, but I never thought to go looking for Puerto Rico.

#12 ::: Darice Moore ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 12:38 AM:

Now you've made me hungry. Our local version of La Parada is named (appropriately?) La Teresita. Methinks we'll be having platanos maduros and ropa vieja this week...

#13 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 12:43 AM:

Ropa vieja? Old clothes? What is that?

#14 ::: Darice Moore ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 01:06 AM:

Ropa vieja is skirt steak, cooked down in a tomato-based sauce until it falls apart like old clothes. It's delicious -- one of the specialties at Cuban restaurants down here.

#15 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 01:36 AM:

We DO have a small restaurant in our neighborhood, built into a long-deserted Arbys space called Pancho's. Prices similar to Taco Bell, a few blocks away, BUT everything fresh-made including, as far as I can tell, the taco shells and 24-hour for anyone, You can get a healthy feed for under $3.

They serve items hat appears to be not on the general menu too. but this was before my next observation of Pancho's

I've been known to be behind a laborer ordering his speciality, looking at it's yumminess thing (apparently custom, not on the menu) and going, 'please make me one of those but don't kill me with the chilis....'

#16 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 01:58 AM:

#10 Annalee Flower Horne -- have you ever been to the original Chelino's in the remodeled Dairy Queen southside? Like S 40s and Shields, maybe?

I dunno if they still do, but they used to have a Mariachi band on weekends.

Yum.

The memory of that Chelino's is what made me willing to try El Grillo in Portland -- nothing says "class" like sharing bathrooms with a strip joint -- but I never did get up the guts to try to the tongue or the milk-based softdrink they had.

#17 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 02:31 AM:

Oooh. Yummy. It sounds wonderful. I ate pozole for lunch, you'd think that would have fulfilled my need for tasty and tender pork.

I won't be making it to NYC anytime soon, but now I have some more cooking ideas.

Todd @ #16:
Tongue in green sauce has a number of fans in my family, you should encourage someone else to order it, and try a bite. I ate too many moose tongue sandwiches as a kid, I won't eat tongue now that I'm an adult. So, I can understand your trepidation!

I'm guessing the milk based soft drink was Orchata - it's made with rice, cinnamon, sugar, milk, and water. It's very good. The one time I asked for it in MX, the waiter brought me a spoon. Apparently my accent is so bad that "orchata" sounded like "cuchara".

#18 ::: kwb ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 06:25 AM:

D., Google recognizes the subway just fine; search for "subway stations near 855 4th ave brooklyn ny".

#19 ::: Naomi Parkhurst ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 07:16 AM:

Todd in #16, the milk-based soft drink could also be spelled "horchata", and is tasty. You can sometimes find horchata mix around here; a neighbor of ours who can't drink milk likes putting it in rice milk.

#20 ::: Janet Kegg ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 08:54 AM:

My mouth is watering. Thanks for the restaurant recommendation. I've forwarded a link to this review to a friend who lives in Brooklyn (a couple of miles away in Bed-Stuy).

Last time I visited her we had some delicious carry-out food of a similar nature from a hole-in-the-wall place in her neighborhood. Perhaps we can help keep La Parada in business when I visit her later this month. The pernil sounds fabulous.

#21 ::: Rich ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 09:18 AM:

Ropa Vieja can be any type of meat that is stewed until it shreds. I find that ropa vieja makes excellent fillings for tacos and burritos.

#22 ::: individualfrog ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 09:19 AM:

It's weird how the geography of my memory does not go with this map. I lived basically right where that restaurant is. I must have walked by it, probably even ate there, if it's more than two years old. (It's not the place with all the pictures of some revolutionary-looking dude wearing amazingly long and skinny pants, is it?) But I'm looking at this map, and I swear to God I remember there being another avenue between fourth and Greenwood cemetery. It makes me feel like I'm going insane.

I do not recommend any Mexican restaurants in Tokyo.

#23 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 09:20 AM:

If that Free Delivery covered Albany I'd be on the phone ordering right now. Man, that sounds delicious! (Ok, except for the tripe.)

Paula, is Pancho's a chain? We have a Pancho's restaurant around here. I've never gone to it, but if it's like you described I'd like to.

#24 ::: hobbyns ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 11:50 AM:

Teresa: I'm currently in Guatemala City, here for a year-long project. The food is faux-Mexican, with American processed cheese for garnish. Granted there is good food here, but as I mentioned, it costs an arm and a leg.

I torture myself by reading a lot of food blogs and experiencing the vicarious thrills that way. Your post made me go to the kitchen to look for a late-night snack. All I could come up with was some hash browns, d'oh.

#25 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 12:02 PM:

Melissa, if it's the chain that was sometimes here in Austin, all-you-can-eat TexMex buffet, you don't wanna. (Therefore I conclude that Paula's Pancho's is not your Pancho's).

#26 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 12:03 PM:

Good food at a bus stop. There's a contradiction here.

#27 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 12:52 PM:

We'll sure try that; thanks! The paucity of good restaurants is one of the biggest drawbacks of our location.

#28 ::: D. ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 01:54 PM:

Re: #18: Google no comprende.

36th Street, however, is (a) closer and (b) an express stop.

I look forward to comparing the pernil to carnitas.

#29 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 02:20 PM:

Re horchata, one of my cookbooks says that it was originally a form of almond milk but gradually diversified to other main ingredients, depending on what was available-- it provides a recipe for a variant made with melon seeds (any kind of melon: watermelon, canteloupe, honeydew, whatever you've got), as well as several others. None of the recipes actually contain milk. Their main ingredients are water and some sort of seed/nut/grain, flavored with sugar and cinnamon; the mixture is whirled through a blender (originally pounded in a mortar and pestle, I think), soaked for several hours, and then filtered through a fine sieve or cheesecloth.

(I've tried the melon-seed one; the result struck me as way far too sweet, even when significantly diluted with water from its original volume, but the underlying kinda milky cinnamon taste struck me as reasonably close to other versions I've tried.)

Somewhat similarly, I'm still trying to figure out the original version of the blancmange-like square chunks of dessert sometimes encountered in Chinese restaurants-- the usual formulation now seems to be gelatine, milk, and almond extract, but its name, "almond tofu", suggests that at some point it might've involved, well, soft tofu as well as almond milk.

#30 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 02:33 PM:

Fragano @ 26: Good food at a bus stop. There's a contradiction here.

Not so much a contradiction in Brooklyn. Bus stops, especially busy transfer points tend to have good, speedy food. The transfer point to get to Kings Plaza mall from my ancestral homeland involved a pretty good pizzeria and the Ices Queen Italian ice mothership right there, and a good diner a mere block away.

---
Re: horchata, yum, but I can never manage more than a tiny one since it's so rich and so sweet. I've never encountered milk in horchata, though, it's always been rice-based. My Tacqueria beverage of choice is an agua fresca; mango, watermelon, cantaloupe and tamarind are my favorites.

#31 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 03:11 PM:

No need to Google for the subway station. It's 36th street via the N, R, M, or D.

#32 ::: Rich ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 03:12 PM:

Larry @ 30, where is that ancestral homeland? Wasn't Ices Queen right there on Utica Avenue? And the diner, are you referring to the Bluebird?

I recall trudging with my dad all the way to Ices Queen HQ in the blazing summer heat from our house on Farragut Road. Being native Brooklynites, we don't drive, natch.

#33 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 03:26 PM:

Rich - Ancestral homeland = Canarsie, and yes IQ is/was on Utica Ave, near Ave H, at the transfer between the Utica Ave bus (B46) and the Canarsie - Dyker Heights bus (B6). The numbers may have changed to protect the innocent.

I don't remember the name of the diner, but it was just one block up Utica, across Kings Highway.

#34 ::: Chaz ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 04:55 PM:

Will they deliver to the UK? I need to eat this food...

#35 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 05:05 PM:

Larry Brennan #30: La Parada is 'the bus stop' in Spanish.

#36 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 05:34 PM:

This reminds me of that Caribbean joint near the hotel in El Paso where the last few SolarCons were held. (Been a while. El Paso fandom seems to have pretty much dropped off the radar since they stopped holding SolarCon.)

Locally, here in Phoenix, the closest match would probably be Mi Casa Mi Pais, an Equadorian place with friendly service and great food. (Mmmmm... gotta get back there again.)

Not "great", but dependably good, are the various "--erto's" (Filiberto's, Rodiberto's, etc), cheap, decent Mexican food joints, many open 24 hours, scattered all over the Phoenix area. (The one closest to me even has goat and tongue burritos!)

#37 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 06:04 PM:

Fragano @ 35: La Parada is 'the bus stop' in Spanish.

Tricked by a false cognate - it's them tricksy non-English languages again. I say we ban 'em!

#38 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 06:14 PM:

Re: "ropa vieja": I've made it with brisket. Lots of Latino restaurants in NYC serve it, but it's not hard to make. Here's one recipe I just Googled for. The one I tried and found worthy is from Puerto Rican Cuisine in America, by Oswald Rivera, a book worth having for other reasons too.

And a shout-out to Canarsie Larry from my childhood home, East New York, at the very end of the B6 line. I'd forgotten about the Ices Queen, but I waited on that street corner en route to and from Kings Plaza many times as a kid.

#39 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 07:10 PM:

Larry Brennan #37: It gets worse, I'm afraid. The Spanish word for 'parade' is desfile, which is one of those words that can really trip up an Anglophone monoglot.

On some days I'm in favour of banning English -- on the grounds that most of my students seem incapable of writing in it.

#40 ::: Rich McAllister ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 07:40 PM:

Besides ropa vieja, there's the Mexican egg dish "rabos de mestiza".

When we were in Spain I saw a restaurant menu with what translated as "Baby Jesus in his pink velour pants" listed. (I failed to write down the Spanish and I'd never successfuly back translate.) We never got back to the restaurant when it was open to find out what it was.

#41 ::: meredith ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 07:43 PM:

That's not a part of Brooklyn I'm usually in, but the food sounds so good I might just have to make a special trip.

#42 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 02:16 PM:

Have sent the link to this post to the only person I know who might come even vaguely close to the neighborhood.

I suspect these sorts of restaurants actually exist where I am (Triangle area, North Carolina), but because of the car culture, you'll never find them unless you already know about them. I think that's my biggest problem with car culture -- it makes it much harder to explore.

#43 ::: Naomi Parkhurst ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 03:23 PM:

Caroline in #42:

It's not quite the same sort of food, but there's a taqueria called Taqueria Mi Pueblo in Durham that I really like a *lot*. I'm also fond of Los Comales, on Roxboro St just north of I-85 (not least because when they figured out I was buying tacos for a homeless woman, they cut the price).

They're both places where I do best (not speaking much Spanish beyond "por favor" and "para llevar"(I think?)) with phrasebooks of the Mexican-Spanish variety to help me translate the menu. Not that this always helps; my phrasebook doesn't translate huaraches as anything but sandals. These are also places where I wouldn't suggest you go if you're vegetarian or keep kosher: I suspect the beans are cooked with lard.

Now if only someone could tell me where to go around here for good Salvadoran or Honduran food. The Honduran restaurant just north of Los Comales used to be good, but the food was dreadfully salty the last time I went. Maybe I should give it another try, in case it was a fluke. The Salvadoran place on Garrett Rd was greasy the one time we tried it.

#44 ::: Isaac Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 04:09 PM:

IndividualFrog, as far as the rumor vine goes, the Japanese don't like spicy foods (the word "Karai," or spicy, shares a root for the word "dangerous") so Mexican food isn't exactly popular. However, giant globs of wasabi are.

There's always Tako Bell, though.

#45 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 04:20 PM:

Larry #37: This reminds me of one of my favorite stories about the difference between American Spanish, which has been heavily influenced by English, and Spanish Spanish, which has not. A Spanish-from-Spain gentleman was in a hotel in New York City, and the Spanish-from-America maid came in and said, in good American Spanish, that she wanted to vacuum the carpet.

He was startled and confused, because while 'vacunar la carpeta' means "vacuum the carpet" in American Spanish, in Spain it means "vaccinate the file folder."

Again we find two peoples divided by a common language!

#46 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 04:49 PM:

I gotta get me out to Brooklyn more often.

*swoons*

#47 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 05:39 PM:

Xopher #45: Actually he may have been astonished -- as was a Spanish editor for whom I once worked -- at his housekeeper's (he had just moved to San Juan, PR) announcing that her intention was to 'vacumar la carpeta' (vaccinate the attaché case -- he heard 'vacumar' as 'vacunar') when he would have expected her to say 'limpiar la alfombra (clean the carpet).

#48 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 05:43 PM:

Ah, thanks Fragano. I got that one verbally and misspelled the Spanish.

#49 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 06:15 PM:

in American Spanish

In Nueva York Espanish, anyway.

Excuse me, but I have to run for del tren subterraneo ahora, despite that es esta pericoloso. (The way I run, muy pericoloso gevalt no bleep really.)

#50 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 08:45 AM:

John M. Ford #49: Pericolo in mora. Dépechez-vous.

#51 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 06:33 PM:

Xopher @ 45: there was a story within the last week about the divergence of language between North and South Korea, and the difficulties it is already causing. Some of the shifts seem political (IIRC something in the neighborhood of "fat cat" that was respectful in the South and despised in the North) but others were just strange.

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