A whole lot of music fans are about to hit Port Chester, and chances are they’ll be hungry.
It’s no secret that the village has a remarkable variety of restaurants. Port Chester calls itself the restaurant capital of Westchester, and has every right to.
While you’ve no doubt heard about Mario Batali’s Tarry Lodge and Godfrey Polistina’s Arrosto, I’m planning on exploring the lesser known restaurants in the village, particularly the ethnic ones. This will take a while, with seven places specializing in Peruvian food alone. Big names have helped put the village on the culinary map, but lots of smaller establishments have no publicists and perhaps no website.
I cover Port Chester for The Journal News, and I’ve offered to help with the “research.” Like Port Chester, I have an affinity for Latin American cuisines. As a traveler I’ve had the chance to try lulo juice in Cartagena, tamales in Costa Rica, coffee in Havana and, I’ll mention my one and only regret, tacos from a little boat in Xochimilco, Mexico.
In Port Chester you can stay in travel mode, trying things out. The restaurants and markets cater to immigrant families with very specific tastes. Just one block up from The Cap, there’s a row of three restaurants that always struck me as emblematic: a Salvadoran place, a very authentic Mexican taqueria and a restaurant with a Peruvian-Uruguayan-Argentinian thing going on. How many neighborhoods outside of Queens have a range like that?
Here’s a quick intro, in time for the Dylan show. But I’m planning on regular updates, so write me at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know what places you like, places you’ve heard about, or the kinds of places you’re looking for.
Tortilleria Los Gemelos, 167 Westchester Ave., 914-934-0372
This place has serious, authentic, get-right-to-the-point tacos. As in Mexico, they come with doubled-up, soft tortillas and a grilled onion on top of richly marinated meat. They’re about $3 apiece, and two can make a meal. Fresh green and red salsas come on the side. The corn tortillas are made right on the premises – just across the bright yellow dining room, in fact – and you might hear the squeaking conveyors running while you dine. Otherwise expect a very loud jukebox playing Mexican pop tunes. If you choose one of the wooden booths, be warned that they are not for large people.
This place is favored by Mexicans and others in search of authentic food; the menu steers clear of the more common, cheese-heavy Tex-Mex trend. You can pick up a bag of fresh or toasted tortillas (tostadas) on your way out, and look for them at Latin American markets in Port Chester.
Inca y Gaucho, 173 Westchester Ave., 914-939-2100
Lomo saltado, showing the Asian influence in Peruvian food, is sirloin tip steak sauteed with soy sauce, wine, onions, peppers and tomatoes. Other favorites are the rice with seafood, described on the menu as a paella but also reminiscent of fried rice. It comes with mussels, clam, crab, tender calamari and vegetables. A lomo saltado entree is $11.75; arroz con mariscos, $16. There’s a bar and a wine list highlighting Chile, Argentina and Uruguay.
This dimly lit restaurant greets you with surprises, starting with the life-size Inca figure at the please-wait-to-be-seated sign. You can dine at the wooden bar, beneath a set of colorful hanging lamps, or sit at a table and look up at tapestries from the Andes.
Pupusa Loca, 165 Westchester Ave., 914-935-0767
This is a large, casual eatery named after the Salvadoran staple, a thick, soft, corn tortilla with a pocket of cheese and other fillings. You can try a pupusa with queso and the edible flower loroco, to start off. The menu gives a full range of chicken, pork, seafood and steak options. One tasty one is a thinly cut steak with shrimp, $15.95, which arrives on a skillet. The food is hearty and non-spicy, starting with the marinara-like salsa and the cabbage that accompanies the pupusas. Furnishings here are also uncomplicated.
Mirrors, tinted glass and television screens overlook the glass-topped tables, which feature maps of various Central American countries. The menu, however, sticks closely to the boundaries of Salvadoran cuisine. And the menu doesn’t go out of its way to explain itself, so Spanish may come in handy.
– Leah Rae