North Fork: center of the universe?
Midway through the movie remake of the RENT Broadway musical, its characters Angel, Mark, Collins, and Rodger walk down the subway stairwell a bit fed up with the pace of New York City life. Once they board the old, graffiti strewn F train, Collins, the intellectual of the crew, begins to sing about a far fetched dream of leaving the city one day and opening a restaurant in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a desert city with large expanses of land, Spanish colonial architecture, and a haven for creatives who longed for isolation. While the North Fork may not be a desert town, it has certainly become a hot bed for restaurateurs, old and new, to start their new projects far enough away from the city to not miss a beat while maintaining a sense of bohemia.
Growing up as a Colombian American out on the East End, there were not many places where you could get a great meal, decently priced, outside of home aside from the bodegas and little hole-in-the-wall Hispanic eateries tucked into the normal day to day. When I was younger, I would always look forward to going to El Primo after a long day of errands in Riverhead. I would sit in the parking lot in my mother’s car with an aluminum container full of rice, beans, carne guisada (stewed beef), and platanos. The portions were huge, there were always leftovers, and it cost the same as a large Big Mac with fries and soda at McDonald’s. And if we were really adventurous, we’d get a side of chicharrón to take home.
While there are dozens of gourmet, farm to table, chic new restaurant concepts along the whole North Fork, these Hispanic locales and many more like them still remain relatively untouched and unnoticed. What’s great about these places is that they are preparing great food year round. It doesn’t get more local than that. They were started by human beings that left home in search of better prospects, and in turn have tried to recreate what they left behind: their mother’s home cooking. A meal that, no matter how little you had or how sparse the ingredients were, was ever lacking. It was always enough because, like how these business started, each meal was made with blood, sweat, and tears; or in other words: love.
In that same spirit, allow us to suggest a change of pace to your regular dining programing.
If you’re looking for Pupusas:
In Mattituck westbound on Route 25, up the street from aMano, on the curve opposite Love Lane lies Lucia Restaurant, a Salvadorian eatery. If you’re ordering pupusas, two is more than enough for one person. They also have an assortment of traditional platters that will definitely leave you taking food home for a couple days.
El Rinconcito was the first Hispanic eatery to open in Greenport aside from (and behind of) what used to be El Meson Olé. For years it was a hidden staple for many locals in the village tucked into the middle of Sterling Commons.
The new spot in town, La Regia lives at the bottom of Third Street in Greenport. Its story is a truly rags to riches as the owners decided to open a restaurant after winning the lottery. Not only are their pupusas great. Their tacos are loaded and affordable ($10.00 for three tacos), and they have rotating fruit juices like mango and strawberry. They are also have a full bar stocked with Coronas, Modelos, and Dos Equis.
If you’re looking for empanadas:
This is the only Colombian café where you can get authentic empanadas, buñuelos (a large dough fritter), morcilla (Colombian blood sausage stuffed with rice and beans), jugo de maracuya (passion fruit juice), an assortment of Colombian products, and platters like una Bandeja Paisa loaded with rice, beans, platanos, chicharrón, flank steak, and an egg sunny side up! To get authentic Colombian fare you have to go all the way to Brentwood, and then after that Jackson Heights in Queens, so this is a real treasure.
Right next to the DMV, with fresh produce in the back, a small market, and a buffet of freshly made salads, cut mangos, and crispy empanadas alongside roasted and stewed meats; this is perfect for a quick bite or take out for home. They have the best avocados you’ll find of all the North Fork.
If you’re looking to grab and go:
La Cascada is another long time staple of locals on the North Fork. While many enjoy their pupusas, chicken empanadas, or carne asada, in the Latin community, it’s always been about their broiled fish.
Named after an ancient city found in the rainforest in Guatemala, Tikal offers traditional fare at competitively low prices. It’s quick and lies right in the heart of downtown Greenport.
In downtown Riverhead diagonal from Crooked Ladder Brewing Company, this minimart offers a selection of hot and cold sandwiches alongside a buffet of yellow, white, or mixed rice, roasted chicken, plantains, tamales, and sancocho, the cure all of soups.
If you’re looking for a formal affair:
Agave is a white linen Mexican restaurant where you can be delighted by traditional Latin American food served in a refreshing context. The price point is higher, but the service is impeccable. You could not regret anything you order from their menu.