El Palenque doesn’t look like much, and that’s a beautiful thing. This humble eatery in Sunset Park bears out Jim Leff’s theory on southern Mexican chow. “Go for the emptiest, most dismal, unknown haunts,” he advises. “The southerners (Oaxaca, Chiapas, etc.) don’t market themselves well and lack funds to really do up their places, but cook like a dream.”

Chalupas with beef are eyebrow-raisingly good, Jim says. Others recommend tostadas, horchata, meaty pozole, and sopa de olla, a spicy red broth filled with vegetables and tender beef. Coffee is unexpectedly stellar, “better than about 95 percent of the coffee I’m forced to drink in most cafes,” declares spicynuts. The room is plain but neat, service sweet and friendly.

A few blocks up the road, wleatherette reports delicious Ecuadoran food at El Tesoro, highlighted by first-rate roast baby pig with a generous amount of crackling. Also good: seafood rice or casseroles.

El Palenque Restaurant [Sunset Park]
5709 Fifth Avenue (near 57th Street), Brooklyn

El Tesoro Ecuatoriano Restaurant [Sunset Park]
4015 Fifth Avenue (at 40th Street), Brooklyn

Board Links: Sunset Park Obscure Mexican

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