If you think, as I foolishly did, that a great culinary wasteland stretches from Mexico's southern border all the way to Cartagena, then a quick trip to the South Bronx will forever change your mind. An easy one block walk east from the bustling streets of the old shopping district called the Hub -- which, back in its 1930s heyday had so many vaudeville theaters and movie palaces it was dubbed "the Broadway of the Bronx" -- La Orquidea a pleasant, wood-paneled small room with a bar and food counter and a larger dining room next door. A lot of people stop by for drinks on weekend nights, and I'd guess that the big sign warning "No bailar! No dancing!" is often ignored. I went on a quiet, sunny afternoon.
Many of the dishes are generic Latin, things like Bistec Salteado, but of course I ordered Honduran food. Honduran cuisine is a stewpot of different influences, and I chose things that represented two main strands. One for the inland Mexican and Latin influence (prevalent in central Honduras), another for the coastal Caribbean (which food is found in eastern Honduras). A surf and turf of Honduran cuisine. Sopa de Caracol (served Friday through Sunday only) came from the sea. I've asked several people from the region what it is, and all knew it but none could translate it. I'm pretty sure it was conch chowder. And there it came, a big steaming bowl full of big chunks of plantain, cassava and pepper bobbing in a yellow broth. There was also a big piece of conch (or whatever it was), which had little taste since it had yielded all its flavor to the broth. And what a broth it was! Redolent of the tang of the sea, rich in salty flavor, it was everything I've always wanted a chowder to be -- but never found until now. It was the sort of chowder Ishmael wolfed down with such enjoyment in Moby Dick. "Our appetites being sharpened by the frosty voyage, and in particular, Queequeg seeing his favourite fishing food before him, and the chowder being surpassingly excellent, we despatched it with great expedition."
Alongside was my other order. The Baleada is Honduras' answer to the taco. I ordered everything on mine. Dried, aged meat a bit like jerky, a fried egg, Mexican-style cheese and avocado all came wrapped in a homemade thick wheat tortilla made moments before. The meat, egg, etc were not mixed together; each had their own zone in the Baleada. And it was wonderful.
The small soup was $6 and the Baleada was $4. This included a plate of ordinary white rice, which was the only ordinary thing about the meal.
500 E 149 St
500 E 149th St, Bronx, NY 10455