Someone asked me a few days ago if I have any food recommendations for the South Bronx. Well, I don't, and not for lack of trying. Years ago, I made friends in the South Bronx and have spent a lot of pleasant time there. But I never could find any great food. I tried. I once heard that some Cambodians lived near Crotona Park and so I went to that neighborhood and looked around for Cambodian restaurants. Nothing.
Places I've found: Johnson's Barbecue tucked away on E 163...but it has a gas grill. A lovely taco joint on St Anns Av...that uses mole sauce from a jar. Schlitz Inn, closed. Venice restaurant on E 149, good if you're there, but not worth a trip. And one wonderful place that would be worth a long trip, but it's long gone. A bunch of guys from Puerto Rico set up a barbecue on Prospect Av. It was quite illegal since it operated in a garage, only on weekends, since it was used to fix cars during the week. They cut oil drums in half to form semicylinders, put coals on the bottom. The spit was attached to a steering wheel and so some poor guy had to spin the wheel all day. Friday was chickens, Saturday was roast suckling pig. They made their own sauce, translucent, vinegary, loaded with fresh garlic. Oh, it was so crowded! People would play music and drink beer all day.
Most of the older women in that part of the Bronx are wonderful cooks...you almost can't be accepted socially if you can't cook at least one killer dish... but they save it for private, everyone bring a dish, pot luck parties. Oh, one possible tip, maybe outdated. In the 17th century, a few Africans being taken to slavery managed to jump ship and swim ashore. They settled on the east coast of Honduras and married local Indians. They evolved a culture, and cuisine, part African part Indian. They are Garifuni. The only place you can find them outside Honduras is the south Bronx. A lot of them used to gather every Saturday on the fringes of St Mary's park Some would set up food stalls. Most served overcooked steak, but I found one woman who had a marvelous peanut soup. But I never saw her again.