A friend who I haven’t seen in a long time invited me out to dinner. “Cool,” I said. He mentioned a Peruvian place in Yonkers. “Sounds like a plan.” Of course, we get there, and not only is the place closed, but it is also for rent. In essence, it was very closed.
My friend said, “You like Latin food? Let’s go to the old neighborhood.”
The section of Yonkers we went to is nearby the DMV, but not the section that has been rebuilt within the past decade. We were in the truly old neighborhood. My friend commented on the new crop of restaurants that had sprung up over the past few years. During my youth, the place was mostly auto repair shops with an odd deli here and there. Now, he was right, there was a restaurant, lunch table, take-out joint, or bar almost every fifty feet.
We ended up at Panchito’s. He has been going there for years, this was my first time. The first thing I noticed was the giant steam table area. It was huge. This makes sense if you are going to offer a large assortment of stews that take a long time to cook. All that stuff cannot be made to order in a timely manner. A steam table area is a must. The menu is huge. They have a gigantic number of offerings.
“What to get? What to get?”
The waitress came to our table.
“Rabo de Res Guisado/Oxtail?”
Well… this is troubling. I believe that they get a large lunch crowd, which would probably be the time all these currently unavailable items are available. Unfortunately, they weren’t really hopping on a Friday at 7pm. Well… not for food at least. There is a bar area that was starting to pick up.
Panchito’s complimentary bread is a pressed and buttered french loaf. It is really nice. Crisp and buttered on the outside, warm and fluffy on the inside, it proved extraordinarily addictive.
I ended up getting Chuletas Fritas/Fried Pork Chop ($10.95). The order was two nice sized cutlets. I am by no means a pork chop aficionado, but I believe these were overdone. They were not tough, but did not have the tender yield of a good steak. They were well seasoned, but a little dry. I was not sure that I was going to enjoy this meal, until I had it with the other parts of the dish.
Each entree comes with a choice of rice & beans, tostones, or french fries. I got the yellow rice with red beans. Once the pork chops were combined with these two, it was quite a savory and delicious dish. The rice, by itself, was tasty, but not exceptional. Same went for the beans. However, when you combine all three items together, it makes for an excellent dish. If I return to Panchito’s, I will probably try something different. The pork chops, while pretty good, would not be my sole reason for a return engagement.
My friend got the Mondongo/Beef Tripe Soup ($6.00). It is a huge bowl and he proclaimed it delicious.
The Ensalada Verde/Green Garden Salad ($4.00) is a nice dish, but not an exceptional assortment of greens. The obligatory lettuce, tomato, and cucumber are present, but no baby spinach, arugula, or dark greens. I don’t think that their omission is necessarily a failing, but folks that like a serious assortment might be disappointed.
I ordered the Yuca/Cassava ($3.50) as a side dish. I didn’t ask, but I expected it to be fried. Instead, it was a boiled (or perhaps steamed) version. It was wonderful. I grew up on cassava, but I’ve usually had it in soups. As a side dish, it makes a tasty and starchy substitute for potato. The serving is a decent size and I think it makes a nice accompaniment to any dish. Thumbs up.
The Pernil al Horno/Roast Pork ($9.00) was not melt-in-the-mouth tender, but it was not tough or stringy either. It was definitely cooked low and slow. There was a wonderful smoky flavor to the pork, the savory kind that causes pursing of the lips and sucking of teeth. Even when my friend was full, he couldn’t help picking at the dish.
To accompany his Pernil, he got Tostones. They were amazing. In the past, when I’ve had tostones, they’ve been dry and somewhat flavorless. I far prefer the maduros plantains. However, these tostones had a great crust with tender innards. They were not crackly, they weren’t dry, and they were definitely not overdone. These are definitely worth traveling out of the way for.
Alongside the tostones was some sort of dip that is made from olive oil and chopped garlic. (It’s the near white concoction in the picture of red beans.) I was not a fan. My friend slathered them over the tostones. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.
As you see by the giant amount of food that precedes this paragraph, I was absolutely stuffed. My buddy could not help but get some Flan/Caramel Custard ($2.50). Generally, I love flan, but I could not have any. I was just too full. My friend did not let that deter him from plowing through the dish.
I did have a cup of coffee. Panchito’s coffee was spectacular. I was surprised and very impressed. It was bold and smooth, the way I love my coffee. It wasn’t burnt or overdone. Big, big thumbs up. The coffee might be the biggest must-have of the night. If you are a coffee drinker, definitely save some room to have a cup. Hopefully, this particular occasion was not just a one-off. I would be sorely disappointed if I went back and the coffee did not measure up.
Panchito’s is definitely a neighborhood spot. If you are in the area, it is worth a shot. Bring some change for the parking meters as there is no parking lot. If you see a short, older, Latin gentleman with a mustache behind the counter, say “Hello.” It’s Panchito himself.
Panchito’s Stadium Bar & Grill
285 South Broadway
Yonkers, NY 10705