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Mofongo del Valle's Cuban and Other Cheap Eats

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Uptown Manhattan is loaded with old-fashioned Dominican luncheonettes — you know, the kind with the twirling stools along a formica counter, and a glass-in rotisserie in the front window in which whole chickens flip and twirl to complete brownness. Mofongo del Valle is such an establishment, located on a rather obscure stretch of Broadway just south of City College in an area known as Manhattanville.



Rubbed with oregano and lemon, the whole chickens are a bargain at $9, served with plantain and salad. True to its Dominican roots, there are an astonishing 20 varieties of mofongo alone: a mountain of mashed plantains run through with chicharrones and awash in gravy, served with oxtails or skirt steak or, for high rollers, lobster. Real bargain hunters will seek out the soups such as sancocho (shown), a porky potage loaded with veggies and thickened with Calabaza squash – priced at $4 or $6 depending on bowl size. Served with a length of buttered baguette, there's nothing more rib-sticking north of 110th Street.

threegreat15mofongodelvallecuban.jpg[Cuban sandwich]
Other soup choices include cow foot, hen, and beef, the first one gluey as hell. The bravest will choose mondongo, a soup based on honeycomb tripe (cow stomach), and quite good in a rubbery sort of way. At lunch, there's a nifty lunch special for $7 that includes a choice of entrees served with rice, beans, and salad. But avoid the main course known as "spaghetti" — you've never had such un-al dente pasta in your life. Instead, go for the epic Cuban sandwich (shown), featuring a slice of ham, thicker slice of garlic-rubbed pork roast, and oozing mass of white cheese. At $5, it's one of the best deals on this stretch of Broadway. 3340 Broadway, 212-281-8360.



Rotis are Trinidadian wraps, traceable to the Indian sugar cane workers of a century ago, who needed a portable lunch that could be carried into the fields. Based on a flatbread called dal poori filled with yellow split peas between its flaky layers, these wraps have a curried filling, most often goat, chicken, or conch, plus a second filling of potatoes and chick peas folded up to look like a sprawled-out burrito. This classic configuration is available at Rama's Roti Shop in Flatbush. But why not try the more urbanized form, known as a "bust-up shot" ("worn-out shirt")? A different flatbread is used in a wadded-up form for scooping and dipping in the rich curry. As is conventional in Port of Spain, Trinidad's capital, you can also have a third filling added, in this case bright-orange pumpkin. Spoon on the scotch bonnet hot sauce! 2831 Church Ave, Brooklyn, 718-287-7262.


In spite of Tibetan and Nepalese incursions, Jackson Heights still has plenty of Indian and Pakistani restaurants, most specializing in the meaty cooking of the Punjab, a region that cuts across national borders. Finding the vegetarian cuisine of South India has been more of a problem, and for a decade there's been only a single place to scarf dosas and diddle with iddlies. But now a newish spot called Samudra ("Ocean" in Sanskrit) has opened on 37th Avenue, peddling multiple versions of dosas (stuffed and rolled pancakes), iddlies (fleecy steamed dumplings), uthamppans (chile-studded pancakes), and vadas (deep-fried donuts). Shown is the extravagant butter masala dosa ($6.50), which comes with two chutneys and a sambar, but also available is northern Indian vegetarian fare on a totally meatless menu. Mumbai-style chaats are also featured. You won't miss the flesh! 7518 37th Ave, Jackson Heights, Queens, 718-255-1757.

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Mofongo del Valle

3340 Broadway, New York, NY

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