As Venezuelan immigrants have streamed into the city, they’ve established restaurants serving the favorite street snacks of their country, and we’ve learned to crave them. There are split arepas stuffed with squeaky white cheese and black beans, creamy chicken and avocado, or shredded roast pork, and the same dozen fillings are redeployed to make sandwiches with crisp green plantains (patacones), or sweet ripe plaintains (yoyos) standing in for slices of bread. Then there are burrito-like tacuchos and sweet corn crepes called cachapas, said to be descended from English crumpets.
Tu Cachapa (“Your Cachapa”) is a gleaming snack shop at 4195 Broadway, near West 178th Street in Washington Heights and not far south of the George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal. It’s a small place with counter seating and a communal table in the center, preparing some of the best Venezuelan fast foods in Manhattan. One dish I’d never seen before was maracucha. The name, as the counter dude told me, refers to female residents of Venezuela’s second largest city of Maracaibo, located in the remote northwest of the country and center of the oil industry.
Gotham has seen Venezuelan burgers before, most notably at Juanchi’s Burger in Williamsburg and at Avila in Greenpoint. But the maracucha ($9.50) was different than most South American burgers, which tend to be elaborately dressed with things like pineapple and avocado. Its purpose seemed to be maximizing the meat.
The thing begins with (an estimated) third-pound patty of ground beef on a conventional sesame seed bun. But here’s where it begins to get unexpected. In quick succession massive wads of roast pork, slices of boiled ham, and strips of bacon are piled on, followed by slices of American and mozzarella cheeses, with a final garnishment of lettuce and tomato, both notably fresh.
The sauce, which is applied liberally, is something like Russian dressing, and ketchup, too, is applied in excessive quantities. As a final coup de grace, potato sticks are sprinkled on top — you know, the kind that come from cans. Every bite is a delight, even though random ingredients shoot from all sides as you eat, so that at a certain point you resort to a fork to clean up the mess.