Located southernmost in the Bronx, hemmed in by the Harlem and East rivers, Mott Haven is a sprawling neighborhood with a diverse population — and perhaps accordingly, the food available there widely varies, too. Varieties include West African, Chinese-American, Puerto Rican, Italian, Mexican, African-American, and Honduran, in addition to a slew of old-fashioned diners and modern coffee bars, most of them at inexpensive price points. Plus, Mott Haven was also the city’s first suburb and was treated as such when the subways were laid out in the early 20th century. Thus, it has some of the best subway service in the city, comprising the 2, 5, and 6 lines. So please come with us now on our culinary tour of Mott Haven.Read More
Where to Eat in Mott Haven, a Splendid Dining Neighborhood in the Bronx
Find everything from a Honduran enchilada and Singapore-style noodles to a jazz brunch in the southernmost Bronx neighborhood
La Isla Cuchifrito
Serving up plates of rice and beans, savory pastries, sandwiches, pernil, and roast chicken, this tiny restaurant is a vital neighborhood spot that’s open all night. Although seating is limited, and it’s cash-only, the generous portions here more than make up for any other discomforts.
Lechonera La Piraña
Every Saturday and Sunday afternoon, Angel Jimenez stokes up the fires at his trailer parked on 152nd Street and roasts the pork butt he’s famous for into a perfect Puerto Rican lechon asado. As customers watch, he hacks it up into generous portions for carryout, along with rice and pigeon peas, to be doused with garlicky mojito. It’s one of the best things to eat on the planet.
Maybe you’ve been longing for just this sort of ancient Chinese-American kitchen and carryout. Truth be told, there’s no actual seating, but feel welcome to stand along one of the two eating shelves and enjoy food from a vast menu, expertly prepared. For a bit of heat, try the Singapore mei fun, tendered in a serving of amazing size, with plenty of shrimp, pork and chicken, or pick other standards, like chow mein, egg foo yung, or beef chow fun.
Ruinas de Copán
Named after a major Mayan archaeological site, Ruinas de Copan is also one of the city’s best Honduran restaurants. The premises is big and muraled with ruins, and the bar has a full liquor license. During the day, families with kids file in to eat Honduran antojitos like enchiladas (like a tostada) and baleadas (a flour tortilla wrapped around a ground beef and potato filling); and hearty soups featuring hen, goat, or seafood. The most famous is sopa de caracol, a conch soup.
The Original Venice Restaurant
It’s been several decades since parts of Mott Haven were still an Italian immigrant enclave, but this cavernous and comfortable restaurant is a holdover from that time period. Founded by three brothers, the old-fashioned Italian restaurant is a throwback to the bustling markets that once existed in the neighborhood, and its focus is seafood and pizza. The fried calamari is formidable, and so is the scungilli salad, but make sure the meal starts with baked clams, and take a hero home.
Bronx natives Marielys Quezada and Angi Tejada opened Freshly Made in 2018 after struggling to find a healthy salad spot in the neighborhood. As a result, a selection of salads, fruit and vegetable smoothies and juices, and paninis all dot the menu at the cozy, counter service cafe. The owners add new food and juice specials every month with names like “Loving Mott Haven,” and “Bronx Love.”
This worn 24-hour wonder right at the busy corner of Third Avenue and 138th Street offers a rotating roster of West African fare, though the cook is from the Ivory Coast, as she told Eater. One glance at the steam table usually reveals a stew of lamb, chicken, or beef; fried fish with the manioc stodge called athieke (“ah-check-ay”); and a version of Jollof rice studded with goat or beef. A small dining room is provided. Practice French beforehand, though English is spoken, too.
This center of community and immigrant activism presided over by Natalia Mendez and Yajaira Saavedra was one of the first places to introduce Oaxacan cooking to the city. With a purple color scheme (hence the name), it turns out distinguished moles of the labor intensive sort in a variety of colors, along with tlayudas and enfrijoladas, along with more common Pueblan fare.
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Open every day from 8 a.m. till mid-afternoon, this Latin commercial bakery offers doughnuts, breakfast sandwiches, bread, cookies, burgers, and just about any other baked good of the modest sort one can think of. Perhaps best of all are the budget-priced soups, including the one shown, thronged with vegetables and served with the bakery’s own bread. A pleasant seating area looks out onto the neighborhood.
Mottley Kitchen has carved a niche for itself as a breakfast and lunch-only spot in the neighborhood. With items like a chicken and grain bowl, a green goddess bowl, and avocado toast, the kitchen here leans healthy-ish. The restaurant, which also doubles up as a low-key bookstore, has a solid coffee program and tons of seating, making it an ideal work spot during the day.
Tepango is the narrowest of pizza taquerias. Denizens of the neighborhood dash in and out all day, and walk out eating their food, since, apart from a stool or two, there’s no place to sit. Never mind, gossip is exchanged, and wonderful tacos and cemitas turned out. Other customers pick a pepperoni slice or a Jamaican meat patty.
Double Dutch Bronx
Under the Third Avenue Bridge ramp in what was once an elevator repair shop, this coffee bar (part of a Manhattan-based mini-chain) offers a renovation designed by a Barcelona architect, and the premises are now striking and stylish, with a stark gray and white exterior and neon signage. The interior is rugged and comfy, and the coffee good. A selection of pastries are also available.
A few years ago, the old signage came down and what was once called Brook Luncheonette was rebranded Express Brook. Luckily, the timeworn interior didn’t change, including twirling lunch counter stools and cozy, claustrophobic booths. Wonderful! And long before we had Golden Diner and Soho Diner, this diner had expanded its menu to include Mexican food and meal-size salads, in addition to decent pastrami and classic diner breakfasts.
Charlies Bar & Kitchen
Part of an early wave of new restaurants that started to open in the neighborhood a few years ago, this spacious establishment and its industrial interior are remnants of the once-thriving piano manufacturing district in the area. The menu leans Southern with items like buttermilk fried calamari, fried chicken, and jerk barbecue ribs. Charlies is also a go-to destination for live DJ brunches over the weekend.
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There’s really only one thing on the menu at Golden Pizza — but the plain cheese pizza is more than enough of a draw to attract people to this standing-room-only spot located adjacent to East 138th Street 6 train subway entrance. It’s one of the city’s best pizza slices in the city, crisp though not quite thin-crusted. The addition of pepperoni is optional but not necessary.
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Bronx natives Alfredo Angueira and Julio Martinez opened this lively restaurant in the summer of 2018 as a nod to the neighborhood’s roots in hip-hop, graffiti art, and soul food. At Beatstro, an entrance lined with vinyl records and velvet curtains leads to a colorful dining room serving Southern and Puerto Rican foods. Dishes include chicken and waffles, a baked plantain and ground beef preparation, and kale salad. Weekends here involve 90-minute bottomless brunches with a live DJ, and the restaurant frequently hosts music-focused events.
Monte's Brick Oven
This slightly upscale, spacious pizzeria at the corner of Alexander Avenue and East 134th Street is the place to go when a run-of-the-mill pizza won’t do. Options include a jerk chicken pizza with vodka sauce and mozzarella, and a four cheese one with parmesan, ricotta, mozzarella, and fontina. There’s also a wide selection of pastas, wings, and sandwiches on deck.
One of the only solid sushi spots in the neighborhood, Ceetay is a cozy restaurant with seats at the bar and at a few tables along a wall plastered with wallpaper covered in newspaper clippings. Aside from the sushi selection, dishes like the spicy tuna and guacamole bruschetta, egg noodles with squash and red curry sauce, and the rock shrimp tempura are some of the options that make this restaurant stand out in the neighborhood.
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Despite holding the name of a western Mexican state, Jalisco is quite simply one of the best Pueblan taquerias in the city. Apart from a couple of stout soups (the hangover-curing pancita has achieved near-legendary status), the menu limits itself to a small roster of antojitos, including enchiladas, tostadas, and tacos. Of the latter, the tacos dorados — rolled and fried tortillas filled with potato and chorizo — are the move, but the tongue tacos aren’t bad, either.
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