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Bolivian Llama Party’s chicken salteña spills out onto a plate
Bolivian Llama Party’s chicken salteña
Photo by Nick Solares

11 South American Restaurants to Try in NYC

One excellent establishment from each country on the continent

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Bolivian Llama Party’s chicken salteña
| Photo by Nick Solares

The food of South America is varied and spectacular, and New York City is blessed with restaurants from every South American country, from Argentina to Colombia, except two (Suriname and French Guiana). Below find one restaurant from each of these countries, and suggestions for what to order, via Eater critic Robert Sietsema.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Bolivia: Bolivian Llama Party

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This has been a tragic decade for Bolivian restaurants in the city. There were once a handful, but now we have to content ourselves with the Bolivian Llama Party stall in the Turnstyle food court under Columbus Circle. Luckily, it turns out some pretty fine salteñas, the soupy Bolivian form of empanadas, along with pork or beef brisket sandwiches de cholas.

Beef saltena
Beef saltena

Chile: La Roja de Todos

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Alas, very few Chilean restaurants exist in New York City ever since Astoria’s San Antonio Bakery and the Theater District’s Pomaire closed. Now, aside from a stray dish at various pan-Latin restaurants, your best bet is La Roja de Todos (“everything red,” a reference to the national soccer team). In addition to a wonderful hot dog dressed with avocado and mayo, and a famous sandwich of beef and green beans called a chacarero, the menu is heavy with seafood soups, and corn-based dishes such as humitas (like tamales) and pastel de choclo (a corn pie). A bakery on the premises turns out Chilean pastries and breads.

Paila marina seafood soup
Paila marina seafood soup

Brazil: Via Brasil

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Though Astoria harbors a vital Brazilian immigrant community, 46th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues has been known as Little Brazil. A handful of white-tablecloth restaurants offer the cuisine from a multiregional perspective, concocting dishes from Bahia, Minas Gerais, and Rio itself. Foremost at Via Brasil is the national dish of feijoada, a lush stew of black beans and multiple pig and beef parts served with shredded collard greens and oranges, while the African-influenced dishes like vatapa and moqueca are similarly memorable.

Vatapa
Vatapa

Colombia: Pollos Mario

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Magnificent whole chickens kicking up like a chorus line in the rotisserie and coming out well-browned are the forte of Pollos Mario, a Colombian chain ubiquitous in Middle Queens and parts of New Jersey. The branch on Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights is decorated like a farmhouse, and a series of chicken dinners are available that include rice, french fries, salad, green chile relish, and giblet soup. Steaks, arepas, fresh juices, meal-size soups, chorizo, and pork chicharron also available at this place, open till midnight and sometimes later.

Rotisserie chicken and giblet soup
Rotisserie chicken and giblet soup

Venezuela: El Cocotero

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Sure, there are dozens of places where you can get arepa sandwiches, lushly topped Venezuelan burgers, or the thin corn cakes called cachapas, but where can you find the kind of food more often cooked in private homes from Caracas to Maracaibo and in the countryside? Head to El Cocotero, decorated like a farmhouse, to enjoy such rustic pleasures as goat stew, sancocho soup, and the amazing tamales stuffed with chicken, beef, pork, olives, and raisins called hallacas. For street food, check out Cachapas Y Mas in either Inwood or Ridgewood. 

A venezuelan tamale unfolded from a banana leaf with salad on the side
Hallaca

Paraguay: I Love Paraguay

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Boasting Teutonic milanesa and Italian pastas, the menu of landlocked and mountainous Paraguay is also rich in recipes influenced by indigenous Guaraní peoples. One such is mbeju, a cheese-stuffed flatbread of sorts made with manioc dough. Another is vori vori, a marble-size corn dumpling often used in soups, such as the chicken soup shown, which also features pumpkin and carrot in a rich broth. Unusual sandwiches and grilled meats also abound.

Vori vori soup
Chicken soup with vori vori

Argentina: Buenos Aires

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The classic Argentine steakhouse is less common in the city than it once was, though some fine examples remain. One need look no further than Alphabet City to find Buenos Aires, where the cattle of the pampas, or plains, provide inspiration for a major portion of the menu, from grilled organ meats such as sweetbreads and blood sausage, to skirt steaks, rib eyes, and filet mignons. But why not try the traditional parrillada, or mixed grill, dabbed with verdant chimichurri? Salads, pastas, and seafood fill out the menu. 

Grilled sweetbreads
Grilled sweetbreads

Guyana: Nicole's

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Not far from the PATH station at Jersey City’s Grove Street find Nicole’s, an intimate café serving rotis stuffed with your choice of curries; a daily selection of vegetable main dishes that run to potatoes, pumpkin, eggplant, and chana (chickpeas); as well as roast pork, curried duck, and jerk chicken. Elsewhere, find the greatest concentration of Guyanese restaurants over in South Richmond Hill, Queens, where there are approximately two dozen. Many, like Kaieteur, specialize in Guyanese-Chinese fare. Others serve mainly Indo-Guyanese, a menu common to both Guyana and Trinidad.

Goat roti with pumpkin
Goat roti with pumpkin

Uruguay: Charrúa

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Decorated with potato mashers, historic photos of Montevideo, and fanciful scenes of the pampas, Charrúa is a rare Manhattan Uruguayan restaurant, serving a menu overlapping that of Argentine restaurants, but with some unique dishes of its own, especially in the sandwich area. Check out the chivito: a brioche-borne sandwich in four variations, one featuring ham, eggs, steak, bacon, mozzarella, and roasted red peppers. Apart from those, find grilled steaks, milanesa, salads, pastas, and especially good empanadas, served two to an order with salad.

Chivito sandwich
Chivito sandwich

Ecuador: Sol De Quito

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There are probably more Ecuadorian restaurants in town than those of any other South American country, sprinkled around such Queens and Brooklyn neighborhoods as Corona, Ridgewood, Sunset Park, and Bushwick, which is where you’ll find Sol de Quito. These restaurants feature seafood of coastal Guayaquil, but also Andean dishes like cuy (guinea pig) and llapingachos (cheesy potato patties), among the usual ceviches and meal-size soups such as caldo de bola, buoying a gigantic dumpling. Around Lent, look for the 12-bean stew (one for each of the apostles) called fanesca. 

Caldo de bola
Caldo de bola

Peru: Cuzco

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Queens neighborhoods like Jackson Heights and Woodhaven, as well as the West Side of Manhattan, are dotted with Peruvian chicken places, offering wonderful rotisserie birds at bargain prices, and Long Island City among other neighborhoods abounds in cocktail-oriented establishments with ambitious menus. But let’s go to Staten Island just west of Clove Lakes Park to find Cuzco, an inexpensive and informal Peruvian restaurant that goes beyond the usual roast chickens, to jalea (a humongous fried-seafood assortment), tallarin saltado (Peruvian-Chinese lo mein), and papas a la Huancaina (Andean potatoes in cheese sauce). 

Jalea
Jalea

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Bolivia: Bolivian Llama Party

Beef saltena
Beef saltena

This has been a tragic decade for Bolivian restaurants in the city. There were once a handful, but now we have to content ourselves with the Bolivian Llama Party stall in the Turnstyle food court under Columbus Circle. Luckily, it turns out some pretty fine salteñas, the soupy Bolivian form of empanadas, along with pork or beef brisket sandwiches de cholas.

Beef saltena
Beef saltena

Chile: La Roja de Todos

Paila marina seafood soup
Paila marina seafood soup

Alas, very few Chilean restaurants exist in New York City ever since Astoria’s San Antonio Bakery and the Theater District’s Pomaire closed. Now, aside from a stray dish at various pan-Latin restaurants, your best bet is La Roja de Todos (“everything red,” a reference to the national soccer team). In addition to a wonderful hot dog dressed with avocado and mayo, and a famous sandwich of beef and green beans called a chacarero, the menu is heavy with seafood soups, and corn-based dishes such as humitas (like tamales) and pastel de choclo (a corn pie). A bakery on the premises turns out Chilean pastries and breads.

Paila marina seafood soup
Paila marina seafood soup

Brazil: Via Brasil

Vatapa
Vatapa

Though Astoria harbors a vital Brazilian immigrant community, 46th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues has been known as Little Brazil. A handful of white-tablecloth restaurants offer the cuisine from a multiregional perspective, concocting dishes from Bahia, Minas Gerais, and Rio itself. Foremost at Via Brasil is the national dish of feijoada, a lush stew of black beans and multiple pig and beef parts served with shredded collard greens and oranges, while the African-influenced dishes like vatapa and moqueca are similarly memorable.

Vatapa
Vatapa

Colombia: Pollos Mario

Rotisserie chicken and giblet soup
Rotisserie chicken and giblet soup

Magnificent whole chickens kicking up like a chorus line in the rotisserie and coming out well-browned are the forte of Pollos Mario, a Colombian chain ubiquitous in Middle Queens and parts of New Jersey. The branch on Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights is decorated like a farmhouse, and a series of chicken dinners are available that include rice, french fries, salad, green chile relish, and giblet soup. Steaks, arepas, fresh juices, meal-size soups, chorizo, and pork chicharron also available at this place, open till midnight and sometimes later.

Rotisserie chicken and giblet soup
Rotisserie chicken and giblet soup

Venezuela: El Cocotero

A venezuelan tamale unfolded from a banana leaf with salad on the side
Hallaca

Sure, there are dozens of places where you can get arepa sandwiches, lushly topped Venezuelan burgers, or the thin corn cakes called cachapas, but where can you find the kind of food more often cooked in private homes from Caracas to Maracaibo and in the countryside? Head to El Cocotero, decorated like a farmhouse, to enjoy such rustic pleasures as goat stew, sancocho soup, and the amazing tamales stuffed with chicken, beef, pork, olives, and raisins called hallacas. For street food, check out Cachapas Y Mas in either Inwood or Ridgewood. 

A venezuelan tamale unfolded from a banana leaf with salad on the side
Hallaca

Paraguay: I Love Paraguay

Vori vori soup
Chicken soup with vori vori

Boasting Teutonic milanesa and Italian pastas, the menu of landlocked and mountainous Paraguay is also rich in recipes influenced by indigenous Guaraní peoples. One such is mbeju, a cheese-stuffed flatbread of sorts made with manioc dough. Another is vori vori, a marble-size corn dumpling often used in soups, such as the chicken soup shown, which also features pumpkin and carrot in a rich broth. Unusual sandwiches and grilled meats also abound.

Vori vori soup
Chicken soup with vori vori

Argentina: Buenos Aires

Grilled sweetbreads
Grilled sweetbreads

The classic Argentine steakhouse is less common in the city than it once was, though some fine examples remain. One need look no further than Alphabet City to find Buenos Aires, where the cattle of the pampas, or plains, provide inspiration for a major portion of the menu, from grilled organ meats such as sweetbreads and blood sausage, to skirt steaks, rib eyes, and filet mignons. But why not try the traditional parrillada, or mixed grill, dabbed with verdant chimichurri? Salads, pastas, and seafood fill out the menu. 

Grilled sweetbreads
Grilled sweetbreads

Guyana: Nicole's

Goat roti with pumpkin
Goat roti with pumpkin

Not far from the PATH station at Jersey City’s Grove Street find Nicole’s, an intimate café serving rotis stuffed with your choice of curries; a daily selection of vegetable main dishes that run to potatoes, pumpkin, eggplant, and chana (chickpeas); as well as roast pork, curried duck, and jerk chicken. Elsewhere, find the greatest concentration of Guyanese restaurants over in South Richmond Hill, Queens, where there are approximately two dozen. Many, like Kaieteur, specialize in Guyanese-Chinese fare. Others serve mainly Indo-Guyanese, a menu common to both Guyana and Trinidad.

Goat roti with pumpkin
Goat roti with pumpkin

Uruguay: Charrúa

Chivito sandwich
Chivito sandwich

Decorated with potato mashers, historic photos of Montevideo, and fanciful scenes of the pampas, Charrúa is a rare Manhattan Uruguayan restaurant, serving a menu overlapping that of Argentine restaurants, but with some unique dishes of its own, especially in the sandwich area. Check out the chivito: a brioche-borne sandwich in four variations, one featuring ham, eggs, steak, bacon, mozzarella, and roasted red peppers. Apart from those, find grilled steaks, milanesa, salads, pastas, and especially good empanadas, served two to an order with salad.

Chivito sandwich
Chivito sandwich

Ecuador: Sol De Quito

Caldo de bola
Caldo de bola

There are probably more Ecuadorian restaurants in town than those of any other South American country, sprinkled around such Queens and Brooklyn neighborhoods as Corona, Ridgewood, Sunset Park, and Bushwick, which is where you’ll find Sol de Quito. These restaurants feature seafood of coastal Guayaquil, but also Andean dishes like cuy (guinea pig) and llapingachos (cheesy potato patties), among the usual ceviches and meal-size soups such as caldo de bola, buoying a gigantic dumpling. Around Lent, look for the 12-bean stew (one for each of the apostles) called fanesca. 

Caldo de bola
Caldo de bola

Peru: Cuzco

Jalea
Jalea

Queens neighborhoods like Jackson Heights and Woodhaven, as well as the West Side of Manhattan, are dotted with Peruvian chicken places, offering wonderful rotisserie birds at bargain prices, and Long Island City among other neighborhoods abounds in cocktail-oriented establishments with ambitious menus. But let’s go to Staten Island just west of Clove Lakes Park to find Cuzco, an inexpensive and informal Peruvian restaurant that goes beyond the usual roast chickens, to jalea (a humongous fried-seafood assortment), tallarin saltado (Peruvian-Chinese lo mein), and papas a la Huancaina (Andean potatoes in cheese sauce). 

Jalea
Jalea

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