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Sietsema's Favorite Dining Spots in East Harlem

The Eater NY critic runs down his neighborhood recommendations

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Decades ago, East Harlem was an Italian neighborhood, and only a couple of restaurants still exist from that era (including the notorious Rao’s, one of the city’s hardest reservations to get). Since that era — gentrification notwithstanding — it has been one of the city’s most prominent Latin American barrios, teeming with Puerto Rican, Dominican, and Mexican dining establishments. Here is a rundown of some of my favorite places to eat in East Harlem, places where you can get a snack or a meal on the way to or from the Panorama Festival. For Eater's picks at the fest, head this way.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Mexican Food Stand

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3rd Avenue & East 117th Street
New York, NY 10035
This phenomenal street stand covered by a bright blue tarp employs four cooks at once to make tacos, sopes, tlaycoyos, and other masa-borne treats, of which the best is the mind-bogglingly good potato-and-chorizo gordita – a big fat corncake split longitudinally, smeared with a pink paste of sausage and spud, drenched in fiery salsa verde, heaped with greenery and mellowed with dairy.

2. Sam's Famous Pizzeria

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150 E 116th St
New York, NY 10029
(212) 348-9437
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Offering a fine slice, better than most neighborhood joints, and an even superior Sicilian square, Sam's represents for the long-running Italian presence in the neighborhood, of which the most famous exemplar is the unattainable Rao's.

3. New Dolphin Fish Market

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2169 3rd Avenue
New York, NY 10028
212-360-6317
The seafood quality at Dolphin is every bit as good, and a freshly fried three-filet whiting sandwich with bread and condiments of your choice (chunky tartar sauce, yay!) will set you back only $4.50, with no tax taken.

4. Cuchifritos Frituras

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168 East 116th Street
New York, NY 10029
212-876-4846
This ancient, too-brightly-lit storefront specializes in fried pig parts with a Puerto Rican perspective that fill you up your stomach like a storm drain in a hurricane.

5. Sandy Restaurant

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2261 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10035
(212) 348-8654
The Dominican soul of El Barrio is Sandy, a long-running lunchroom where most of the menu is displayed in the windows or on the steam table.

6. Patsy's Pizza

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2287 1st Ave
New York, NY 10035
(212) 534-9783
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Founded in 1933 by Pasquale "Patsy" Lancieri, this place is one of the city's sainted coal-oven pizzerias, and one of the last vestiges of what was a thriving Italian neighborhood 80 years ago.

7. Don Paco Panaderia

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2133 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10035
(212) 876-0700
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At this Mexican bakery on Third Avenue, the pan dulce fly from the oven fresh on an hourly basis and you can nearly always get something warm.

8. Hot Bread Kitchen

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1590 Park Ave
New York, NY 10029
(212) 369-3331
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The nearby non-profit bakery teaches immigrant women how to become professional bakers, and here the international breads and other baked goods, plus the laid-back coffee shop, are worth a stop for beverages, pastries, and sandwiches.

9. Las Delicias Mexicanas

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2109 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10029
(212) 828-3659
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This sit-down Mexican restaurant with a take-out counter in front will make a torta for you featuring franks slathered with black beans and mayo, plus a half-dozen other scrumptious ingredients.

10. Taco Mix

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234 E 116th St
New York, NY 10029
(212) 289-2963
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At the heart of the menu here is al pastor, which can be seen twirling in the window, but the suadero and oreja (ear) tacos are easily its equal. Bonus: Taco Mix is open until 5 a.m. most nights.

11. La Shuk

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1569 Lexington Ave
New York, NY 10029
(212) 289-0089
One of the few Moroccan restaurants in the city, the premises here is airy, with windows flung open to summer breezes and a handful of outdoor tables. The food is spot-on, too, especially, the chicken pie called b’stilla.

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1. Mexican Food Stand

3rd Avenue & East 117th Street, New York, NY 10035
This phenomenal street stand covered by a bright blue tarp employs four cooks at once to make tacos, sopes, tlaycoyos, and other masa-borne treats, of which the best is the mind-bogglingly good potato-and-chorizo gordita – a big fat corncake split longitudinally, smeared with a pink paste of sausage and spud, drenched in fiery salsa verde, heaped with greenery and mellowed with dairy.
3rd Avenue & East 117th Street
New York, NY 10035

2. Sam's Famous Pizzeria

150 E 116th St, New York, NY 10029
Offering a fine slice, better than most neighborhood joints, and an even superior Sicilian square, Sam's represents for the long-running Italian presence in the neighborhood, of which the most famous exemplar is the unattainable Rao's.
150 E 116th St
New York, NY 10029

3. New Dolphin Fish Market

2169 3rd Avenue, New York, NY 10028
The seafood quality at Dolphin is every bit as good, and a freshly fried three-filet whiting sandwich with bread and condiments of your choice (chunky tartar sauce, yay!) will set you back only $4.50, with no tax taken.
2169 3rd Avenue
New York, NY 10028

4. Cuchifritos Frituras

168 East 116th Street, New York, NY 10029
This ancient, too-brightly-lit storefront specializes in fried pig parts with a Puerto Rican perspective that fill you up your stomach like a storm drain in a hurricane.
168 East 116th Street
New York, NY 10029

5. Sandy Restaurant

2261 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10035
The Dominican soul of El Barrio is Sandy, a long-running lunchroom where most of the menu is displayed in the windows or on the steam table.
2261 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10035

6. Patsy's Pizza

2287 1st Ave, New York, NY 10035
Founded in 1933 by Pasquale "Patsy" Lancieri, this place is one of the city's sainted coal-oven pizzerias, and one of the last vestiges of what was a thriving Italian neighborhood 80 years ago.
2287 1st Ave
New York, NY 10035

7. Don Paco Panaderia

2133 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10035
At this Mexican bakery on Third Avenue, the pan dulce fly from the oven fresh on an hourly basis and you can nearly always get something warm.
2133 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10035

8. Hot Bread Kitchen

1590 Park Ave, New York, NY 10029
The nearby non-profit bakery teaches immigrant women how to become professional bakers, and here the international breads and other baked goods, plus the laid-back coffee shop, are worth a stop for beverages, pastries, and sandwiches.
1590 Park Ave
New York, NY 10029

9. Las Delicias Mexicanas

2109 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10029
This sit-down Mexican restaurant with a take-out counter in front will make a torta for you featuring franks slathered with black beans and mayo, plus a half-dozen other scrumptious ingredients.
2109 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10029

10. Taco Mix

234 E 116th St, New York, NY 10029
At the heart of the menu here is al pastor, which can be seen twirling in the window, but the suadero and oreja (ear) tacos are easily its equal. Bonus: Taco Mix is open until 5 a.m. most nights.
234 E 116th St
New York, NY 10029

11. La Shuk

1569 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10029
One of the few Moroccan restaurants in the city, the premises here is airy, with windows flung open to summer breezes and a handful of outdoor tables. The food is spot-on, too, especially, the chicken pie called b’stilla.
1569 Lexington Ave
New York, NY 10029

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