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All photos by Robert Sietsema

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.

Hot Bread Kitchen

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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.

Sam's Famous Pizzeria

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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.

Cuchifritos Frituras

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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.

Las Delicias Mexicanas

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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.

Don Paco Panaderia

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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.

Mexican Food Stand

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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.

New Dolphin Fish Market

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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.

Taco Mix

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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.

Sandy Restaurant

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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.

Patsy's Pizza

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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.

La Shuk

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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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Hot Bread Kitchen

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.

Sam's Famous Pizzeria

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.

Cuchifritos Frituras

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.

Las Delicias Mexicanas

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.

Don Paco Panaderia

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.

Mexican Food Stand

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.

New Dolphin Fish Market

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.

Taco Mix

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.

Sandy Restaurant

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.

Patsy's Pizza

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.

La Shuk

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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