Episode 07: Lechonera La Piraña
1 Minute Meal’s first foray into the Bronx couldn’t focus on a better piece of South Bronx living.
A standalone trailer parked on a nondescript street in Mott Haven, Lechonera La Piraña comes alive on Fridays, serving Puerto Rican dishes through the weekend and closing on Sunday evening. The owner and cook, known to the neighborhood as “Piraña,” is immensely warm-hearted. Working during the week as a building superintendent, he uses his part-time business (and full-time sound system) to make the corner of Wales and 152nd Street a place to relax, to party, and to gather around good food. Free plates of food for children are a common sight, and I’m told that every Friday night produces an end-of-the-block party.
The lechon itself is cooked in a wooden shack, housed in the center of a vacant lot between two apartment buildings and containing nothing but a multi-level pizza oven—installed for the single purpose of roasting the parts of a whole hog. The words “HOOD SHIT” are spray-painted against the lot’s back fence, and Piraña holds the key to the padlock on the front fence. This may be more Mott Haven style than Puerto Rican style, but one bite of the pork makes it tough to tell the difference.
Episode 08: El Olomega
On the opposite end of the 5 boroughs, El Olomega has been cooking the city’s best pupusas for decades. As part of the Red Hook Vendors Association, the Lainez family has played a major role in keeping this neighborhood institution alive in the face of a regulation stranglehold. The Association submitted its second 6-year permit proposal in mid-July, surrounded by whispers of doubt as to whether the Ball Fields will continue to be a food destination for the entire tri-county area.
Marcos Lainez, though, is convinced that only good news is on the horizon. Serving 18 variants of the Salvadoran staple (including one joyous rendition made from mashed sweet plantains), El Olomega personifies the Red Hook Vendors—a family forged in food at the edge of a soccer field.