Homemade tamales and empanadas at a tiny Mexican bakery, tripe stew stacked in the freezer of a Polish deli–these foods aren’t exactly undercover, but in order to find this good stuff, you’ve got to notice the little hand-written sign that reads “tamales,” or root through the freezer, past the giant tub of frozen pig brains, to find the homemade tripe stew. I love this sort of thing. (I also recently found a health food store where you can get to-go containers of Northern Indian food, made by the owner, probably not health-department sanctioned; but that’s for another post.)
The tamales and empanadas are at Lopez Bakery, and the tripe stew is at Jubilat Provisions, both in Greenwood Heights, Brooklyn. A photo tour of the food and more info after the jump.
Spinach and cheese empanada
Lopez Bakery traffics in a wide assortment of pan dulche, as well as basic, good whole wheat and white loaves and various pastries–fruit tarts, cookies, elaborately frosted cakes–some of which are better than others. But there’s also a little sign by the door that tells you what you really should be ordering from this small, family-owned spot: tamales and empanadas ($1.50 each). The woman behind the counter makes the tamales everyday, although if you go too late they may be sold out, and makes the empanadas “when she has time.”
Today, she had spinach-cheese empanadas and beef-mushroom. The beef-mushroom is earthy and rich, but to me, the spinach-cheese is the best way to go. It is really wonderful–a mix of cubed, mild Oaxacan cheese and large, tender spinach leaves.
And here we have Lopez’s tamales, broken open so you can see the fillings. On the left is red chile and cheese, my favorite. It’s got a good kick, with bits of tomato and stringy Oaxacan cheese. In the middle, green chile and chicken, also with a little heat, although the chicken is a bit dry. On the right, mole poblano-chicken, which was less assertive than I would have liked, but worth a try nonetheless. The steamy masa on the outside is really great–crumbly, corny and fragrant.
645 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn
Polish tripe stew (flaczki)
Jubilat Provisions is a Polish deli that smokes its own hams, bacon and kielbasa in the back. The whole place smells wonderful when the smoker is going, and the porky results are absolutely the best in the area, and highly recommended. I usually get so distracted by the giant lengths of kielbasa and pork belly strung overhead that I don’t think to look through the freezer in the back of the store. But if you do go poking around, next to a big plastic tub of frozen pig brains, you’ll find containers of homemade tripe stew.
This is very serious tripe stew, for serious tripe lovers. There is a copious amount of fluttery strips of tripe in the thin, salty beef broth, along with a bit of marjoram, black pepper and a few pieces of carrot. Other than that, it’s just the tripe, which has been stewed to tenderness.
Polish vegetable salad
Along with the tripe stew, there’s also chicken soup, which I haven’t tried. In the display counter, alongside the hams and headcheese, there’s this mayonnaise-y vegetable salad. I like anything mixed with mayo, but this salad is particularly good. It’s a mixture of diced apples, pickles, boiled egg, potato, peas and carrots.
608 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn