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El Bombon (75-13 Roosevelt Avenue, Queens, 718-672-6500) is a new addition to the line of Jackson Heights Roosevelt Avenue eateries operating under the rumbling 7 train. The restaurant’s icon is an anthropomorphic marshmallow, a sombrero-wearing, taco-clutching sweet; not a sweet, curvy lady, as “el bombon” also connotes. The kitchen is to the front and the dining room the back; the latter doubles as a slick dance floor on nights and weekends. Beer is consumed at all hours.
The long menu warrants excavation. There are hefty breakfasts of rice, beans, meats, and eggs; a laundry list of antojitos; a dozen soups; flautas; nachos; cemitas; and larger platters. The enchiladas Poblanas ($10.50) come five per order; those, the six chalupas ($9.50), or the plate of steamed goat, rice, beans, guacamole, salsa, and tortillas ($12.50) are each large enough to take down a competitive eater.
Quantity is not El Bombon’s only compelling argument: The cooking is surprisingly adroit. The handwritten specials on each table are a great place to find the standouts. Tender beef meatballs ($10.50) in a cherry-red chipotle sauce have pleasant, starchy squares of potato sunken underneath. Gorditas ($7.50), split and stuffed with stewed chicharrones, are complemented by a tart green salsa. The chilate ($8.50), a chicken and vegetable soup from the Mixtecan highlands sometimes thickened with masa, carries a deep baritone of shrimp stock, an anise-y whiff of hoja santa, and heat that catches the back of the throat. The soup is a glowing scarlet from a thick puree of guajillo chiles and seems to get better and brighter as it sits. This is the last time you’ll wear white pants to lunch.
Scarlett Lindeman is a Brooklyn-based writer, covering the city’s best taquerias, fondas, and cantinas.