Pressing fruits and vegetables into flat patties and then frying or griddling them so that they’re stiff enough to support a sandwich sounds like a paleo diet trick, but that technique is also the basis of a traditional Venezuelan sandwich, the patacón (or the patacón Maracucho). For this staple, flattened plantains are fried into disks, a pair of which hold roasted pork, shredded beef, or ham and cheese. And in this city, you can find a slew of these sandwiches at Patacón Pisao, which has a food truck in Washington Heights, a restaurant in Elmhurst — and a brand-new address on the Lower East Side (139 Essex Street, 646-678-5913).
That Lower East Side location was delayed for months thanks to construction and permitting, but it finally opened a couple of weeks ago, pulling the paper off the windows to reveal a bright spot with a few tables and a counter. But while the space is diminutive in size, it turns out a formidable menu that’s been streamlined for fast-casual service. Front and center are the patacones, of course, but Patacón also sells tacuchos (burrito), arepas, and cachapas (sweet corn crepe). Choose any one of these as the vessel for the most basic fillings — like chorizo, queso blanco, and grilled steak, which can also be mixed together — or opt for one of the original creations.
On the day we stopped by, the counter attendee was vehement in his support for the patacón Cubano, a take on the traditional Cubano sandwich that includes fried cheese and what tastes like mayonnaise-laced salsa verde. The patacón de Pabellon encompasses that familiar Venezuelan blend of black beans, shredded beef, sweet plantains, and shredded cheese. Move over into the tacucho category, and you can have a burrito stuffed with scrambled eggs, chorizo, American cheese, and black beans; one arepa comes loaded with avocado, mozzarella, and tomatoes.
Once you’ve worked out your main meal, you might consider an antojito, or side; we bit at the recommendation of a pastelito, a crispy fried empanada that houses shredded chicken and cheesy mashed potatoes. It was an aggressive choice on top of a patacón, by the way — the potato stuffing is substantial, so you might find you need a nap after polishing one off. Other options include fried cheese sticks, sweet plantains, and rice and beans.
Patacón Pisao is selling chicha, a sweet rice drink that resembles a milkshake, and juices, which will change a bit seasonally. The sweet-tart tamarind currently on tap is a nice match to the heavy food.
And late-night eaters in the area, take note: Patacón Pisao is open until 1:30 a.m. on weekends, and for lunch and dinner all week long.