The japanese finish of a hundred and twenty fifth Avenue feels fairly desolate lately, with huge building websites dominating the panorama on the blocks earlier than Harlem’s most well-known thoroughfare turns into an on-ramp for the Triborough Bridge. However as dreary because the strolling surroundings could also be over right here proper now, there’s nonetheless a cluster of storefronts holding it down by Second Avenue, and a kind of — a tiny, takeout-only spot referred to as Lechonera La Isla — serves a number of the finest Puerto Rican meals on the town.
Lechonera La Isla historically operates as a basic lunch counter, although the pandemic has remodeled it right into a takeout-only operation for now. The cushiony seats have all been faraway from the brief row of stools, leaving solely the “trunks,” and unexpectedly put in sheets of plexiglass separate you from the lone counter one that packs up your order. A handwritten menu is taped close to the register, or you’ll be able to simply peer by way of the plastic and see what’s out there within the steam tables by the window.
As its title implies, the Lechonera menu is full of pig. Pernil, the closely seasoned roast pork shoulder, might be the signature dish right here, and it’s glorious — the meat good and tender, loaded with taste, with a great quantity of fatty, sticky chunks of pores and skin thrown in. The dish comes with a potent, scrumptious garlic sauce which you must dump throughout the whole lot with abandon, however I might additionally suggest a number of the vinegary sizzling sauce on the counter to your mountain of, on this case, yellow rice and pink beans.
There’s Chicharron right here as nicely, and some Roast Chickens, generally Oxtail, and Carne Guisada — however for my different “entree” I went with the Pig’s Ft, they usually turned out to be among the many finest I’ve ever had, an enormous pile all loaded with meat and gooey with fats. A few supplemental objects rounded out the feast (which, I ought to say, lasted me your complete weekend): an honest empanada full of floor beef, and a few tangy and intense blood sausage, which the server reduce into six huge chunks that made for a stunning addition to my platters.
This meals is implausible and all of it travels nicely and stands as much as reheating, so bringing it again residence could also be your finest consuming choice. That stated, there are a couple of picnic prospects close by, together with Harlem River Park on 128th Avenue, or the compact Dream Avenue Park on 124th, which has a helpful desk sitting out within the snow.
Lechonera La Isla is situated at 254 East a hundred and twenty fifth Avenue, close to Second Avenue, and is at present open from 7 a.m. to eight:30 p.m. each day (212-996-1972)