In Washington Heights between 172nd and 173rd on St Nicholas, then between Amsterdam and Broadway, follow your nose. Inserted into a string of shops selling underwear, lingerie and discount linen, Dominican bakeries, barbers, delis, pawnshops and restaurants is Elsa, makers of chicharron, which translates exactly as a piece of fried pork crackling, but which here is actually a meaty, crackling crusted rib of pork.
Within a government rated ‘Class A’ kitchen, the shy yet joyful blue bloused workers take orders while cleaving and filling aluminum containers with ribs crusty with amber crackling for take out, or plate white china for patrons who sit on stools at the L shaped tiled counter, whose two prime perches face the brightly lit street busy with pedestrians and shoppers buying dry goods from the overstuffed street display at the shop next door.
You’ll get more than a dollar back from ten if you order a chicharron with sides of beans with rice and green plantains that taste best if you squeeze the lime wedges all over the pork and shake a bottle of Tabasco all over the rice.
Some English is spoken and when it’s not, there is usually a patron willing to translate.
When I last ate there, I sensed a wave of calmness flowing from Elsa’s staff & customers, and the fullness of my belly necessitated a slow amble home under a starry sky through the arctic chilled autumn air while appreciating the flashing restaurant lights and fragrances that abound in that neighborhood.