Floridita Restaurant | 3219 Broadway (at 126th/129th Streets) | 212.662.0090 | no website
I WAS PSYCHED TO TRY something called longanisa (a Phillippine sausage) and something else called tocino (Phillippine cured pork) at a place called Pino's in Morningside Heights, directly across the street from the building I grew up in. These exotic-sounding meats are featured in many of their breakfast dishes.

This was an early Sunday morning, and I was hungry and needed enough energy to deal with the crowd coming into the restaurant where I work to watch the New York Jets, so I took it upon myself to finally revisit my old neighborhood and have an, at least, interesting breakfast. I jumped on the crosstown bus, transferred to the uptown 1 train, and, for the first time in a long time, found myself standing on the elevated subway platform I used to stand on everyday for almost 20 years.

My building of my former address—where I lived from a few months old until about 22 years old—looked completely unchanged, from every angle, as did the public library where I first read Dr. Suess and the mysteries of Encyclopedia Brown.

Pino's is located directly across the street from the library; unfortunately, it was closed when I got to it (although it claims to be open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.). I didn't know if it was closed for the day, or had recently shuttered, but it being very chilling outside this Sunday, and getting ever more hungry, I couldn't waste anymore time concerning myself with such issues.

I luckily remembered being recommended a Cuban diner a week ago after I had asked my Facebook friends to do so. It was located two blocks away and it was called Floridita. I headed towards it, making my way back towards Broadway, and, of course, couldn't help but stop by the McDonald's which opened in the summer of 1980 and was where I had my very first paying job (food service; go figure!).

Florodita is located on what is officially 129th Street but is the practical equivalent of 126th Street (129th originates from here the diagonally cuts east making way for the eventual 12tth and 128th Streets), and has an humble exterior that belies its more ornately retro interior.

I was excited to see two main items that I had heard of (and had seen enjoyed my any number of TV food show hosts): mangu and mofongo. Both of them are a mashed plaintain staple of many Latin cuisines, the former usually topped off with onions and the latter usually incorporated with meat and/or seafood. Mangu is better suited for breakfast, so I ordered them with two fried eggs, fried cheese, and fried salami (Is there a doctor in the house?!).

With the texture that was a mix of mashed potatoes and hash brown, with markedly more flavor as well, the plaintain's perfect natural sweet-savory balance made a great "base" for the other flavors of the dish, especially with the seasoned and pleasantly salted, Dominican-style salami and mellow fried queso fresco, a cousin of the more crumbly queso blanco.

I easily finished the hearty and filling dish; yet, for some stubborn reason, didn't feel comfortable leaving without sampling one small, last item. Feeling nostalgic as I watched dishes of rice and beans, Cuban sandwiches, and stewed pork chops—being reminded of the dishes my Puerto Rican babysitter used to make for my sister and I when we were very young, introducing to such dishes as rice with octopus and the malt beverage, malta—I decided on a palate-cleansing caramel flan, which my former babysitter made extremely well.

Creamy, custardy, vanilla-y, caramel-y, with little flakes of coconut underneath, this was such a treat more so since I hadn't had one in quite a long time.

As I waited for the downtown 1 train, I though to myself it would be a shame if Floridita becomes the reason I visit Morningside Heights more often than I have (I've only been on the Upper East Side; it isn't like I've been in Antartica all these years!). But even if that's the case, I'll be happy enough with such a positive consequence. Much like winding up at Floridita only because a place called Pino's was closed, the day actually wound up turning out better than okay.

Not so, unfortunately, for the Jets....

Bun Apple Tea!


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Floridita Restaurant | 3219 Broadway (at 126th/129th Streets) | 212.662.0090 | no website