Hidden Peruvian Food at El Sabroso

Hidden gems are possibly my favorite part of Midtown Lunch’ing.  There are varying degrees of hidden of course.  The Burger Joint in the Parker Meridien is always referred to as a hidden gem, but who doesn’t know about that place?  Then there are the ones on 47th St. that you could have the street addresses for and still not find them (Taam Tov, Diamond Dairy and the Ecuadorian El Rincon del Sabor).  And of course, there’s the latin food in a Blimpie.

But El Sabroso is on a different level.  At least those other places are actual restaurants.  El Sabroso is just a counter, with a few stools.  A counter, inside a hallway, leading to the freight elevator of a building.  Yup.  My first lunch in a freight elevator hallway.  And while the menu is mostly standard Latin fare (pernil, pork chops, stewed and baked chicken, rice & beans), on Fridays they serve a few Peruvian specials- courtesy of the Peruvian lady who makes all the food.

What they’ve got, freight elevator food porn and a +/- after the jump…

Peruvian cuisine is one of the few treasures I have yet to unearth in Midtown, and while El Sabroso is not the lomo saltado godsend I have always been searching for, it will do for now.  All week long they have the standard Latin dishes available at Margon or Sophie’s, but on Fridays the menu includes tallarin rojo, a homestyle Peruvian red spaghetti dish.

When I got there, and sat down in one of the few stools at the counter, the guy next to me was happily tucking into a plate of spaghetti and other assorted goodies.  And it looked pretty damn good, pushing me to say the words that come in handy so often when eating at a place where their native language is something other than English.  “I’ll have that.”

Those “assorted goodies” turned out to be white rice, beef stew and a green spaghetti (which replaced the normal Peruvian red spaghetti special on that day).  The whole thing was garnished with a few chunks of roasted pork (hello!), and he offered me some orange’ish hot sauce to go on top.  It was all pretty delicious, and only cost $6.50.

Still interested in the Peruvian red spaghetti, I returned the next Friday hoping it would be back on the menu.  He asked if I wanted it with chicken, I said yes, and he proceeded to load a plate with plain noodles, and then pour a reddish gravy, from the big pot of chicken stew, over the noodles.  Then came two big pieces of stewed chicken, and there it was.  Tallarin rojo?

The chicken was fall off the bone tender, and the spaghetti was, well- spaghetti.  But it was all good, and a nice change from the standard Latin fare in Midtown.  The special green spaghetti from the week before was far superior, but I don’t know if they are going to offer that again- or when.  Even so, as workers from the area came in and ordered their lunches, I got to see much of what El Sabroso serves- and nothing looked bad.  Pork chops, rice and beans, roast pork, baked chicken, stewed chicken- they even have tamales.

The prices on the board say $5 and $6 for everything, but I’m not exactly sure what you’ll end up being charged.  From my two visits it looks like $5 gets you a plate with meat, rice and beans., $6 for the Peruvian dishes, and $6.50 for that plate of mixed food.  No matter what you get charged, at under $7 it’s a total steal.  The guy behind the counter is very helpful, and even though the place is tiny (there are only 4 or 5 stools and one little makeshift table), most people take the food to go- so both times I was there the counter was pretty empty.

So while I’m not sure exactly what they’ll serve you, or how much they’ll charge you for it, I do know this.  Go and order what looks good, and you won’t be disappointed.  That’s the beauty of a hidden gem.  How can hidden Peruvian food in a freight elevator hallway for under $7 be bad?

THE +

  • It’s Peruvian food!!!  In Midtown!!!  (But only on Fridays)
  • It’s in a freight elevator hallway
  • Everything is under $7, and the guy behind the counter will pretty much give you whatever you want.  Even a mixed plate of stuff…

THE -

  • It’s not a true Peruvian place.  While the lady who makes all the food is Peruvian, most of the dishes they serve are standard Latin fare- and the tallarin rojo is fine, but not great.  Lomo saltado, where are you????
  • If you like latin food, but are not down with adventure, Sophie’s may be more your style.  The menu at El Sabroso changes every day, and you just have to ask the guy behind the counter what they have.
  • If you don’t like little bones all throughout your stewed meat, you may not like this place
  • It’s very small, so there is a possibility there won’t be anywhere to sit when you go (although both times I went there was nobody at the counter when I got there).  Not the best place to go with 5 of your office mates (unless you are going to take your food to go).

El Sabroso, 265 W. 37th St. (btw. 7+8th), 212-284-1118

Thanks to db from FoodCandy for the great recommendation… If you have a reommendation or the lowdown on a hidden gem in Midtown, email it to me at zach@midtownlunch.com

23 Comments

  • I give credit for whoever found this place and to Zach for going back twice to try the spaghetti.

    This place looks like it was incarnated on the old studio set of the TV show “Taxi”

  • finally an answer (albeit a one-day-a-week answer) to my Peruvian ML prayers. see you there tomorrow-

  • Looks like the Pool room/bar scene from Carlitos Way.

  • That second picture is terrific. It’s like a Hopper.

  • Is there any good under $10 Thai in midtown? Do not want to venture past broadway…
    Thanks all =)

  • looks kind of intimidating. zach – were you the only suit type in there?

  • The best Thai I know is on 9th Ave., but if you want to stay east of Broadway, Topaz (56th St. between 6th and 7th) is pretty good.

  • yeah what side of Broadway are you on A? Also what latitude, as in streets. If you’re on the southern edge of Midtown I recommend ThaiNY (lame name I know) on 2nd and 30th. They have a $7 lunch special that’s great and really tasty pad thai.

  • I’ve been there a load of times. Not the cleanest of places, but it’s a good goto in a pinch. I could have sworn the place was Ecuadorian…

  • Most of the menu is not Peruvian food (in fact, the hot sauce is the same hot sauce I got at the Ecuadorian “El Rincon del Sabor”). But the guy behind the counter told me the lady who makes the food is Peruvian (even though the menu outside of the friday specials are not Peruvian)

  • Yeah, I think of this place as Ecuadorian. Don’t know if I’ve ever been on a Friday. But the pernil is very good and it’s a ton of food for $5. Most of the customers are not in suits but they’ve always been very nice to me despite my lack of Spanish. This place was featured in the Times a couple of years ago – that was when I started going.

  • I’m not eating in a freight elevator hallway until they have trucha a la plancha, rice, salad and a bowl of soup for 3 soles.

  • Wow Zack, kudos for finding one of my hidden lunch spots.
    I am always the ONLY female in the place and in the winter they throw a sheet of dingy plastic, like a curtain, around the bar to keep it warm. Makes the place look even less inviting.

    Truth be told I like the hole in the wall a little further down.
    Vasconcellos. Great salsa and pernil.

  • Bravo!

    I passed by this place once while looking for Indian buffet (which turned out to be across the street) and when I asked someone standing outside El Sabroso, “what’s in there, is it good?”, he said “No. noo. don’t eat here,” and he pushed me across the street to said buffet. Maybe I’ll go back for a tamale!

  • had lucnh here yesteray. beef stew over yellow rice and a couple of cheese empandas. Not bad. The rice was a bit of water, the stew could have been more tender, but it was a treat watchhin him make the empandas fresh in front of me and my coworker. Will go back again and try something else.

  • The owner’s pic is here: http://www.foodcandy.com/PlacePictureView.aspx?id=3194 – I am pretty sure he’s Peruvian, but someone please ask him next time :) He bought the place 15 years ago from someone who was running it for another 15 before him. It’s a full restaurant with all licenses and stuff, the elevator shaft gives it its obvious charm :)

  • Who doesn’t like hidden lunch spots? You should check out this newsstand on the west side of 6th Ave, btwn. 37th and 38th Sts. In the back, you can get a vegetarian Indian lunch (rice, 2 veg dishes, salad, dal, roti, and dessert) for $6.

  • Mounds Bar: Six bucks for all that? Zach, put that item on your to-eat list.

  • I heard there is a new store camming up where we can buy peruvian food related products
    http://www.PeruSuperMarket.com Let see!!

  • This place is worth going to. Just like homemade food. I’m so thankful there’s an option to all the disgusting sugar-grease-laden deli food and over-priced boring sandwich shops around here.

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