Flatiron Lunch: Latin American is a Good Sophie’s Alternative

Now that Downtown has its very own section of the site, what are we going to post on Fridays at 10am? Answer… how about a new column devoted to those lunches just south of the ML boundaries. Please give a warm welcome to Jason Lam from the blog Me So Hungry. Every Friday at 10am he’ll post about lunches in Murray Hill south, Grammercy, Flatiron, and everything in between… or as we’ll call it from now on: Flatiron Lunch.

Latin American Restaurant serves what you think it does, slow-cooked stewed Latino dishes accompanied with rice and beans. Think Sophie’s, but it’s not a franchise, it’s dingier and a dollar or two cheaper. Large lunch portions ranging from $6-8. While many office people lunch at Sophie’s only a few blocks away on 23rd, Latin American Restaurant is worth talking about since it’s hidden on a street most people wouldn’t venture on other than for Hill Country Barbecue.

Take-out, delivery or sit at the lunch counter or dining room in the back. Servers are dishing out food to a mostly Spanish-speaking clientele from the heating trays along the wall on the other side of the counter. My vision isn’t as good as it used to be. So I squint and ask which one’s the pork.

In the past, I’ve had the Roast Pork, Stewed Pork, Oxtail Stew and Cuban sandwich. Pretty solid Latino fare. The Roast Pork has some nice fatty bits and crispy skin. Stewed Pork was pig’s feet that day, which is decent for pig’s feet. The Oxtail is tasty. The Cuban sandwich is sadly uneventful. It doesn’t compare to the plump ones you Midtowners get at Margon, with its seemingly perfect proportions of meat, mustard, pickle and bread.

Most recently I’ve had their Goat Stew $7.99 and Baked Chicken $5.99. The Goat Stew is tender and very bone-y. But isn’t that what you expect from Goat Stew? There’s going to be a lot of bones. I had Goat Stew at Purple Yam in Ditmas Park last week. Their version didn’t have bones and it sort of freaked me out. Don’t get me wrong. Purple Yam was delicious, but I felt something off. It was the missing bones, which thankfully were heavily implemented in Latin American Restaurant’s stew. When I finished, I realized more than half of it was bones.

The Baked Chicken is comforting. It reminds me of the chicken they served in school when I was little. I suppose only because I don’t know where else I’ve eaten baked chicken since then. It’s rotisserie, grilled or fried, right? I’m reminded of the baked chicken fat grease flavor in which the chicken is sitting in while cooking. That’s a good flavor. And the Spanish seasonings (I’m thinking paprika and adobo) made it red. Latin American Restaurant is solid for Latino/Spanish food in the Flatiron district.

Quick, easy and a little cheaper than Sophie’s. But one thing is that they don’t have that awesome Sophie’s green sauce. Dang. That could be a deal breaker, ladies!

The + (What people who like this place would say)

  • I like my lunch with good portions at a fair price.
  • I like flavorful, tender Spanish stewed meats …with bones!
  • I like the lunch counters where the Latino locals eat. I’m proud to be a gringo.

The – (What people who don’t like this place would say)

  • I only eat ethnic food at clean looking places (…like Sophie’s)
  • What is that food way over there? I want to see up front and close (…like at Sophie’s)
  • No Sophie’s Green Sauce! (…like at Sophie’s)

Latin American Restaurant, 29 W 26th St (btwn 6th Ave & Bway), 212-689-2570

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