Flatiron Lunch: Get Venezuelan Fried Plantain Sandwiches at El Cocotero

Every Friday we go south of the ML boundaries in search of a delicious lunch. Sometimes it’s Murray Hill south or the Flatiron District, sometimes Gramercy and everything in between- but we just like to call it Flatiron Lunch.

I know some of you are going to want to complain about how El Cocotero is so far away from the Flatiron Building, and you couldn’t possibly be expected to walk 10-15 minutes to pick up lunch. But on the other hand, how mad would you be if I found a place that makes really good arepas and didn’t tell you? Beyond arepas, El Cocotero also makes a delicious patacon. If you are like me and you have never heard of a patacon, it is fried green plantain sandwich with various fillings (like if you took super large tostones and used them as a bread for a sandwich.) A 10 minutes walk isn’t looking so bad anymore, eh?

I had wanted to try El Cocotero for a while and found the perfect opportunity, when I made lunch plans with a friend, and El Cocotero was in between our two offices. Inside, it had a cozy feel with Venezuelan flag, a roof over the kitchen, and the walls have an assortment of art, portraits and crafts.

We decided to try three different items and settled on two arepas and one patacon from the Delicias de El Cocotero section of the menu. They have lunch specials that include arepa with salad or tropical juice. They also have a lunch special with shredded beef or shredded chicken or roast pork or pork chops with rice and beans (red or black) and plantains. But they are both over $10, so we didn’t try them. They also have many other platters, juices, street drinks, desserts, all-day breakfast, sandwiches, empanadas, pastellitos, and it keeps going (online menu here.)

Our first item was the la chinuinquira arepa ($9) with guasacaca (aka guacamole), guayanes cheese, avocado and tomatoes. Yes, that means it included avocado two ways! As you can probably guess, this arepa was a different food from the frozen arepas you find at the MozzArepa stands at street fairs in the summer. This had a nice crust but a soft corny interior. These fillings were tasty, but would probably leave most people hungry.

The pabellon arepa ($9) on the hand was a fully stuffed arepa (check out how much bigger this arepa is compared to above) with shredded beef, black beans, sweet plantain and grated white cheese and probably big enough to be a filling lunch. The only thing I would change about this dish would be taking out the sweet plantain. The corn in the arepa has just a hint of sweet which is enough for me, and the plantain made it too sweet for a savory lunch dish.

With not all of the patacon options $10 or under, we picked the pernil ($9) with green pepper mojo. The green pepper mojo was not what either of us were expecting. We both thought it would come with a smooth green sauce either in the patacon or on the side. Instead it seemed like the pernil was chopped with green peppers, but I didn’t notice any spice so they must have been mild peppers.

While the pernil was great, clearly the best part of this dish was the fried plantains used as sandwich. I am sure some of you are very familiar with this, but this was my first patacon, and it was everything I hoped it would be.

THE + (What people who like this place will say)

  • Tostones sandwich…why haven’t I seen this sooner?
  • We are lucky to have authentic Venezuelan in the greater Flatiron area.
  • I am looking forward to trying more Venezuelan dishes and specialties.

THE – (What people who don’t like this place will say)

  • $9 for a veggie arepa is really testing my wallet and my patience for lunch prices.
  • I am going to have to order very carefully, because it will be the difference between a satisfying lunch and being hungry all afternoon.
  • With these prices, it will be hard to try the extensive menu.

El Cocotero, 228 West 18th Street btwn 7th and 8th Avenues, (212) 206-8930

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