Pork Skin Bliss at El Principe
Some hungry co-workers brought me to a favorite spot of theirs, El Principe, a small Dominican restaurant in Northwest Philly.
When you walk in, the steam table is packed with Dominican cooking, featuring stewed meats and enough pork to make me believe that Heaven gets its catering from El Principe.
Speaking Spanish definitely helps when ordering. If you don’t, just make sure you are really good at pointing.
This is a friendly warning. Clicking ahead might cause you to lick your computer screen.
Chicharrones! Are you serious with this, ladies from El Principe? I hope you girls feel guilty when I drop dead from a heart attack. How can I say no to a mound of fried pork skin begging for my teeth to sink into it?
You are either the type of person who finds this disgusting or you are wiping the drool from your mouth and jealously hating me. The ladies hacked away a portion of artery death meat, known as chicharron in Latin American cooking, and sent it my way for $5 (more pricey when compared to the pounds of other meats they serve up cheap, but luxury has its price). These are just the porkiest bites found in nature. I couldn’t bring myself to eat the pure fat parts, but the skin and the fat clinging to it got the job done. This wasn’t just some sexy looking skin that didn’t deliver once you bit into it; the crunch was perfect, just the right amount of teeth required to tear it apart.
4 measly dollars gets you a big serving of stewed chicken. One poke of your fork and the meat is off the bone.
I didn’t think much of the beef, but guess what- it too was awesome. It was totally moist and drenched in a savory oily juice (like the one the chicken comes in) that made me feel unhealthy just looking at it. Yum!
Behind the chicharrones was even more pork, a gleaming pork leg with a few lonely strands of meat falling off it. I wanted it as the star of my platter and the ladies told to wait while they got a new leg from the back. That was a thing worth waiting for.
The $8 large combos, like this here roast pork platter, come with repollo (vinegar-lemon cabbage salad) and white rice or yellow “moro” rice. A platter makes a great lunch; good luck finishing it all.
Of all the meat choices, it is really hard to pick my favorite. I would probably stick with the roast pork, followed by the above mentioned beef. Other choices included goat, stewed pork, roast chicken, oxtail, salt fish, and liver.
If you are getting the roast pork instead of one of the meats that come with gravy, ask for some gravy on your rice. They are even nice enough to give you a container of sauce if you aren’t eating right away.
Smaller platters are available for $6.
If you are in to mushy things, be sure to ask for mangu. You won’t find it on the steam table, but they will bring you a plate from the kitchen. This was my first time having this Dominican mashed plantain dish, though I have had mofongo (the Puerto Rican, pork heavy version) quite often. It was different without the pork bits, but I found myself piling more on my plate. The mild mushy stuff tasted comforting and matches up well with any of the sauces from the other platters.
El Principe, 115 West Lehigh Ave (@ Front St), 215 634 9053
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- This must be pork heaven, perfect roast pork and sexy chicharrones
- Huge platters with choices of pork, beef, chicken, fish, goat, oxtail
- They don’t mix pork with everything. So as opposed to mofongo, someone keeping kosher/halal would be able to enjoy the mangu.
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- I want to live a long life
- I get nervous ordering in another language