Fordham Community Offers Students More Dining Options

By Michael Dobuski

Cuchifritos, located on Grand Concourse and 188th St., is known for its Puerto Rican comfort food. Michael Dobuski for The Fordham Ram.

Cuchifritos, located on Grand Concourse and 188th St., is known for its Puerto Rican comfort food. Michael Dobuski for The Fordham Ram.

A friend of mine once told me that Fordham is not a part of the Bronx. Not geographically, I mean, obviously we are technically “a part” of the Bronx. But culturally, our Georgetown-esque scenery and our upper-middle-class sensibilities make us too far removed, too isolated, from the borough that surrounds us. And, you know, the fences do that too. But in spite of that, I never really believed him. In my mind, we change our environment just by nature of being in it. Fordham has changed the Bronx, in however small of a way, for better or for worse. My friend did have a point though, and a good one: we, as Fordham students, can and should take full advantage of this amazing, gritty, challenging place. You have seen the Botanical Gardens, you have been to the Bronx Zoo and your parents have taken you to lunch on Arthur Avenue. That stuff is easy. But there is more, quite a bit more, in fact. Let’s get to know the Bronx.

First, some context. I am not from the Bronx. Not by a long shot. I am not even from New York City, or New York State for that matter. I am from a tiny colonial town in Pennsylvania, about 30 minutes north of Philadelphia. It is about as different from here as it gets, which means that this is very much going to be a learning experience. I think that there is value in that, though. We can learn together, and with an open mind and a rudimentary understanding of the MTA, we might even be able to arrive at some sort of larger conclusion about this place.
Anyway, enough with the big ideas; I am hungry. Cuchifritos, just off Grand Concourse on 188th, is a sit-down and take-out shop with, I am told, just about the best Puerto Rican comfort food you will come across. It sure is colorful. There is something that is equal parts thrilling and terrifying about walking into a restaurant in which you do not understand anything that is on the menu. My eye catches the woman behind the counter ladling something orange and pouring it into a tall plastic container. I ask the man standing next to me what it is. “Chicken soup,” he replies curtly. And then, after a pause, “It’s good. She makes it good here.” The woman behind the counter smiles, but does not look up from what she is doing. Chicken soup it is.

Do you know that moment in a meal where you know you have gotten yourself in too deep? Where you know that you have somehow ended up with far too much food? That is the predicament I found myself in while sitting in St. James Park, mere minutes later. We, as a society, should find more reasons to eat outside. Fried chicken, yellow rice, beans and pork — pork for days. That is what the word “Cuchifritos” means, after all: fried up pig parts. For a drink, Avena, which is a Puerto Rican horchata. The whole thing was greasy, it was piping hot, and it was way too much for one man to handle. It was perfect. Some of the best meals I have ever had have come out of an aluminum foil dish, and this one is up there. You could even be more daring than I was: Cuchifritos is known for its blood sausage, pig’s tongue and, rather confusingly, flan. It is food that makes me wish I knew more about how to describe food. But more than that, it was a uniquely Bronx experience. Only in New York can you travel such a short distance for such diverse food, and only in the Bronx is it so singularly authentic.

I know Cuchifritos will not become a household name for most of us. Frankly, I would be surprised if it even had a website. But that is a good thing. It is a place that has not allowed itself to be marketed, or sanitized. There is a clarity to this place, and the neighborhood in which it resides, that is refreshing. It is untouched, which is both good and bad, economically speaking, but that is a discussion for another day. Now it is time for me to finish this delicious, artery-clogging food, and to say thanks for reading.
Oh, and if anyone wants some rice and beans, I have more than enough to go around.


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