when my children started on solid food, they clamored for arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas) and tostones (fried green plantains), thanks to our wonderful puerto rican babysitters, amelia and titi. best of all, they liked what amelia called "con con," the faintly browned rice that peels in one crisp layer from the bottom of the pan.
the only place where i've had puerto rican food that rivaled amelia's cooking-and where, if you're lucky, you can get "con con"-is la fonda boricua.
this restaurant caters to the puerto rican intelligentsia-featuring the latest in latin music and artwork by latino artists on its exposed brick walls-but serves down-home dishes out of steam trays. the rice/beans/meat lunch special is a steal ($7.50) and my pernil-roast pork-was tender and laden with crackly, auburn skin. brush up on your knowledge of puerto rican food before you go, because, annoyingly, there are still no menus. i love the arroz con gandules, orange rice dotted with the lentil-like piegeon peas and tiny slivers of green olive, shaped into a round cake ($3). the maduras ($3), fried ripe plantains, are delicious and juicy, and the plentiful tostones ($3) come with a zesty fresh garlic sauce. venga! -- la fonda boricua 169 e. 106th st. (between lexington and third avenues) 212-410-7292
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