24 October 2013

Los Catrachos Restaurant

HONDURAS

Honduran restaurants on Staten Island (El Catracho and El Patio) and the city as a whole (La Orquidea) seem to be a dying breed. A lot of Salvadoran restaurants have picked up the slack a bit and put a baleada on their menu, but the weight of the Honduran community seems to be squarely on the shoulders of Los Catrachos, near the old El Catracho space in Stapleton which still has its awning covered by a furniture store. The two are apparently unaffiliated from what I can tell.

The restaurant has two rooms, it looks like an expansion has seen them take over the space next door. This main dining room has one modest flat screen on the wall, but they do advertise Honduran national team games on their Facebook page, making this the place to come watch the games with your fellow catrachos (a Honduran nickname translating to snails, but ultimately a bumbling of a Honduran general's last name from the mid-19th century).


They sell horchata, jamaica, tamarindo, and jugo de maracuja for $2.50 and serve them in big red plastic cups Pizza Hut-style. The jugo is good but not fresh, while homemade horchata and tamarindo seem like the way to go.

A dish so famous a Honduran band went to #1 on the Billboard charts with a song titled after it is the sopa de caracol ($14, below). The song is inspired by Caribbean garifuna music amongst others in the north of the country, where you are most likely to find the freshest and most delicious renditions of the soup.


This broth is laden with coconut, as well as a hot pepper sauce and a lot of black pepper, which seems to dominate the taste. The pieces of conch are flattened and chopped, and a good amount of onions and green peppers make the dish very enjoyable with a side of rice.


They serve daily lunch specials in both small ($5.50) and large ($9), and give you four options: Chicken or beef soup, or stewed chicken or beef. The pollo guisado (small, below), like the rest, comes with a portion of rice and the excellent soupy beans made here. The tomato-based sauce is fairly sweet, the dish is meant to be simple and comforting.


I can never leave a Honduran restaurant without having at least one baleada ($3, below), a staple of street eating in the country. The best part of this one here is the delectable tortilla, still soft and pillowy with burnt tastes from the griddle. A very thin layer of beans holds in the cheese, while the sweet cream is the sharpest taste in every bite.


For your listening enjoyment, please let yourself get carried away to the early 1990's on Honduras' Caribbean coast with Banda Blanca:



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