>> Karen & Sharon Restaurant | Eat the World NYC

29 May 2017

Karen & Sharon Restaurant

GUATEMALA 🇬🇹

On a recent walk in Bergen County on the way to the well-known Latin American neighborhoods of West New York and Union City, I was surprised to find somewhat of a Guatemalan enclave in parts of Fairview, Cliffside Park, and even as far north into Palisades Park, a neighborhood known for its Korean population. Near the southern end, there was a block with three Guatemalan delis occupying real estate amongst the Korean restaurants, staking claim for an always-expanding population. Groups of Guatemalan men waited on corners for day-rate work opportunities, while the quiet residential neighborhoods in the area were full of parked cars with blue and white flags of the country on their rear view mirrors.

There was no plan to eat Guatemalan food on this day, but I obsessively walked into each deli and restaurant I found, about a dozen in total, asking for some of my favorite hard to find Guatemalan dishes. Over in Jamaica, Queens exists the wonderful Tierras Centro Americanas, the only place in the city I ever found serving hilachas and jocón, dishes first experienced in travels through the country. Since first eating there over a decade ago, I have diligently asked the chefs at Guatemalan places in New Jersey, Brooklyn, and Queens whenever I run across them, without luck.


Having asked almost ten times on this day at various locations, I walked into Karen & Sharon not expecting much, but the lady nodded her head quickly after my request. Not wanting to pass up the opportunity, an order was placed and I sat down and took a look at the rest of the menu still skeptical that it was actually going to happen.

But there on the front cover of the menu was hilachas, apparently one of their featured dishes.


Excitement levels skyrocketed, these two ladies with rhyming names had somehow made the day. I took a seat at one of the eight or so tables available and enjoyed the white and blue environment. Stripes on the wall, flowers at the table, everything had to adhere to the strict patriotic theme inside.

The word "hilachas" means "rags" in English, and the dish somewhat resembles the more popular Cuban dish ropa vieja (old clothes). Both are prepared by shredding thin strips of beef. Various vegetables are combined with the strips of meat, which are slathered here with a red tomato and tomatillo sauce. Sometimes the dish reads more as a stew and is served in a bowl.


The version Karen & Sharon serve ($9, above) is potato-free, accompanied by a mound of white rice for starch, a basket of fresh tortillas, and a small vessel of black beans.

The cuts of beef are a bit chewy and tough, not as tender and of the quality at Tierras unfortunately, but still very satisfying.


Other exciting menu items not seen in a standard Guatemalan steam table deli are salpicon, a fresh salad of beef, mint, lime, tomato, pepper, and onion (amongst other ingredients), and subanik, a Mayan meat and chili pepper stew served during ceremonies.

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Karen & Sharon Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato