>> Picantería El Austro | Eat the World NYC

21 December 2018

Picantería El Austro


As you might expect if you know a little bit of Spanish, a picantería is traditionally a place that sells spicy foods. Typically a lunch establishment, the word is actually more associated with the country of Perú than Ecuador, but in New York City it seems exclusively reserved for establishments of the latter's community. Often times they are open for dinner as well here, and serve as a watering hole like this one in Jackson Heights that I have always been curious about.

From evening until very late into the morning, the jukebox is usually on and can be heard from outside. Groups of mostly (maybe exclusively?) male friends meet here to order buckets of beer and fill their hungry bellies. But during those lunch hours it is a quieter place, you will find the servers watching telenovelas during the afternoon and taking care of a random guest here and there.

As a picantería in South America might offer, El Austro has a few lunch specials each day that offer a soup and entree for about $9. The sopa de pata (above) and seco de chivo (below) came together as one of those specials, but you have the option to choose between a few soups and entrees. It ends up being an enormous amount of very good food for the price.

The menu is much larger though and offers most of the standards that you will see in New York City's Ecuadorian restaurants, from meats and rice to fish stews like the encebollado de pescado ($13, below), one of my favorite dishes from the country. Along with a generous amount of fish in the bowl, starch is provided by cassava and a layer of pickled red onions is always necessary for the right tastes. A side of green salsa is always served alongside your dishes, and after squeezing in half a lime, I scooped in quite a bit of this fiery sauce to get the soup appropriately picante.

The mood is really nice here before it gets too loud. Wood-paneled walls make it feel like a rustic shack and the kitchen seems to know well what they are doing in every arena. I have been too intimidated to come in when the place is more raucous, but this is probably just overthinking it. If you come on a festive night and enjoy yourself, let us know!

Picantería El Austro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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