Food Stuffs is a column exploring the gastronomic landscape of Bensonhurst and the surrounding neighborhoods. Each entry will cover anything and everything even remotely related to food because here in Bensonhurst, food is always news.
Brrr… It sure is cold out there.
I had been meaning to hit up one of the several Tienda Guatemaltecas in Bath Beach for a while now, but Sunday’s miserable rain/ice storm was just the push I needed. Today I headed over to Tienda Guatemalteca (located at 1806 Bath Avenue) to sample their daily hot dishes.
You have probably noticed the stores before. All called Tienda Guatemalteca – which in English literally means “Guatemalan store” – the eateries look a lot like regular bodegas in front, save for a few Guatemala-specific grocery and produce items. But in the back, folding tables and chairs are set up, and steamy, home-style Guatemalan fare is served. (Read more about Bath Beach’s fast growing Guatemalan community here.)
It’s no-frills meal; expect to eat with plasticware, out of a take-out container, but the food is guaranteed to be hearty and delicious. Expect to share a table with Guatemalan-born laborers, who stop by to grab a bite still wearing work boots and paint-spattered jeans.
In my awful American accent, I asked for pepian de pollo (chicken with pepper sauce) at the recommendation of my Guatemalan friend, but it turns out you just have to eat whatever they are cooking that day, so I ended up going with a soupy beef stew.
I don’t know much Spanish, and no one spoke English, so I was forced to make do with pointing awkwardly and blurting an occasional gracias, but somehow I managed to get the point across. Unfortunately, today they were out of Guatemalan tamales, which, unlike your standard corn tamales, are wrapped in soft potato or rice and are steamed in a banana leaf. Most days, tamales are sold at Tienda Guatemalteca for $2.
The beef was stewed with large chunks of carrot, potato, and onion, and poured over white rice. The stew was served with a side of piping-hot corn tortilla to sop up the juices. The meat was hearty, flavorful, and extremely soft – it literally fell off the bone.
In total, my meal came out to $6, plus an extra dollar for the tip jar. The servings are also pretty substantial, and even with an empty stomach, I could barely finish the bowl.
Ultimately, I left the store satisfied. It was the perfect, comforting meal for a chilly January day.
To try some Guatemalan comfort food, drop by Tienda Guatemalteca, located at 1806 Bath Avenue, or if you speak Spanish, call (718) 837-2214. Also, check out their reviews on Yelp.