Welcome to Fried Neck Bones…and Some Home Fries

28 Sep

In late 2001, I came up with the idea to gather together friends who, like me, enjoyed finding, out of the way, unusual, usually ethnic, usually cheap eats throughout New York. To add to the experience, I suggested that we meet together every month or six weeks with one of the members of the group picking the destination. I targeted friends, or friends of friends, who were uninhibited about their food choices; meaning they had to be open to any type of food, meat, fish, spicy, raw, whatever. Anyone whose diet had restrictions due to health, philosophical or religious reasons where red meat, pork, shellfish, entrails or any other food product were prohibited really could not participate. Thankfully, that did not stop any of my first choices. Eventually, our original group came to six men.

Part of the loose criteria I came up with in my “proposal” for our group, was a $20 food limit per person, excluding beverages. So wherever we choose, it had to meet or come very close to that dollar amount. Also, I made it clear that we should steer clear of restaurants that had already been “discovered.” We wanted to find places that were under the radar; that had not yet been written up by Eric Asimov of the New York Times, the then “$25 and Under” column writer in the paper’s weekly Dining section, New York Magazine, or any other major publication. This was well before the internet explosion of food related websites like Chowhound, Grub Street, Eater, Serious Eats, and Yelp to name just some of the hundreds out there now discussing new restaurants including the type we were pursuing.

The six men, who comprised the original group, leaving their last names out, were Charlie, Rick, Gerry, Eugene, Zio, and myself. The only change in the group over the almost nine years we have been doing this was the loss of Charlie, who moved a couple of hours outside of the city making his commute for our gatherings not very practical. He was replaced by a friend of Gerry’s we call, Mike from Yonkers.

Since we began these expeditions, I chronicled each restaurant we visited with a sometimes brief, sometimes wordy summary of our experience at that restaurant. In this blog, I’m calling Fried Neck Bones…and some home fries, in honor of the Willie Bobo song of the same name, I will, at first, post many of the original blogs. Once readers familiarize themselves with the cast of characters involved and read about many of the places we have visited, I will add each new summary to this blog, hopefully with photos to enhance the written description I’ve provided.

Feedback, of course, is encouraged as is any news on either many of our already visited destinations or new discoveries we might want to visit.  So here now is a very brief summery of the first restaurant our group visited in February of 2002, East Harlem’s, La Fonda Boricua.

La Fonda Boricua
169 E. 106th Street
East Harlem

My wife commented, not too favorably, on the special “tostones” sauce at La Fonda Boricua. Of course she tasted it second hand. And with a flu-stuffed nose. To me that meant the sauce was a true success…as was the rest of the collective meal.

Kudos must go to Rick for experimenting with the chivo (goat) and Gerry, a brave man to eat those chicken gizzards. He deserved that six-pack of Corona Light. I guess the liquor license did not apply to wine. But who’s complaining? At least they finally took our order. Charlie met the match and delivered with an authentic global eatery for under $20. . .including flan…vanilla only.

The Ayala brothers, owners of La Fonda Boricua, are now interested in adding to the art on their wall. I hear they would like to contact the Puerto Rican artist who has scribbled the tiny portraits forming the thumbprint. What they are looking for now is a new theme; a portrait of Zio, in the shape of a big toe, which, coincidentally, resembles his physique, and a mountain of mofongo, slathered with brown gravy, in front of him.

Since our visit, La Fonda Boricua has continued to thrive and was “discovered” by the Food Network and even involved in a “Throwdown” with chef Bobby Flay going up against the owners in a battle for the best arroz con pollo. But what has been good publicity for La Fonda would have the opposite effect on our group. A spot on television would have immediately eliminated the restaurant from our consideration. They now have an extensive website www.fondaboricua.com and have opened a sister lounge across the street with live Latin music called FB Lounge.

2 Responses to “Welcome to Fried Neck Bones…and Some Home Fries”

  1. Heather September 29, 2010 at 6:58 pm #

    Who is that shrew you call a wife?

  2. BSS September 29, 2010 at 7:03 pm #

    Good question

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