For years now, Peruvian cuisine has been dubbed the next big thing on the world stage by culinary industry insiders. Chefs like Gaston Acurio have made a name for themselves on the international gastronomic scene, Peru just took home South America’s Top Culinary Destination Award for the fifth year in a row, and Lima’s food tourism is on the rise. But even with all of the accolades, the rest of the world still seems to be catching up to the wave. There are plenty of incredible mom-and-pop spots and real deal joints flying under the radar, especially in a place self-professed foodies often overlook: Paterson, New Jersey.
With some estimates placing its Peruvian population at 30,000, Paterson has become the unofficial capital of the Peruvian diaspora in the US. In a part of the city that some have begun dubbing “Little Lima”, you can find a very underrated, untapped food scene. So brace yourself, because for about half the price of going out to eat in New York City, you can stuff your face with authentic Peruvian pastries, appetizers, seafood, rotisserie chicken and so much more by just hopping on a 45-minute bus ride from Port Authority.
Here are five places you can’t miss.
All photos by Cindy Rodriguez for Remezcla.
The Lomo Truck
Latin food trucks are popping up left and right all over major cities but the concept is still fairly new to Peruvians in Paterson. The Lomo Truck is super new to the culinary scene – they just launched in summer of 2016 – but the two fairly young chefs’ cooking skills are not. Cousins Angel Cabral, 33, and Cesar Valzizia, 28, put a fresh spin on authentic dishes (think pollo saltado wraps and aji de gallina empanadas) that has perplexed older, more traditional Peruvians, but kept them coming back for more. They were inspired to open up a restaurant by Valzizia’s father, who owns El Rinkoncito in Jersey City, but after crunching numbers, they opted for a food truck instead. Ever since, they’ve been growing a loyal social media following who check back to see what new experiments they’re cooking up. They update their whereabouts around Paterson pretty frequently, so follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for some serious food porn.
297 Getty Ave., Paterson, NJ
La Tia Delia Restaurant
La Tia Delia’s is the OG of this list. Owner Jorge Cortez opened the restaurant more than 25 years ago – making it the second Peruvian restaurant to arrive in Paterson – and it’s consistently delicious classics have kept it a local favorite. The extensive menu ranges from traditional seafood favorites like ceviche and jalea, to meaty go-tos like lomo saltado and tallarines verdes con bistec – the latter of which is so popular it was sold out TWICE when we visited. Whatever you decide to order, make sure you get a side of chaufa (a Peruvian take on Chinese fried rice) because their generous serving could feed a group of four and is so damn good it pairs well with any entree.
28 Market St, Paterson, NJ 07505
While many countries have their own take on rotisserie chicken, there’s really nothing like Peruvian-style pollo a la brasa. Marinated in a variety of spices that are often a jealously kept secret, the chickens slowly roast on a spit until they’re golden crisp on the outside and perfectly juicy on the inside. Aside from the marinade, it’s the wood fired oven that really gives pollo a la brasa its distinct flavor – and this is what makes D’Carbon’s birds superior to many other spots in the tristate area that use gas or electric heating. The chicken comes with a great rendition of Peru’s signature ají verde, a creamy tangy sauce made with ají amarillo chiles that you’ll want to pour liberally all over the chicken (don’t worry, it’s not very spicy). You even get a side salad in case you need a palette cleanser. The french fries were super fresh and the price was super affordable (as in, you won’t believe how much food you get for under $20). Plus, D’Carbon got the co-sign of pretty much every Peruvian stranger I approached asking where they get their pollo a la brasa for a Sunday family day.
47 Cianci Street, Paterson, NJ
Ceviche is the national dish of Peru for a reason, and you cannot leave Paterson without having dabbled in some. Griselda’s is another staple in Paterson after being in business for over 20 years. It’s known locally as the restaurant with the most consistent and fresh seafood around. Try their jalea (mixed fried seafood) and, of course, citrusy ceviche, and bask in the glory that this too is a seriously affordable joint. Fair warning: it will be seriously packed on a Sunday afternoon filled with families trying to take a break from cooking their own Peruvian food at home.
81 Market St, Paterson, NJ 07505
Chifa Jade Restaurant
Chifa, aka Peruvians’ take on chinese food, is just as Peruvian as the comida criolla Peruvians eat home. The fusion cuisine began when a slew of Chinese immigrants migrated to Peru in the mid-19th century, and it’s been part of the country’s cuisine ever since. Don’t let the no-frills style of this restaurant deter you from trying EVERYTHING, like their popular arroz chaufa and pollo chi jau kay (breaded chicken in sweet sauce), or their white rice with costilla con tamarindo (pork in tangy sauce with loads of flavored tamarind). Even if you’re full from your culinary tour of Paterson, get some food to go because this is the only restaurant in Paterson of its kind.