We continued our weekly Saturday excursions exploring the city today by going up to Mott Haven in the South Bronx. The most notable spot we visited was not even a restaurant: it was a trailer parked on 152nd Street. We could hear the trailer from blocks away, notable because of its blaring Puerto Rican music, with a steady line of hungry locals and visitors from other parts of the city (including us), eager to try some of this borough-famous lechon, or Puerto Rican style whole roasted pig.
Angel Jimenez, the owner and chef running Lechonera La Pirana, is an HVAC installer and building superintendent attendant on the weekdays and a Lechonera king on the weekends. His family moved here from Puerto Rico decades ago, and his parents started the Lechonera out of a truck. They eventually got rid of it, and Angel replaced it with the trailer that we see today. Angel operates out of his trailer only on Saturdays and Sundays at the same spot in Mott Haven in the South Bronx, and he does it to spread his love for Puerto Rican culture and food and share it with everyone and anyone who comes for it. While he’s busy cooking and roasting in his trailer, he’s got a few locals dancing and playing instruments outside, and he also tempts his audience with free samples of everything from buttery, garlicky shrimp to sweet fried plantains. The funniest and most characteristic thing about Angel is that he cuts his lechon with, and only with, a big fat machete. That’s right — he cuts the freaking roast pig with a big, freaking machete. If you didn’t know any better and saw this guy walking down the streets of the Bronx, you’d think he was going to murder someone! He’s hacking a PIG!
When we finally got in after some time waiting, he was extremely friendly and kind. He gave us some huge, fat hunks of pork and the much coveted crackly, crispy, fatty pork skin, along with plantains since he’d unfortunately already ran out of rice and peas. That didn’t matter at all to us, though: that pork skin was truly epic. This is coming from someone who never, ever uses the word “epic.” It was so crispy, crunchy, and the fat layer just immediately melted in my mouth. It was perfectly seasoned and just so darn perfect. The huge portion he served us cost $14, which seemed nearly like robbery given how good it was.
I’m so happy we found Angel and got to taste his renowned lechon, and while it’s always rewarding to travel for food, it’s probably a good thing we don’t live too close to the South Bronx, otherwise I’d be tempted to have this every weekend. The entire experience, from finding his trailer, to the wait, to entering the inside and interacting with him and finally tasting that pork skin and juicy, moist pork — it was like a true travel experience; but we didn’t have to get on a plane for it — just the 1 train uptown for a quick ride up to the Bronx.