Unique New York: Ajo y Oregano

Earlier this month, I went with some friends to Ajo y Oregano, a Dominican restaurant in the Bronx. The mouth-watering images on the restaurant’s Instagram had piqued our interest.

The storefront is nestled in between a barber shop and car repair shop on a mostly residential street in Parkchester in the Bronx. After about a 30 minute wait, we were able to get a table. Reading other Yelp reviews, it seems like we were pretty lucky. The restaurant was so popular that there were folks crowded on the patio, outside in the heat, waiting to eat the ‘homestyle’ cooking.

The restaurant itself is decorated like a traditional Dominican casa with a fake zinc roof, worn, painted pink shutters and a bright green interior. The wall near the hot food counter is decorated with vintage china dishes and an oil lamp.

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The seats inside Ajo y Oregano
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Decor on the walls at Ajo y Oregano
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A selection of food to order

Our group, being mostly vegetarians, decided to order a selection of side dishes to share. Our waiter, who was actually one of the owners, was very courteous and helpful. We ordered an avocado salad, arepitos de yuca (small fried yuca patties), guandules de coco (coconut green peas) and beans, maduros, fried yuca, and a fried fish (for the meat eaters).

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My favorite juice: Chinola (passionfruit)

For those not familiar with Dominican dining, be prepared to wait both to be seated and to get your food. The restaurant really tries to present food as if you were sitting at someone’s home table in the Dominican Republic, with metal cups, small ollas (cooking pots) to hold the rice, beans and some of the smaller side dishes. However, they also put their own twist on the cuisine. We saw some plantain dishes being served to other tables that looked like works of art.

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Beautiful avocado salad
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Delicious arepitas de Yuca
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Fried chillo with fried yuca

We didn’t like the fish and ended up sending it back, which they suggested a chicken dish instead. I usually don’t like to do this, but with fish I like to be super careful. Since I don’t eat chicken I can’t speak to how it tasted but all of the side dishes were pretty good. The all stars were the perfectly cooked maduros (sweet plantain), fried yuca and the arepitas de yuca, and the jugo de chinola, which at other places can sometimes be a bit watered down. Here it was crisp and tangy just as I like it, with the right amount of sweetness.

Overall the experience of eating here was really fun as our server/owner was so excited about the food and us having a good time, and sharing the food.

In the Dominican Republic, the best food really is the food at someone’s house. While this restaurant doesn’t exactly live up to the quality of the food I’ve had at family and friends’ houses, the experience overall may make it worth the trip. Just be ready to wait a bit to be seated as the restaurant is super popular. But what I can say for sure is that, like in most homes in the Dominican Republic that welcome you in as if you were family, this spot definitely has the hospitality on point.

Have you been to Ajo y Oregano? What was your experience like?

 

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