If you walk down Manhattan Ave to the corner of Huron St, you’ll find the cheap and vastly popular Mexican restaurant, Papacito’s. It’s a great establishment… outdoor seating… movies in the backyard on summer Sunday nights… margarita pitchers and buckets of tecate… plus some of the best taco’s in Brooklyn.
If you’re standing in front of Papacito’s and you turn around to look at the opposite corner, you’ll find the considerably less illustrious, but considerably more authentic Peruvian restaurant Pio Pio Riko.
By “authentic” I don’t mean guys with tattoos serving Schlitz cans while 20 year olds play dress up and try to out-cool each other.
At Pio Pio Riko, Hispanic people, possibly even people of Peruvian origin (although studies on the subject are scant), come to eat cheap food in big quantities, and drink South American $2 beers. That’s right, during happy hour (which lasts still 8:30), you can get a Cristal (la cerveza de todo los peruanos) or even a Corona (if you’re not feeling adventurous) for $2. And if you don’t want to eat there’s a bar and lone television that alternates between beisbal and episodes of Dos Hombres y Medio. If you go later on in the evening, you will find two older guys serenading the room with classics such as a super rad Spanish version of Sinatra’s My Way (“lo hice myyyy waaaaay”).
The service is prompt and polite. The nice waitress seats you immediately every time you walk in, and brings out the drinks and complimentary toasted corn kernels right away. If it’s your first time or you happen to pop in a special night, they’ll even bring over a couple glasses of wine on the house. Then it’s time to look at the menu.
That’s where the magic really happens at Pio Pio Riko. As charming and unpretentious as the restaurant itself is, the menu takes the latter quality to a real extreme. This is the kind of joint where you can order a WHOLE chicken cooked over French fries with a side of rice and lettuce, and it would probably come out to about $20. Now that’s good bang for your buck. After that you wouldn’t have to eat for several days… in fact, you probably wouldn’t be able to!
I chose the ¼ chicken with beans and rice: $4. My friend went with the seafood paella. I think it was around $7 if memory serves. Is it safe to say that in terms of the Fillingness/Price Ratio, that this was the most cost-effective meal I have had in New York City?
Yes. You would not be remiss to make that claim. Neither would I. That’s why I’m making it.
The food finally arrived, and let me tell you: I’m a tall dude with a big appetite. I barely finished my meal. I must have ordered ten waters just make it through that plate of food. It’s probably for the best that they don’t display calories on the menu. Otherwise, my friend would have probably never attempted the paella. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a decked out paella in my life. Giant crustacean claws rose out the middle like red icebergs on a white sea of cheesy rice. Delving into it we found calamari and muscles. After that I probably could have walked the Mojave without getting sunstroke… you know, because it’s caused by not intaking enough salt… whatever…
Meanwhile, deft fingers picked at nylon strings and we were content to idle there with our wine, letting the dulcet tones soothe us in our post-nourishment phase of pronounced atrophy. I noted with restrained enthusiasm that the Red Sox had lost their game. When our waitress came over, we asked if we might take the paella to go (there was still a substantial amount left). When the check came, I had a slight fit. For the first in New York, I had enough cash to actually pay the entire bill. Did we want desert? Not a chance in hell.
And so we staggered off into the night, not even noticing Papacito’s. They’re just too upscale for us now.
Check it out:
Pio Pio Riko
Daily from 11am-10:30pm
996 Manhattan Ave (between Huron & Green Street)
Photo Credit: vipnyc.org