Abuela is in the kitchen at family-run El Bajareque Puerto Rican & Latin Cuisine in Wynwood. The small café caters to the neighborhood’s artists and Puerto Rican and Honduran residents with inexpensive breakfasts, sandwiches and Boricua favorites. Grandma also makes pasteles (plantain, potato, pumpkin and yuca tamales stuffed with pork), bacalitos (salt cod fritters) and peg-shaped alcapurias (masa fritters stuffed with spiced ground beef).
Melissa Chavez, a Mexican American who grew up in Miami, runs the place with and her Puerto Rican-born husband, Mariano Palenzuela. His mother, Amarilis Fernandez, and grandmother, Fina Fernandez, are the cooks, and cousins wait tables.
The eatery has been in the family for four decades, but was leased a few years ago to other operators. When they stopped paying rent, Melissa put her real estate business on hold and took it back. After major renovations it reopened a year and a half ago under the same name, El Bajareque, which means “little shack,” like the ones on the beaches in Puerto Rico where vendors sell snacks.
Start the day with cheese grits, eggs and maduro (sweet plantain) or get café con leche with an empanada stuffed with beef, pork, chicken or shrimp. Everyday there’s pan con lechon (roast pork sandwiches), chicharrones de pollo (fried chicken chunks), breaded steak and cuajito y guineo verde or stewed hog tripe and ears with boiled green bananas.
Mondongo is soup with cow’s tripe and feet, onions, garlic and hot peppers said to cure a hangover. Monfongo is mashed plantain with pork rinds topped with a choice of fried pork, beef or chicken chunks or shrimp served with mojo (garlic sauce) and lime wedges.
Specials rotate from stewed oxtails to shrimp creole. Sides include rice with gandules (pigeon peas), congri (rice with red beans), black beans and tostones (fried plantain discs). End with homemade flan or cinnamon-dusted rice pudding.