Sazon Criollo is a corner restaurant on a one-way street in the lower West Side. There are a few tables, but most of the business is takeout. At lunchtime a curiously diverse line forms – some customers dressed in work-worn jeans, others sporting shirts and ties.
That’s because this blue-collar eatery has a knack for tasty, reasonably priced Puerto Rican food that attracts a lunch crowd from downtown office towers as well as neighbors from down the block.
Sazon Criollo offers a variety of chicken and pork plates with rice and beans, plus the rarely spotted refried-plantain mash called mofongo.
The chicken pastelillo, a fried turnover stuffed with cilantro-laced chicken and cheese, is another rarity among Puerto Rican places. The restaurant doesn’t cook them ahead because they’ll get soft in a display case. Call ahead if you’re in a hurry.
Sazon Criollo’s most popular item might be the tripleta, a heavy submarine sandwich that’s named for its triple dose of meat. The tripleta comes loaded with chicken breast, roast pork and ham, plus lettuce, tomato, cheese and mayonnaise. It costs $8.
It’s a simple sandwich at heart. The reason people line up is that its key elements are handled with care. “Everything is done fresh,” said Samantha Martinez, who owns the place with her husband, Carlos. “That’s why everybody comes here.”
Carlos picks up freshly baked loaves of French bread from the nearby Tops each morning. Samantha asks if you want it toasted, which adds more aroma and flavor.
The chicken is marinated in garlic and spices. A filleted breast, seared but still moist, goes into each sandwich. The roast pork, or pernil, is soft and sweet, and the ham adds more salty sweetness.
The whole thing is wrapped in paper and cut in half. A half is enough for most lunchers, unless they can count on an afternoon nap.
Info: Sazon Criollo, 272 Hudson St. (381-9664)