A tiny, easy-to-miss restaurant on Rhode Island Street in Buffalo's West Side, Las Puertas has once again earned national recognition despite its humble surroundings.
After a 2018 feature in the New York Times, Victor Parra Gonzalez's Mexican restaurant will appear on the Cooking Channel's "The Best Thing I Ever Ate," featuring Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian, at 9 p.m. July 15. The episode will re-run four more times.
The episode is titled "In the Last Place You'd Expect," which makes perfect sense given the restaurant's setting on bleaker edge of the surging Five Points neighborhood.
"[Zakarian] has the opportunity to dine anywhere in the U.S.," Gonzalez said, "but it's incredible to see him come back to a place where he feels relaxed. It's something we've been fostering for a long time - where, [at Las Puertas], it feels like you're dining in someone's house."
A two-time James Beard nominee, Gonzalez teased the dish that will be featured on the Cooking Channel show: Léchon con frijoles, a Mexican dish similar to the French cassoulet, made with black beans and cured, slow-cooked pork belly, with the skin still on, topped with a citrus-forward salsa.
"It's a great contrast," Gonzalez explained, "between the humbleness of the black beans and the luxuriousness of the pork belly." The stomach-warming dish is typically prepared in a wood-fired oven in Guerrero, Mexico, the chef-owner added.
Sticking with his mission, Gonzalez said that, despite the TV fanfare, léchon con frijoles wouldn't be added back to Las Puertas' menu, which rotates every 35 days to explore a different region within Mexico. His concise offerings are available as a testing menu or as individual small plates.
Gonzalez explained that Zakarian first visited Las Puertas, at 385 Rhode Island St., five months ago, but the nationally esteemed chef had dined at Gonzalez's previous restaurant, Jaguar at the Bistro, at least twice prior.
One of the more recognizable faces on the Food Network and the Cooking Channel, Zakarian has a close connection to the area: he married Lewiston native Margaret Williams in 2005 and still spends holidays here. Gonzalez noted that Las Puertas will also host Zakarian's birthday later this summer.