A scythe, a barrage of pork and other magic in the Bronx trailer

La Piraña Lechonera, which offers as close to New York City as possible to a roast pork experience at lechonera in Puerto Rico, is sometimes thought of as a food truck. It’s actually a trailer.

A tall metal box resting near the corner of East 152nd Street and Wales Avenue in the South Bronx, the trailer is supported by its tires, two plate struts and ash blocks. It looks more like a parked vehicle than a barge that’s been washed ashore and waiting to be seaworthy again.

When the pandemic arrived, roast pork trailers seemed to me among the categories of restaurants that were particularly vulnerable to economic disruption. I had eaten there shortly before closing and thought about it a lot in those early months, when I stopped writing restaurant reviews for a while.

La Piraña survived, though. Out of gratitude for this fact, I chose it as the subject of the review in which I resume the New York Times’ long practice of rating restaurants on a four-star scale. We turned off the stars back in March 2020, and even though the pandemic isn’t over yet, people are going to restaurants.

La Piraña, which is only open on Saturdays and Sundays, gives you more fun in two days than most restaurants do in a week. Unless you arrive before noon you will probably have to wait before you can enter, as the food is. While you’re still out, you won’t be alone. Some experienced customers bring lawn chairs. Others are sitting on the sidewalk. There is an almost constant flow of foot traffic between the trailer and a couple of nearby bodegas, and quite a bit of general street grind.

There will be people who have driven to La Piraña from Westchester County, Connecticut, or New Jersey. They will be huddled in and around their minivans and SUVs, passing Pulpo, Mofongo and Lechon Asado back and forth through open windows.

When it’s your turn inside, you’ll walk up a short, rickety staircase and enter the world of La Piraña.

Piraña has been Angel Jimenez’s nickname since his childhood in the beach town of Aguadilla in Puerto Rico. 22 years ago, he took over the pig roasting business his father started in the South Bronx in the 1980s, along with his father’s recipes. Mr. Jimenez runs the lechonera alone. He is the life-giving, the command-taker, and the teller. It’s a pig roaster, stone fryer, mofongo pestle. He’s the gentle order keeper in a swirl of fat-stained chaos that would be disastrous for most food businesses but is one of the many magics in this.

Each order of roast pork is separated from much larger pieces—leg, rib rack, shoulder—by Mr. Jimenez’s machete, who lifts as high as he can and then lowers it onto the cutting board with a blow that you can hear across the street. When he really goes into it, the meat and fat fly all over the place. I was in the trailer once when a customer standing next to me loudly announced that some pork had fallen in his eye. He was not complaining.

Not everyone is there for Lechon. There are those who haven’t shy away from the pulpy, that classic Caribbean salad of cold-pressed octopus with sweet peppers, raw onions, and green olives. The octopus at La Piraña is very soft but not spongy. Pepper is sweet and juicy. It’s not a spicy salad, but if I say yes when Mr. Jimenez offers to wear it “on my way”, he’ll cover it with hot sauce and mojo de ajo – garlic sauce a.k.a. mojito, though I’ve met one customer who simply calls it “God’s Juice”. I’ve been taking Pulpo happily for many years, but always underestimated it, I think, until the day I ate a batch Mr Jimenez had his way.

In recent years, some of the old Nuyorican restaurants in the Bronx and other neighborhoods have been taken over by non-Puerto Rican owners. Others simply shut down. Memories fade. The flavors that once sang are now muted. However, Mr. Jimenez’s food still tastes like something you might encounter on the island. Some of his fans will tell you that, in fact, he cooks in an old fashioned style that is not easy to find these days even in Puerto Rico itself.

God’s juice is a key player in mofongo La Piraña. Several tablespoons of it are crushed into a wooden slurry with fried green plantain plants to order. Then Mr. Jimenez brings up a batch of roast pork in mash. No two judgments are the same.

It was a long list on the door. Not so long ago, it was repainted, likely because half of the items on it tend not to be available on any given day. Mr. Jimenez used to make several types of pastillo, but he has only made one recently. It happened to be excellent, blistering, golden turnover with baby shrimp inside.

On some weekends he also makes bacalaitos, salted cod fritters with flecks of green herbs. It’s as good as anything I’ve bought from the kiosks along Beach Road in Benonis, which is what Highway 61 takes to the blues.

However, for many customers, all these items are just decorations for the lechón. They are things that can be stacked next to a pile of roast pork in an oyster pot already half filled with mofongo or with rice and peas until the lid is closed, at which point Mr. Jimenez will somehow be able to insert a solid amber slice of pork skin the size of a beer coaster.

The very esteemed Lechon Asado can be found in San Juan, but many people will tell you that if you leave town and go into the hills and mountains, you can find a Lechon that is worth planning a weekend getaway. In groups of outdoor restaurants in Trujillo Alto, in Naranjito, and above all in Guavate, whole pigs are slowly roasted on a spit over wood or charcoal until soft enough to slice with a sickle. Lunch can easily become an all-day party, with salsa playing, people dancing, and empty Medalla Light bottles piling up on picnic tables.

It’s true that the lechonera in Guavate would give you a variety of meats from across the animal, while the pork that Mr. Jimenez brings you tends to come from just one piece. (His outdoor propane-fueled oven is too small to roast whole pigs.) But the ground beef, the dripping fat, and the crackling of hard candy on the skin are the same. As well as the aromas of oregano and pepper.

Even more remarkable, I think, is the way Mr. Jimenez has recreated the atmosphere of the hillside slope of Lechonera on the streets of the South Bronx. It may be hard to see at first, what happens with double parking, grinding around, and dining inside pickup trucks, but the scene in and around La Piraña is like a Puerto Rican reunion and anyone else who just wants a shot of God’s juice.

Salsa music from the height of Fania’s recordings will sound from a large speaker outside or a smaller speaker inside. One day when none of the speakers were around, a customer bolstered his iPhone inside the trailer with a full gallop salsa playlist.

A man making homemade pique, the Puerto Rican hot sauce, is often found selling bottles of it abroad, just as in Guavate. At some point, a customer will soon FaceTime away and say “Guess where I am!” , will raise the phone to Mr. Jimenez. Mr. Jimenez will raise his scythe in the pose of a fierce warrior, then strike it hard against the metal edge of the counter until you expect to see sparks. The routine can be intimidating if he’s not smiling like a guy who knows he’s the host of the best outing in New York.

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