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Oct 6, 2007 07:13 AM

La Orquidea -- great Honduran food in the South Bronx

If you think, as I foolishly did, that a great culinary wasteland stretches from Mexico's southern border all the way to Cartagena, then a quick trip to the South Bronx will forever change your mind. An easy one block walk east from the bustling streets of the old shopping district called the Hub -- which, back in its 1930s heyday had so many vaudeville theaters and movie palaces it was dubbed "the Broadway of the Bronx" -- La Orquidea a pleasant, wood-paneled small room with a bar and food counter and a larger dining room next door. A lot of people stop by for drinks on weekend nights, and I'd guess that the big sign warning "No bailar! No dancing!" is often ignored. I went on a quiet, sunny afternoon.

Many of the dishes are generic Latin, things like Bistec Salteado, but of course I ordered Honduran food. Honduran cuisine is a stewpot of different influences, and I chose things that represented two main strands. One for the inland Mexican and Latin influence (prevalent in central Honduras), another for the coastal Caribbean (which food is found in eastern Honduras). A surf and turf of Honduran cuisine. Sopa de Caracol (served Friday through Sunday only) came from the sea. I've asked several people from the region what it is, and all knew it but none could translate it. I'm pretty sure it was conch chowder. And there it came, a big steaming bowl full of big chunks of plantain, cassava and pepper bobbing in a yellow broth. There was also a big piece of conch (or whatever it was), which had little taste since it had yielded all its flavor to the broth. And what a broth it was! Redolent of the tang of the sea, rich in salty flavor, it was everything I've always wanted a chowder to be -- but never found until now. It was the sort of chowder Ishmael wolfed down with such enjoyment in Moby Dick. "Our appetites being sharpened by the frosty voyage, and in particular, Queequeg seeing his favourite fishing food before him, and the chowder being surpassingly excellent, we despatched it with great expedition."

Alongside was my other order. The Baleada is Honduras' answer to the taco. I ordered everything on mine. Dried, aged meat a bit like jerky, a fried egg, Mexican-style cheese and avocado all came wrapped in a homemade thick wheat tortilla made moments before. The meat, egg, etc were not mixed together; each had their own zone in the Baleada. And it was wonderful.

The small soup was $6 and the Baleada was $4. This included a plate of ordinary white rice, which was the only ordinary thing about the meal.

La Orquidea
500 E 149 St
(718) 585-1488

La Orquidea
500 E 149th St, Bronx, NY 10455

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  1. WOW! Sounds great. Thanks for the report!

    1 Reply
    1. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream

      And if you really do eat a lot of ice cream, there are outdoor vendors on nearby streets serving 75ยข scoops of the incredible gelato made by the South Bronx factory called "Coco Gelato"

      A bit more on how to get there. Take the 2 or 5 train to 149th Street-Third Avenue. It is one block east along 149 St (not counting the 50 foot long block to Bergen St), right next to that steak place that has $6 sirloin steak (5 oz) with potato and garlic bread and salad included. (I've never tried it)

      La Orquidea
      500 E 149th St, Bronx, NY 10455

    2. Well the weekend is over, so there's no sopa de caracol until Friday. But if you are considering visiting before then, there is plenty of other stuff. First of all, pupusas. Everyone loves pupusas, and they do several kinds. (Though native to El Salvador, pupusas are also found in Honduran cuisine. )

      They have lots of strange dishes such as boiled cassava with salad, tomato sauce and pig feet stew. They have a seafood soup with cream that is expensive at $13.50, but the same soup at that Salvadorian resto in Jackson Heights is $20. Finally, for early risers, $6 buys your choice of Honduran, Guatemalan, or Salvadorian breakfast, I have no idea what the difference is.

      9 Replies
      1. re: Brian S

        Tried to drop by there today. Just wanted to let all fellow Hounders know that, despite being ranked as VV's best Honduran restaurant in 2011, La Orquidea has apparently closed and been replaced by some generic looking seafood spot. Is this old news?

        La Orquidea
        500 E 149th St, Bronx, NY 10455

        1. re: NewYorkNewHaven

          Sucks I clicked thinking this was new and was excited to try the place

          1. re: AubWah

            I would of added, "maybe I'm wrong" -- but the awning, though still blue, depicted images of sea creatures and a restaurant name in bold type that you will not find captured in the image in the Google maps cache. I doubt anywhere here has information on Orquidea's whereabouts and what went down, but if you do please let know if they've moved to greener pastures. On the positive side of things, there are still plenty of McDonalds around.

          2. re: NewYorkNewHaven

            I found La Orquidea shuttered in July 2010. Too bad; they made a nice baleada.

            Dave Cook

            1. re: DaveCook

              Really good snail soup also. That's a shame.

              1. re: Polecat

                That's a long time ago. I think the first time I dropped by the hood I remember trying to find them to no avail, but this slipped my mind. So what the hell are they doing on Village Voice's Best of 2011 list? I don't use the guide, but is the rest of it as unreliable? That's an inexcusable error.

                1. re: NewYorkNewHaven

                  oh no i hope you did not make a special trip? its been closed for quite awhile. it slid downhill, not so much about the food as turning into a bar with some unsavory characters so everyone began to avoid it. bad decision.

                  1. re: mrnyc

                    i think maybe part of the problem was that they got 4 posts here when they were open and now 7 since they closed!