49 West Church Street, Bergenfield, NJ
FaceBook Fan Page: (El Caney)
Sometimes, the best food isn’t served in restaurants.
In this particular case, I want to smack myself in the head for only just finding out about a tiny little take-out only place only minutes away from my house that has been open for an entire year. I’m usually pretty on the ball about this kind of stuff, but somehow, El Caney, literally a shack in Bergenfield across the railroad tracks which was serving perhaps some of the best Cuban food I’ve ever eaten had escaped me.
Well, let me correct myself. It WAS a shack. As Roy Scheider said in the movie Jaws, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.” In Spanish, that would be loosely translated as “Necesitamos una Canoa mas Grande”
El Caney is back, but it’s no longer a shack. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.
El Caney is owned by Tony Gonzalez, a former compliance officer at a large investment bank on Wall Street. I guess he felt that standing on his feet twelve hours a day in a little shack was preferable and less stressful than dealing with stock traders! Tony, his wife Cynthia and his mom make all the food at El Caney from scratch, and you can totally taste it.
The new location has a lot more room for standing as well as more kitchen space, so the business will be able to produce more food without running out too quickly.
Mama cooking pork chops in her new kitchen.
Chuletas (Cuban Pork Chops) simmering in the pot.
Making a big batch of mojito, the garlic-laced condiment for many of the dishes.
A mojito extreme close-up.
A curious shrine… to the New York Yankees and to Mofongo, the smashed plaintain dish.
Tony tapes up his first earned dollar in his new store.
A big ‘ol pot of Ropa Vieja, Cuban shredded beef.
This is the old location right across the street on West Church, #48. Due to the overwhelming amount of business it received, the family needed to find a bigger store, so they moved across the street.
The original El Caney was a tiny little place, named after the Taino indian name for longhouse, a large traditional communal family dwelling. The small Cuban village of the same name was also the site of a momentous battle during the Spanish-American War. I guess was this is sort of an inside joke.
The new location is actually considerably longer and bigger, so now they really can legitimately call themselves “El Caney”
The collection of hot sauces. Nothing at the stand is served spicy, but everything is very flavorful, so if you want to add heat, you’ll want to reach for a bottle.
The various decorations at El Caney make you feel like the heart of Cuba is beating in it.
The menu is limited and is centered around daily specials — some, but not all are listed on this sheet. You need to ask for what they make on a daily basis, and they run out of their best stuff early. I got there on a Monday night and ordered one of everything.
El Caney also makes killer Cuban sandwiches out of Pernil (Roast Pork Leg) which have been marinated overnight and then cooked slowly for 10 hours.
I’ve made a lot of Cuban sandwiches. I’ve eaten them in Union City and Edgewater, Miami on Calle Ocho and environs, and Tampa and I have to say El Caney’s is one of the best I’ve ever sampled, particularly for this part of Jersey — lots of juicy marinated slow cooked pork, just a small amount of ham with pickles and garlic mojo, mustard, swiss cheese with pickles, as well as thin slices of chorizo to add a special flavor. Really good.
In the video posted below, you can see how they make them.
A takeout order being prepared — the top container is Masitas de Puerco (fried pork cubes) with Yuca Frita and yellow rice. The bottom is Picadillo, the traditional Caribbean Latino ground beef mixture seasoned with sofrito.
Yuca, being boiled before frying
Tony couldn’t bear to have me sit and wait for my food, so he put two marinated pork ribs in the deep fryer and put them on a plate for me to eat. I nearly burned my hands eating these, but they were fantastic.
Mama cooking up some Moros y Cristianos, black beans cooked with white rice. Also referred to as Arroz Congrí, this is a very popular Cuban rice dish.
Fricase de Pollo before heading into the oven
Fricase de Pollo (Chicken Stew)
Cuban Beef Stew (Carne con Papas) with Yellow Rice and Yuca Frita
Tony making sure quality control is up to par.
Tony’s wife Cynthia showing off a Cuban-style tamal.
Cooking up some peppers and steak.
Which lands on Cuban sandwich bread…
And is topped with French Fries…
Which is then “painted” with the garlicky mojito and then pressed, panini-style. Trust me, you want one of these.
Pastelitos, empanada-like pastries filled with chicken and beef.
A baby-sized pastelito.
A potato and ham Croqueta, direct from the deep fryer.
The kitchen at the original location was incredibly small and tight, but somehow they managed to produce a tremendous amount of good food in here.
Baked Chicken, cooked in its own juices
These are Tostones (deep-fried green plantains) formed into cups and stuffed with the seasoned beef mixture (Picadillo). If he has them, get them. Oh yeah, on Fridays, he stuffs these with Garlic Shrimp. You wanna bet that this post is updated on Friday?
Well… I went back on Saturday!
Mixed dinner plate of Picadillo, Masitas de Puerco, Yuca Frita, Platano Maduro over Yellow Rice.
Various desserts, including Flan (egg custard), Arroz con Leche (rice pudding) and Tiramisu. Not shown here is a special dessert that I had on a previous night, a chocolate cake fused with flan called Flancocho which originates from Puerto Rico. It was outrageous.
Flan (egg custard) freshly un-molded.