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$20 Dinner

El Rinconcito Is Back in Action with Delicious Dominican Fare

After closing for two years, the neighborhood favorite has reopened at a spiffy new location on Avenue C.

Mofongo Rinconcito with pernil, longaniza, fried queso, and dipping sauce.
(Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)|

Mofongo Rinconcito with pernil, longaniza, fried queso, and dipping sauce, $18.

The Rodriguez family fed their neighbors here in Alphabet City for some thirty years when they were forced to shut down El Rinconcito, their beloved luncheonette on East 10th Street, in 2021. 

The closure was mandated by the City, but it was for a happy reason: As Rinconcito's owner Pedro Rodriguez put it, the building (where the family also lives) is getting renovated and "turned back over to the tenants" by the NYS Homes and Community Renewal Program. Still, the family had to scramble.  

Rodriguez told me he found a new, even better spot for Rinconcito relatively quickly, down near 5th Street on a bustling stretch of Avenue C—but unfortunately, it took Con Edison more than a year to run bigger lines from the street to his new kitchen and turn on the gas. "It was very difficult," he said. "I was paying rent the whole time and we couldn't open. We survived COVID-19 but almost didn't survive Con Ed."

Outside El Rinconcito's new Avenue C storefront. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)
Inside the revamped El Rinconcito. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Finally, though, the new Rinconcito opened a couple of weeks ago. The place looks fantastic, with a banquette running along one wall, a few stools at the counter, and sweet touches like the flowers on every table. A steady stream of takeout customers ordered from the steam table the entire time I was there on a Monday afternoon and, as you may remember from the old place, the Rodriguez family and all the staff know how to make you feel welcome.   

The menu sprawls, and is packed with Dominican bangers. The signature dish here—it's literally called the Rinconcito—is a mountain of mofongo, those garlicky mashed green plantains, that's studded with glorious hunks of fatty, porky pernil, as well as funky longaniza sausage and chewy strips of pan-fried mozzarella cheese. It is amazing. Mofongo can be dry, but here it's served with a bowl of peppy tomato sauce for dipping. 

Small mondongo with bread, $7. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

My personal favorite at Rinconcito, now and forever, is their mondongo, a Dominican tripe soup. The dish is loaded with tender intestines, plus carrots and potatoes, in a broth so rich it feels like you can almost chew it. The mondongo comes with a basket of pressed, liberally buttered garlic bread, so even the smallest size can function as a meal. 

The chicharron de pollo is also first rate (get it con hueso, or bone-in, for extra gnawing pleasure), especially when paired with rice and beans. Do yourself a favor and dump on both the garlicky green and the vingary red hot sauces. Rodriguez is so proud of his wife Agueda Soha Rodriguez's pescado en coco, or fish in coconut sauce, that he sent out a sample size for me. "I married her because of this dish," he said. I might have, too.

A sample from the kitchen of Agueda Soha Rodriguez's pescado en coco. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

There's so much other great stuff here, including sancocho, empanadas, chuletas, pollo asado, and all kinds of panini, including a killer cubano. Flan and tres leches cake are the obvious dessert choices, though neither are made in house (they're still good). 

Chicharron de pollo con hueso with rice and beans, $15. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

"I grew up in this neighborhood, lived here since 1984," Rodriguez said, but he wasn't about to wax rhapsodic about the bad old days. "I like it now. It's a lot more expensive, but everything is cleaner and safer, with no burned cars in the street, no burned-out buildings." This checks out. I'm not going to say exactly what I used to buy on 5th and C in the early '80s inside one of those abandoned buildings, but it definitely wasn't a nice bowl of soup.

A bustling Monday. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Mostly though, Rodriguez is just happy to be open and working again, while actively contributing to his community. "There's a lot of great people in this area, and we've received a lot of support," he said. "I like the way everything is going, the way people are reacting to us. It's a good feeling." 

El Rinconcito is located at 73-75 Avenue C, between East 5th and East 6th Streets, and is currently open on Monday through Saturday from 8:00 a.m to 9:00 p.m. 

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