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$20 Dinner

Feast on Killer Puerto Rican Specialties by the Banks of the Gowanus Canal

Kiosko 787 is now serving hard-to-find Boricua favorites out of a hole in the wall in Brooklyn.

1:00 PM EDT on July 26, 2023

A full spread of food from Kiosko 787 in Brooklyn.

(Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Al Rosario grew up by the Gowanus Canal, the Superfund site that has, improbably, seen a luxury construction boom in recent years on its still quite fetid shores. But though the landscape has changed a lot since he was a kid, Rosario told us that one thing has remained a constant: his desire to bring really good Puerto Rican food to the neighborhood.

"I'm trying to bring Puerto Rican flavors back to Brooklyn," Rosario told Hell Gate. "It's something that I've always wanted to do. There was a large Puerto Rican influence here growing up, and people love the way I cook. They say, 'Hey man, you should open a restaurant!' I have a love for food, I have a love for my culture, so here I am."

Outside of Kiosko 787. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

"Here" is the delightful Kiosko 787, a brightly adorned spot—dig that second-floor phony facade, complete with a Juliet balcony—that Rosario opened six weeks ago on Carroll Street. The restaurant boasts an impressively lengthy menu of Puerto Rican classics, many of which, he says, are hard to find in New York City.   

"The recipes belong to myself, my wife, and our families," Rosario said. "They come from the island, so it's not going to be the typical stuff. Authentic Puerto Rican food, you just don't find this anymore, and people miss it."

Arroz mamposteao with pork belly and sweet plantains, $17.95. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

The core of the Kiosko 787 experience are the jartera platters, which basically translates to "you're going to need a nap after eating these." There's pernil, of course, served with rice and beans, though Rosario slow cooks the pig for maximum tenderness and then shreds it, like pulled pork. 

A steak and onions entree comes with garlicky tostones, or order the mountain of excellent mamposteao. The latter is a dish sometimes disparagingly called "leftover stew"—it's rice, chunks of pork belly, and sweet plantains, all spiced up and mixed together in delicious fashion—that Rosario says is common in Puerto Rico, but not often found on menus here.    

Empanadilla trio, $12.95. Pictured are the picadillo, pastelon, and camarones criollo. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

All of the above are extremely splittable, as are the monster sandwiches, which arrive hot and greasy, pressed on soft, chewy loaves of pan de agua that Rosario gets delivered a few times a week from a baker in Connecticut. You can get these beauties stuffed with steak, onions, cheese, and potato stix, or with pernil, or with roast pork, ham, cheese, mustard, and pickles, aka "el primo Cubano."

Wepa tripleta sandwich, $17.95. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

These all sound great, but we went with the wepa tripleta, stacked with steak, ham, and roast pork, then finished with a homemade mayonnaise and ketchup mix and topped with potato stix. A glorious mess! The tidier among us can order all of this piled on top of taro root fries instead of in a sandwich, and eat it with a fork. (Don't be surprised if you're compelled to shout out "WEEEEEEEEHPAAA!" after your first bite.)

Alcapurria, $4.95. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

For something snackier, or as a side, the empanadillas at Kiosko 787 are superb, especially the saucy, spicy shrimp one and the pastelon, which is filled with beef, sweet plantain, and mozzarella. And don't sleep on the crispy fried alcapurria, a plantain fritter filled with picadillo. No matter what, pour on one or several of Rosario's homemade hot sauces, which he started making as a hobby in his kitchen before Kiosko 787 even existed. Those sauces come in flavors like tamarind, passion fruit, guava, and, for a serious kick, straight-up aji peppers.

Al Rosario's homemade hot sauces. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

As its name suggests, Kiosko 787 is very much a takeout operation, though Rosario has set up a few card tables and folding chairs on the sidewalk out front; these make for a comfortable spot while you feast. Beverages are nonalcoholic, and the clear winner among them is the can of Good-O brand's iconic Kola Champagne.  

Kiosko 787 is located at 488 Carroll Street, just off Third Avenue, and is currently open on Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 8 p.m., and on Sunday from noon to 7 p.m.

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