Every now and then I look at my bank account and I’m like, “Woah. I need to slow down.” Then I almost simultaneously also think, “Man. I need to eat.” Thankfully, my friends are almost always in the same situation as I am. True Life: Broke and Hungry in New York City.
My friend who lives in East Harlem mentioned that there’s a truck near her apartment that sells tacos for $1 (context of the story was that every time she leaves her gym she’s tempted by the wafting smells of taco goodness). We happened to have one of our “must save money” moments the night of Peter Pan Live on NBC, so we made a plan to grab some cheap tacos and head back to my apartment to watch the show. Unfortunately, the truck closed about two seconds after my friend met me there so we had to think of something else. Luckily, East Harlem has lots of yummy, inexpensive eats, and we had a back-up plan ready–La Isla.
My friend also frequently passes by La Isla on her way home as it’s just down the street from the taco truck, and she’s spent much time staring at the golden fritters and roasted chicken in the window so this was a great second option. The restaurant is very small but there are some tables and counter seating. It seems like the kind of place that would take cash only (the general vibe + how cheap everything is), but they actually do accept credit cards.
I was a little overwhelmed at first because there seemed to be menus all over the place. One on the wall, one on the wall behind the counter, one taped to the counter–each one different. There were all kinds of platters and combos and sides and single items you could order, so what did I do? I just pointed at things I wanted. Ha!
All the things my friend had been drooling at for months looked amazing to me so I proceeded to point at the warming trays by the window and ask what each one was. Then I pretty much was just like, yup, I want that. And that. And that. I was ordering for two people so I got a whole roasted chicken (you can get a half as well), three fritters (each with different stuffings), and a papa rellena (like a potato croquette). When I found out my total was only $13, I really wanted to be like “Wait, let me add more!” because it didn’t seem right that it was only going to cost me that much…for two people! But then I did a mental recount of everything I picked and realized that it was plenty.
When you order the chicken, they cut it up for you into manageable pieces, and it’s all roasted, seasoned, and moist. But the fritters were really my favorite. I believe I had one stuffed with beef, one stuffed with chicken, and one stuffed with cheese. They’re kind of like giant empanadas with a crispier outside. My only thing is that I wish there was more filling throughout since a lot of it is concentrated in one small part of the fritter, but the bread/pastry was still yummy on its own. Out of all of them, the beef one was, in my opinion, the best.
Besides the premade items by the window, there are other entrees that are made to order like breaded steak, beef stew, fried fish, ribs, plantains. Now this…this is comfort food.
Guys, let me just reiterate. La Isla is CHEAP. A whole chicken was only $6.50 (albeit they’re on the smaller side) and each fritter was like $1.25. We didn’t get $1 tacos, but we still sure did get a delicious deal.
Pollo entero, pastelitos de carne, pastelitos de pollo, papa rellena
1883 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10029