At South Slope's Country Boys, a Rare Southern Mexican Treat
Two round orbs hover in a pool the color of rust, steam rising, seeds from ground dried peppers clinging to their surfaces. At first bite, a rush of the sea laps against earth, layers of toasted chile, garlic, and clove. This is torta de camaron, which sounds like a shrimp sandwich but is actually an uncommon fritter from Southern Mexico. It's made from dried shrimp soaked in water, which is blitzed with fava bean, onion, and egg, and then formed into patties and fried in shallow oil.
All photos by Scarlett Lindeman
Tortas de camarones come out of the kitchen at Country Boys (568 Fourth Avenue, 718-452-6079), a restaurant in South Park Slope that has been operating for over a year with little fanfare. The Martinez family and their associates, who operate the space, have gathered accolades for their cooking before: They have a longtime stand at the Red Hook Ball Fields, they won a Vendy Award in 2009, and they're a fixture at the Brooklyn and Smorgasburg flea markets.
The cooking at the restaurant is smart -- an antojito playbook full of their popular huaraches, sopes, quesadillas, and tacos, plus complex salsas and ample plates of rice and beans. The gorditas ($7 for two) are goldenrod yellow, crisp and slick with oil, split open and filled with avocado, chorizo, and potato. They could be stuffed with steel wool and you'd still ask for seconds.
Every day of the week is dedicated to a certain dish (all $9), more appealing than a new seven-set underwear collection. On Mondays, there's a green adobo flush with herbs; Tuesdays, meatballs; mixiote on Wednesdays; pipian de pollo, made with ground pumpkin seeds, on Thursdays; and pancita de res, a zippy orange soup bobbing with strips of tripe, served on Sundays.
That torta de camaron is the requisite Friday dish, the traditional meatless day of the week for Catholics during Lent. But if you ask politely on another day of the week, the cooks may make an exception and cook you one off-menu.
Scarlett Lindeman is a Brooklyn-based writer, covering the city's best taquerias, fondas, and cantinas. She writes the ¡Oye! Comida column for Fork in the Road.