Q'Kachapa looks like little more than a fast-food joint jammed between a KFC, a pre-paid cell phone store, a super sketchy Chinese place called "Panda" and a bodega on a bustling stretch of Broadway beneath the 1 Train in the Bronx. I walk by it every week on the way from Marble Hill to the Garden Gourmet grocery store one block north.
The distinction between Marble Hill (technically in Manhattan) and Kingsbridge in the Bronx is pretty fuzzy. The neighborhoods blend into each other, and many people who live there are Latin American, mainly Dominican. Kingsbridge is the next neighborhood in the Bronx north of Marble Hill, generally straddling Broadway between Riverdale and the Major Deegan Expressway, or I-87. It's an interesting place because Riverdale to the west is the most affluent section of the Bronx. The boundaries are so fluid that Garden Gourmet uses Riverdale as its mailing address.
I've always assumed that Q'Kachapa is Dominican, given that the front window advertises mofongo, a crushed plantain dish rooted in the fufu found in West Africa. But Q'Kachapa's menu says it's a Venezuelan restaurant, and indeed, its offerings span Latin America. Burritos, tacos, quesadillas and nachos are featured next to pabellon criollo, arepas, kachapas, patacon and pepitos.
Since moving to Marble Hill, we've been a little remiss in exploring the many, many local restaurants lining Broadway between 225th St. and 242nd St., which is roughly the northern extent of Broadway's bustling commercial strip.
So after a quick trip to the supermarket, I stopped in at Q'Kachapa and ordered a grilled chicken arepa and three mofonguitos, which featured chicken, cheddar cheese and a tangy sauce encased in a crushed plantain shell. The arepa is a sweet corn cake sandwich with lettuce, grilled chicken, a fried egg and a Thousand Island dressing-like sauce.
I ordered takeout, so instead of walking the chilly eight tenths of a mile back home, I hopped on the 1 Train at 231st St. as way to cut 10 minutes or so off the trek down to 225th St. I should have walked because once the 1 Train arrived at the 225 St. station, an "unruly passenger" had jumped onto the tracks ahead of the train, and I ended up getting stuck on the train for 20 minutes or so until they opened the doors and let us out.
That meant my arepa and mofonguitos were lukewarm when I got them home. But they were tasty anyway. The corn cake on the arepa was sweet and tasty, but the sandwich was generally overpowered by the taste of the Thousand Island-like sauce. I ended up scraping some of it off and throwing out about a third of the sandwich.
There are better places in the area to get mofongo, but for a quick Caribbean-inspired dinner, my mofonguitos were pretty tasty and filling. It looked and tasted quite a lot like what I'd expect of Latin American street food.
I have no idea how authentic Q'Kachapa is. But the locals like it: The place was packed with folks from the neighborhood. I was very clearly the only non-Spanish speaker in the place.
Total cost: $11. Not bad.