Lali's Restaurant on 10th Avenue in Hell's Kitchen is a narrow little place; just a counter with eight or ten stools, and the kitchen behind. The walls are painted bright Barbie pink, and paintings of tropical scenes hang on the wall.
A chalkboard high on the wall runs the length of the counter, with the menu chalked on and drawings of palm trees and flowers. In front of the stool I chose, it said this: "Pura Vida - Pure Life." And there was a model of a sailing ship.
Lali's offers the usual New York breakfast - eggs and bacon, home fries and your choice of toast. But Lali is Dominican, so there's also a Dominican breakfast. This is mashed green plantains, fried egg, fried cheese and fried salami, with onions. That's what I opted for.
|Wall painting at Lali's|
"Spanish or American?" the counterman asked when I ordered coffee. Spanish is like Cuban coffee, strong and thick. I chose American, and he brought it to me already lightened with milk, the way I like it.
Breakfast was good. The eggs were fried in hot drippings, the edges were crispy. Fried salami is just what it sounds like - thick slices of salami browned on the griddle. The fried cheese was white, like mozzarella or jack, and it came in slabs, crisped on the surface and molten inside. Mashed green plantains are a good starchy foil against all this grease, but I have to be honest and say I didn't eat much of them. They were better with a few drops of bright orange habanero hot salsa. The onions were a treat, sautéed with a splash of vinegar, they were sweet and tangy.
At Lali's Restaurant, there's a special for each day of the week, pork chops, steak and onions, beef or chicken stew, ox tail or pig's feet. It all comes with yellow rice and beans - and those delicious sautéed onions.
Lali is a grandmotherly lady who, when I met her, was bringing fresh pasteles, or meat pies, from the back kitchen to stock the window display case. You can tell the food is delicious by Lali's smile.