I've been working for a NJ company for three years now, with regular trips -- at least once a month -- out to HQ. Mostly, I stick to what I know, and what I've liked in the past: a couple of Chinese places, a couple Indian places, the Reservoir Tavern, Eccola, and trying my damnedest to avoid the chains to which my co-workers are attracted by their fierce neon-laden gravity.
Mostly, I've cut a few trails on the major roads in a comfortable range from the hotels I stay at, from Morristown in the south to Boonton in the North, Denton west and East Hanover in the, well, you should be able to figure it out.
Last December a group of us dined at a seafood place in Dover (nowhere near any cliffs, let alone the ocean), where we were treated shabbily by the staff, so I didn't review it. Across the street, though, was a place that had been sticking in my mind -- some south or central american chicken place that I was pretty sure I could find again, even though it's off the main drag.
So with an hour or so of daylight left, and pretty sure it wouldn't take all that time (it's only about 10 miles but traffic's nasty on Rt10), I set out, and indeed found it.
85 East Blackwell Street
Dover New Jersey 07801
(I'm guessing that Pucalor is somebody's name, since Google can't translate it, and a search on the word pretty much just turns up this restaurant.)
I was a little disappointed when I first stepped up, since it was rotisserie
chicken and not the fried I'd apparently misremembered. A half-dozen formica tables past the take-out counter didn't wow me either. I almost walked out after reading the minimalist menu (see the website), but I figured I'd come this far, it's time to try something different.
$8 got me the Bandeja Tipica Pucalor (Typical Columbian Meal), featuring rice, beans, rotisserie chicken, fried pork (chicharron), fried egg, corn pie (arepa), a boiled potato and fried plantain.
This is serious comfort food. It's not enough to have chicken, rice and beans, with a fried plantain for some sweet, they've got to add a fried egg, half a spud, and an eight-inch-long, inch-square cross section hunk of skin-on bacon that's been deep fried. You're not going to go home hungry, I wasn't sure I was going home under my own power: it's a deep dish.
The chicken was tasty with a deep poultry flavor and crispy skin. The piece I got was part thigh, part breast in that strange way birds get hacked up in Indian joints. A little hot sauce kicked it up nicely. The beans were soft and succulent, probably sharing the pork fat with the chicharron. That bacon-y hunk was a bit too much for this boy raised by a fastidious Jewish mom -- that I ate half of it is one of the best signs I don't need therapy. The potato and rice are a starchy overkill, but both added textural elements to the whole. The plantain, whole and soft instead of sliced and crisp the way I often see it, was delicious, and a great foil for the hot sauce. And a fried egg on top of the rice too. The arepa
was the only disappointment: a bland lump of griddled hominy, just another thing to soak up beans.
So I thoroughly enjoyed a relatively tame adventure, but as I said to Karen the night manager back at the hotel, not many of her typical business travelers are going ten miles out of their way for this sort of food when there's a Bennigan's and an Outback around the corner. Meanwhile, taking a different route back showed me a few diners on Rt 46 I want to try next time.