Although it’s far away from any subway line (at least by Manhattan standards) and a blistering inconvenience for those who don’t live nearby, Alphabet City remains a popular destination due to the various bars, clubs and restaurants that grace its streets. The neighborhood has changed a whole lot since it was the subject of the musical “Rent”, and its older residents may bemoan its loss of an “edge”, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had. While it’s easy to miss and not as well-known, there’s one spot in particular on Avenue C and 5th that’s a true gem: Casa Adela.
It’s Puerto Rican grandmother food at its absolute best; literally! The operation is run by Adela Ferguson, a 79 year-old great grandmother; and the staff is made up of Ms Ferguson’s neighbors, friends and family. Adela opened her first luncheonette a block away in the early 70s, where she made the perfect seasoning and calculated the optimal timing for roasted chicken before opening Casa Adela in 1976. The recipe is a heavily-guarded secret, and for good reason: the tender, fall-apart-in-your-mouth chicken is easily the best rotisserie I’ve ever had. It’s a popular spot for Puerto Ricans throughout Manhattan, who claim it’s the most authentic Puerto Rican food to be found in the borough. As many of the remnants of the area’s Puerto Rican heritage have since passed, Casa Adela remains, and doesn’t seem set on closing any time soon.
In a neighborhood where $7 for a beer sounds reasonable, Casa Adela is a paragon of affordable prices; $10 will get you half of a chicken and a generous serving of rice and beans, more than enough to satisfy even the hungriest New Yorker. While the other restaurants in that area are perfectly delicious, they’re a whole lot pricier; at nearby Maiden Lane, $10 won’t even get you a tin of anchovies (that’s not even a joke). Maybe it’s that combination of delicious food, affordable prices and an authentic experience that keeps drawing all sorts of New Yorkers, and will continue to do so as long as Adela Ferguson’s family keeps it running.