Virginia Galarza claims that staying on her feet keeps her young. That's an understatement. As the owner of La Cocina De Galarza, formerly La Cocina De Criolla, Virginia works tirelessly 6 days a week, taking orders, waiting tables and chatting up her customers with (grand)motherly kindness. Adorning the walls with maps, festive hats and pictures of Puerto Rico, with the smell of simmering spices wafting throughout the space, Galarza whisks you away to a Puerto Rican paradise.
Besides a few Mexican delicacies for those who can't live without chips and guac, Galarza prepares mostly Puerto Rican specialties. Go for the hearty chicken and veggie soup to start. Next try the Puerto Rican rice served with a spectacularly tangy and sweet secret sauce. And the sweet plantains! They are not to be missed. Covered in melted brown sugar, they dissolve in your mouth. Their garlic counterpart comes crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, served with a mouth-watering garlic and olive oil sauce ($2.95). Customers favor the beef stew and the traditional combo platter, which includes plantains, rice, a tamale and a meat ($8.95). The portions are large, so bring a friend and split.
Galarza's cooking techniques and her use of spices reflect the influence of the Spanish occupation of Puerto Rico back in the day. Think olive oil in place of butter. In other words, you'll leave feeling satisfied, not sick. La Cocina is BYOB, so bring along a paper bag. Catering is also available.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Emily Fiffer