Where to Explore Peruvian Culture in NYC
Check out the article our founder and CEO, Topaz Smith, wrote for NYCgo
While New Jersey may actually be better known for stateside Peruvian culture, New York City has more than its share of places that show off the country’s vibrant traditions and variety of cuisines. Peru’s music, dance and food, especially, show many influences from its populations over the years, including Indigenous peoples, enslaved Africans and waves of immigration of Japanese and Chinese workers. In Jackson Heights, Queens, home to many of NYC’s Peruvian residents, authentic restaurants serve ceviche, creamy stews and other dishes made the way they’d be in South America. Meanwhile, nearby neighborhoods host dance performances and festivals that bring the rhythms of the country to life. Read on for where to find the best of Peru in the City.
86-20 37th Ave., Jackson Heights, Queens Enjoy an authentic Peruvian lunch at Urubamba, a family-run restaurant that opened its doors in 1975 and is New York City’s oldest Peruvian restaurant. Try the bistec apanado con papa a la huancaina: breaded steak with creamy yellow huancaina sauce made from fresh cheese, Peruvian peppers and sauteed onions. Order the colorful chicha morada, a Peruvian drink made from boiled purple corn, apples, pineapple and cinnamon, and follow your entrée with a sweet alfajor, a shortbread cookie with dulce de leche.
Llama San. Photo: Matt Taylor Gross
Llama San 359 Sixth Ave., West Village, Manhattan Sample Nikkei cuisine, a blend of Peruvian and Japanese preparations, at Llama San. Peruvian American chef Erik Ramirez and chef Sergio Nakayoshi, who is Peruvian and Japanese, meld those tastes in scallop ceviche with cherimoya to make a light and refreshing starter. The omakase sushi dinner continues the theme in a multi-course meal that crosses continents and can include hard-to-find luxury ingredients. Sample a pisco sour with a twist—the incorporation of matcha, sake or green tea into Peru’s signature cocktail.
Flor de Mayo 484 Amsterdam Ave. and 2651 Broadway, Upper West Side, Manhattan For Chifa, or Chinese-Peruvian cuisine, head to the longstanding Flor de Mayo, which has two locations on the Upper West Side and is a good spot to sample the blended flavors of Peru. Enjoy the simple but flavorful Peruvian roast chicken and the moo goo gai pan, with sautéed chicken, mushrooms and bamboo shoots. The restaurant remains true to its Peruvian roots with traditional specialties like seco de res (cilantro beef stew) and aji de gallina (spicy chicken stew).
Afro-Peruvian Dance and Culture Freddy Huevito Lobatón Beltrán, dancer and musician, specializes in Afro-Peruvian music and dance. Originally from Lima, he plays the cajon drum and dances zapateo, cultural traditions that were kept alive by Africans enslaved in Peru. Zapateo requires skillful steps and jumps and is closely tied to the playing of the cajon, which is made from special types of wood that resonate low and high sounds. Lobaton Beltran offers performances that weave in the history and culture of African people in Peru; for more information, contact him at the link above or on his Facebook or Instagram page.
Inti Raymi. Courtesy, Sisa Pakari
67-10 Roosevelt Ave., Woodside, Queens This nonprofit organization promotes Andean culture—relating to the Indigenous inhabitants of central Andes in South America—in New York City through dance and music. Visitors can learn about the history and culture of the Andes through the group’s cultural shows, music and dance classes. They hosts several traditional dances, rituals and festivals, including the annual Inti Raymi celebration (see the next entry).
Festival of the Sun Each June, the Festival of the Sun, also known as Inti Raymi, is typically held in Queens’ Flushing Meadows Corona Park (though that won’t be the case in 2021; this year’s location and date are still to be determined). The event, a religious tradition held to give thanks to the sun god, draws hundreds of people and displays Andean culture through food, traditional music and dances. Expect to eat delicious foods like choclo con queso and lomo saltado and see dances such as the huayño and the Carnaval de Ichu, for which pinkillu, or Andean flutes, are played to gather men and women in celebration of a bountiful harvest.
Casa Rivera 40-15 82nd St., Elmhurst, Queens Gather ingredients for an authentic Peruvian meal from Casa Rivera, a grocery store that sells prepared foods in addition to traditional Peruvian products. You’ll find choclo corn for your ceviche, purple corn to mix your chicha morada and aji Peruvian peppers and Peruvian olives to create and complement your huancaina sauce. Make sure to stock up on enough so that your Peruvian experience in NYC can continue wherever you call home.