Tropical Zone

A t 4 p.m. on a sizzling summer Wednesday, Collado Restaurant was hot. Serving pan-Caribbean food but with a strong Dominican streak, it buzzed with teenagers reveling over roast chicken plates and moms picking up empanadas to go.

And with the weather so sweltering, I was looking forward to drinking the “die dreaming”—the Morir Soñando ($3), a Dominican beverage of orange juice, evaporated milk and a splash of vanilla served ice-cold. The orange juice doesn’t curdle the milk, but it does react with it, creating a creamy texture somewhere between juice and milkshake. Comparisons to a Creamsicle are unavoidable.

Collado features a number of shakes and juices, and on the day of my visit the blender whirled nonstop. I also tried the faint pink Guayaba, or guava juice ($3), which had the sweet-sour flavor and light starchiness of its star ingredient.

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On the meat-heavy food menu, Puerto Rican staple Mofongo—a dish of mashed plantains, whose cooking style was adopted from enslaved Africans—features prominently, but Dominican is still dominant. With a spice profile that’s both European and Middle Eastern in origin, major seasonings include oregano and turmeric. The menu has a daily soup as well as sandwiches and the odd burger, but most popular are the plate lunches, which are available all day.

Most of them are $6, $9, and $11 dollars depending on the size, with a $2 extra charge for dining in-house. Ordering at the counter, I chose a base of arroz amarillo (“yellow rice”), golden with turmeric and dotted with beans. If you’re used to plain rice, good yellow rice is revelatory: salty and savory enough to eat by itself.

The entrees, like the soup, are on a schedule. Go on a Wednesday and you can get the Pork Chop Stew. Go on a Thursday and you can get codfish or oxtail varieties. The Chicken, Pork Chops and Beef Stews, meanwhile, are available every day. Trying the last, which is subtitled carne guisada, the bone-in beef had been simmered to the point that it could be easily cut with a spoon. It overwhelmed the plate it was on, like a tiny mountain on the brink of a meat-and-rice avalanche.

I also tried the popular Baked Chicken, or pollo al horno (pictured above). Like the beef stew, it’s on the menu every day, and for good reason: it’s good. Also plentiful: even though I ordered the small, it was enough for two. Topped with a wreath of golden sauteed onions, a good part of the chicken looked cherry red thanks to paprika coating the outside, with a tender, juicy interior.

Lastly, I tried the Jamaican Beef Patty ($1.50), a pastry shaped like a large square pocket, its edges pinched shut. The dough outside was bright orange, and the beef inside was ground very fine, seasoned with tomato, onion and garlic. Except for the fiery spice, it reminded of a bolognese.

Manager Wesley Burgos says Collado is one of a number of Dominican restaurants run by the Collado family, each headed by a different brother. There’s a related Collado restaurant in New York, for example.

Burgos is the nephew of Jose Collado, the owner of this one, and according to him, Collado has been in The Hill neighborhood for over 10 years, serving a clearly happy clientele. “We use the same basic [ingredients] as everybody else,” he says. “Knowing how to use them, that’s the key.”

Collado Restaurant
698 Washington Ave, New Haven (map)
Mon-Sat 9am-8pm, Sun 10am-5pm
(203) 773-4980

Written and photographed by Anne Ewbank.

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A California native and world traveler, Anne came to New Haven for graduate school and discovered that New England is as cold as everyone said it was. She loves reading books, playing guitar, exploring new towns and taking road trips but only as long as she gets to pick the music.

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