I moved to Union City for love.
Fresh out of college and head over heels for my future husband, a Union City native, I moved to Hudson County. Having spent my formative years in places where the food was painfully bland, moving to Union City was like walking into a fiesta in full-swing.
I grew up in a town with more cows than people, and then I was at Rutgers for four years. My hometown in Sussex County was known for growing corn, and the food was as Americana as apple pie. At Rutgers, the food diversity revolved around which “Fat Sandwich” you would heroically dive into that evening.
So when I discovered row after row of tiny Latin American restaurants in my new hometown of Union City, places where the chef also served as cashier and waiter, I was ecstatic.
One of the first foods that I found was the baleada. Pronounced bah-lee-ah-dahs (baˈljaðas), this specialty originates from Yoro, Honduras. It is considered a staple in Honduran cuisine and is a treat of true perfection.
Composed of a large, naan-like piece of bread as a base, the baleada regular is filled with scrambled eggs, refried beans, avocado, and queso crema, which is a slightly sour, creamy cheese. Once one is in possession of a baleada, it is suggested to fold the bread over the ingredients and eat it like a soft taco, savoring each bite.
The word baleada is reminiscent of the Spanish word “bailar,” or “to dance.” As in, the ingredients have danced together. And what a symphony they create! Between the mildness of the eggs, the saltiness of the refried beans, the smoothness of the avocado and the softest bite from the cheese, the only thing you’ll be able to contemplate as you eat one is when your stomach will have enough room for another.
A world of baleada variations
Please note that while I’d highly suggest trying the baleada regular, there are usually other, additional baleadas on the menu, such as the con carne, or with meat. The baleada con carne is a completely different experience than the baleada regular, as the meat is simmered in a sauce that gives such a potent flavor to the baleada that dare I say, the meal is overshadowed. Additionally, there is a baleada sencilla, which comes with just cheese. Sweet, but I’d vote that it is just a tad too simple.
If you are one who craves some kick to your dish, the Honduran restaurants that make baleadas typically have a spicy, pickled vegetable medley that you can ask for on the side. Just ask for the encurtido. Hot sauce is usually on the table, along with salt and pepper.
I have enjoyed baleadas all around the local area. But then: tragedy struck.
My favorite restaurant that served baleadas closed down. After searching restlessly for another, I found one, only to see it too close down a few weeks later. This happened again and again and again. The heartbreak was acute.
Now on my sixth baleada restaurant, I can only hope that by bringing awareness to such a great dish, these establishments will remain open.
At a price of $3 for a baleada regular, it’s incredibly affordable and offers some variety into the typical boozy brunch. For around $10, two people could each have a baleada, a café con leche, and leave a tip.
So where to find this wonderful concoction? While there are many Central American restaurants located in Union City and West New York, I’ve found those that specialize in the baleada are the best to go to for this treat. I humbly suggest Punto de la Baleada on 37th Street in Union City, where the baleadas are true perfection, the chocolate caliente divine, and hope springs eternal to visit again.
Alison Rodriguez at email@example.com.