In my early twenties, I ended up living in a studio apartment in the same building that I grew up in. It was a surreal experience, almost a time loop, and living there allowed me to reconnect to some of the places I went to as a little kid. One of those places was La Taza del Oro, down the block on Eighth Avenue, a very special lunch counter that opened in 1947 and sadly closed in 2015. Along with Casa Adela in the East Village, La Taza del Oro was one of New York’s iconic Puerto Rican restaurants and it served dishes from other cultures too, including traditional Cuban ropa vieja (which translates to “old clothes,” an evocative description of the texture of the shredded beef).
I make this version at home regularly, and while it doesn’t bring back a restaurant I wish was still thriving, it helps me keep my memories of it alive. It’s also just so satisfying and soul-warming (which is why I made it a few times for our local volunteer EMT squad when Covid-19 hit our area).
After cooking, shred the beef and store in a container in the refrigerator for up to a week (it’s honestly better the longer it sits). Warm it up in a saucepan over low heat (splash with a little water or stock if it needs some moisture) and then enjoy on its own with rice or sweet, starchy things like roasted squash, fried plantains, grilled corn, or Sweet + Spicy Mashed Sweet Potatoes (Simply Julia, page 135). It’s especially great with the Best Black Beans with Avocado Salad (Simply Julia, page 62). You could also use this beef for tacos or inside of a pressed sandwich (try it on your next grilled cheese).