Eighth Avenue Ropa Vieja

Eighth Avenue Ropa Vieja

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).


  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced into half moons
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 medium green bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and thinly sliced
  • One 14.5-ounce [411 g] can diced tomatoes with their juice
  • 1⁄4 cup [60 ml] yellow mustard
  • 1⁄3 cup [65 g] raisins
  • 1⁄2 cup [120 g] pimento-stuffed green olives, plus 3 tablespoons olive brine for finishing the dish
  • One 2- to 3-pound [907 g to 1.3 kg] boneless chuck roast, trimmed of any large pieces of fat or gristle, cut into 3 even pieces
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • Fresh cilantro, for serving (optional)


  1. Preheat your oven to 300oF [150oC].
  2. Place the onion, garlic, bell peppers, diced tomatoes with their juice, mustard, raisins, and olives (hang onto that brine for later) in a large, heavy ovenproof pot (such as a Dutch oven). Mix well to combine.
  3. Sprinkle the chuck roast pieces all over with the salt, black pepper, and cumin. Nestle the pieces into the mixture in the pot. Cover the pot tightly with a lid or aluminum foil.
  4. Roast the beef until it’s incredibly tender and shreds easily when you poke at it with tongs or a couple of forks, about 3 hours. Add the olive brine to the pot and use those tongs or forks to shred the beef directly in the pot (discard any large pieces of fat as you work) and mix it together with the juices. Season to taste with salt. Serve warm with cilantro sprinkled on top (if you’d like).
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