BUFFALO, N.Y. - Anyone passing by Montes Grocery & Deli on Swan Street might dismiss it as any one of the seemingly interchangeable convenience stores scattered around Buffalo.
They'd be missing out on one of the city's best hidden lunch stops.
Esther Montes started the grab-and-go bodega 15 years ago, and now with the help of her mother and daughters Rayza Serrano and Rosalyne Torres, serves a dedicated lunch crowd of neighbors, city workers, and those who have heard about the wonders of the fresh pastelillos.
The Puerto Rican savory pastry pocket is the highlight of Montes' menu - the tiny kitchen cranks out around 300 on a typical day and 1,000 at the height of the nearby Grease Pole Festival. Beef and cheese is the top seller, with chicken and cheese and pizza fillings also available.
"In Puerto Rico, when you go to a corner store or a bodega, this is the first thing that you would see in the hot box," says Serrano. "And that's what we normally eat on the got. It's a grab-and-go type food."
Other fried options include the beef-filled potato balls called Rellenos de Papas, and the beef-filled plantain fritters called alcapurrias (a big favorite of Unique Eats). Several chicken options are also on the menu along with the unique and delicious carne frita (fried pork shoulder chunks).
"Our community is basically like our family, so every comes in and they're always excited to see us and we're excited to see them," says Serrano. "Everybody says we're the best and I think we're pretty good."
If you go, know it's a cash-only business. There is an ATM on site.
Montes Grocery & Deli
413 Swan St.
Buffalo, NY 14204
Every day 9am-6:30pm