NY Trip Part 1 – Good Eats of Long Island.
Boy oh boy,
So, I can fully say I am recovered from my weeklong trip to the greatest city on earth, my home: New York City. I hadn’t been back for almost four whole years. Quick tidbit – I was born in Manhattan, lived in Brooklyn and then Long Island. So I have gotten a well-rounded view of the state and all it has to offer. I stayed with my Godmother in Suffolk County, where I spent my middle school years. I was so excited! Naturally, I didn’t really make many plans but to see some UNC alumni while there, eat, and shop! Fall break was much needed for me because school sucks. More explanation needed? I think not!
It was so interesting being back, seeing how some things are still the same and how some things are so different. My God brothers, for example, are huge. One is in college and making his way into the fashion scene by working for Scoop NYC (shout out to them!) The other, fresh out of high school trying to figure his life out one day at a time while juggling a potential music career path and a girlfriend he cares so much about. I met these kids when I was ten years old people! It was mind blowing. My beloved Godmother was also fresh into a new engagement, up for a work promotion and dealing with teenage angst and a new lifestyle. It was a lot to ingest! But nonetheless, it was the first time I had ever really taken a vacation for myself. One thing I will say I enjoyed a lot was the cuisine and food New York, more specifically Long Island, had to offer. Deer Park is home to Deer Park Ave, or DPA, as it is commonly referred to as. DPA is infamous for the long strip of fast food, and local cuisines it contains. For now, I will focus on giving you all a peak into DPA places I HAD to stop by. Maybe next time I’ll indulge you all on come of the cities cuisines as well!
Can I take a second to say that when moving to North Carolina, I had to say goodbye to a lot of things that were otherwise common for me in New York – amazing food being one of them. Authentic Greek, Italian, and many other foods are scarce in North Carolina. I made sure to grab a greasy slice of pizza, a plate of pollo frito con platanos, a hearty gyro, and the immaculate fast food from places such as White Castle and Pollo Campero. Not only is there a White Castle on the historic DPA fast food strip, it is open twenty-four hours. So if I caught myself with a craving at 3 am while watching TV, goofing around, or reluctantly working on homework due the next week, I could satisfy it. We all hear the terrors of fast food and how it’s all-bad for you, etc. Don’t get me wrong, college and tons of in shape friends have coerced me to not be a fan of fast food, but White Castle is in a league of its own. My first night we headed there my God brother and I split ten sliders, fries, mozzarella sticks, and chicken rings. I was in heaven people! What kind of place offers such a range of lipid-filled amazingness!? I probably went at least 3 to 4 more times in my 6-day period, easily. R.I.P. Fall Diet.
Just how the south is home to Bojangles’, Waffle House, and Cookout, the north is home to great fast food places like White Castle, Checker’s, and Nathan’s, to name a few. Besides the great fast foods places, it is also home to some great homemade and cultural foods. New York is one of those states that Hispanics and Latinos can go to and feel right at home. Why? Well, because they can get a taste of home at a restaurant that isn’t Mama’s cocina. One of the cuisines that is definitely popular in New York is that of the Caribbean type. We all know New York is home to many Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and Cubans. So items such as the staple platanos fritos, mofongo, mangu, salami frito, pollo asado, and much more can be found in their most authentic form. Growing up around both Central Americans and Caribbean people, I had the pleasure of being exposed to both cuisines. Since coming back to Deer Park, I noticed there was a Dominican Restaurant around the corner from my Godmother’s. Dominican Restaurant 5 is located right at the corner of DPA and Long Island Ave. From the outside it looks like a literal extension from the wall. On the inside, you would think you were in Punta Cana right then and there. Bachata blasting, the amazing odors filling your nose, and your taste buds beginning to tingle all hit your senses quick! These people kept it old school with a buffet style serving, with options for single meals or family meals. My Godmother and I went in and we ordered a family meal with chicken, habichuelas (beans), platanos, and I got an order of mofongo for myself just to try! Although Mofongo is a traditional Puerto Rican dish, it wasn’t bad at all! Again, you can’t beat the authenticity that New York cuisine can offer you! The platanos were fried with love and tradition and the habichuelas stewed up with the right combination of vegetables and seasoning. WHEW. I drool as I type, literally. Alas, I still had to try some food from my own culture, the rugged and vibrant Central American cuisine.
To satisfy this craving, I had to go to the infamous Central American based chicken restaurant chain called Pollo Campero. Being raised in a Salvadoran household, one thing everyone can relate to is how relatives would always bring back food when they go visit El Salvador. I had uncles who would bring back huge loads of cheese, beans, and the occasional box of yes, Pollo Campero. The chicken is seasoned and fried to perfection. Usually, a typical Pollo Campero dish is a few pieces of chicken, with a side of crinkle cut French fries. Simple, yet a blessing to the taste buds. Demographically wise, Long Island is home to a large amount of Central Americans, so luckily there were a few restaurants out there close to where I was staying. I picked up my good friend from the Long Island Rail Road station in Deer Park and we stopped by the Salvadoran Mecca Town of Brentwood. Imagine a hole in the wall fast food place with a salsa and condiment bar. Felt like home! I got the typical two-piece combo with fries. At first bite time went back to when I was 11 years old living in Deer Park riding my bike everywhere. That one bite brought me back to the hot summers racing down to the local park to kick around a soccer ball. It took me back to nervously creeping into the house hoping I beat my mom home, only to be smacked in the back of the hand by my mom’s chancleta boomerang. Besides the amazing taste, there’s another reason Pollo Campero has a special place in my heart as well as for many others; it’s also a taste of home.
Now, Long Island is debatably a Salvadoran safe haven and there’s one thing I recommend any of you try; the pupusas. Pupusas are small dough balls filled with chewy goodness in the form of cheese or pork and cheese. Back then everybody was too hungry to try and be picky eaters, but recently I’ve heard of chicken stuffed ones as well. However, the pork and cheese is the classic. Revueltas is what they are called. There’s a place on Grand Blvd and DPA in Deer Park called El Rincon Guanaco, translated loosely to the Salvy Corner, adjusting for the times and appropriateness. Now, originally I was upset as hell that I couldn’t make it out to the place because I couldn’t make time. Seemingly enough, my flight was delayed on the night I was trying to leave so back to Long Island I was headed from La Guardia. On the way there my God brother and I called in take out just like this; “diez revueltas y 4 de queso por favor, las voy a recojer en unos quince o viente minutos.” Translation? “I need 10 revuletas 4 with just cheese, Ill be there in about 15/20 minutes.” Simple right? Thirty minutes later, a heavenly mesh of spices, pork, cheese, and doughy goodness was welcomed to my already spoiled taste buds. The authenticity of the food is so hard to explain. They weren’t my mom’s pupusas, but they still felt like a bite out of home, out of my past. A lot of people enjoy theirs with cabbage (repollo) and tomato salsa, but I personally just like them plain with some salsa which can either be spicy or just that good strong tomato flavor. To top it all off, I ordered an horchata too. Horchata is popular cinnamon milk that is drank mostly my Mexican and Central Americans. It’s very delicious and come from different forms such as from rice, powder, or occasionally with rum!
These items were just a few of that blessed my taste buds while I was home in New York. I was deeply saddened to go, and cant wait to go back up and try, or re-try some more amazing food. With graduation slowly approaching, who knows right!? Anyways, I strongly recommend any of these simple yet amazing cuisines New York has to offer.
So if I haven’t told you already, go to NY and spend your money on food and clothes; you wont regret it.
Under-promising and over-delivering,