Sunday, November 05, 2006


What better way to spend a beautiful Saturday afternoon, than strolling around Bushwick, Brooklyn?
I'm sure you can think of many better ways, but I was very happy to visit this very working class neighborhood I had never set foot on.
It wasn't a very thorough tour, but I was able to identify at least one amazing restaurant I intend to go back to. The place in question is called Restaurante La Isla and it really is a counter where you can eat fabulous Dominican food at even more fabulous prices. Beef stew with plenty of rice and beans is five bucks. They have incredible roasted chicken and very moist, good looking pernil. They also sell the digestible plutonium bomb better known as Mofongo, which is mashed green plantains with pork rinds and tons of garlic. You eat one of those babies and three weeks later you are still trying to digest it. Needless to say, it is super yummy. For those in need of an urgent hangover cure, they have tripe soup, which I refuse to eat, but which looked fit to raise the dead. And for those who want to meet their maker a tad earlier, they have all sorts of fried stuff: cuchifritos, empanadas, alcapurrias, etc. At least you'll die a happy man, with some savings, to boot: the big beef empanada sets you back one buck.
The reason I need to go back to La Isla was that, incredibly, I didn't eat there, for I found myself with a bit of an upset stomach and didn't deem it prudent to run the risk of having the runs in the middle of Bushwick. That was the reason why yesterday was the first and probably last time in my life I've ever been happy to run into a very big and gleaming Burger King (I was in dire need of a bathroom). I didn't eat there either, but I must say it was almost the size of an airplane hangar, which is sad.
When in Bushwick, I recommend you cross the street and go to La Isla instead. Cheaper and better.
Bushwick is a mixed neighborhood of Blacks and Latinos. Myrtle St was very lively, with lots of beauty supply places furnishing hair extensions and the like, lots of little Mexican dives, Colombian and Dominican eateries, lots of tiny evangelical churches with weirdo names, etc.
I love exploring Brooklyn, because in contrast to Manhattan, it still retains some authenticity. We ended up in Bed Stuy, which is gentrifying, not necessarily a good thing, and also strolled around Clinton Hill, which is a beautiful neighborhood and apparently becoming very expensive (so what else is new?). Then we walked through the Satmar Hassidic planet in Williamsburg where I found once more the posters warning people in Yiddish about the Marathon that runs right through it. The warning in essence says that foolish men, women and children run half naked through the streets and foolish goyim stand and gawk at them. The warning is for the Hassidic men to stand clear of the streets on Marathon day so they don't see women running around with bare limbs and wild hair.
The little girls, however, are allowed to watch and some of them even give water to the runners.
When the runners hit that stretch of Williamsburg, they are greeted by silent Hassidic women and extremely thin crowds. It is eerie. But then right before they cross into Hipsterdom, there is a little Dominican stretch that makes up for the Hassidic stillness with the biggest racket they can muster. And believe me, they can muster. They have stereo-surround sound Merengue blasting and people screaming and everything gets back to semi-normal. Then the running throngs hit Hipsterville, where people cheer them on. And this is why I love New York.

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