Thursday, April 2, 2009

Cheap Authentic Eats in Queens

Jaquie and I woke up last Sunday with an urge to dive into the trenches of Jackson Heights in Queens, NY. We paid homage to the brave Mexican and Colombian souls that left everything behind to pursue the American Dream, especially the cooks and street vendors.

Jackson Heights, my old stomping grounds and the first stop for many Latin American immigrants, is filled with enough Latin eateries to keep this blog alive for a decade. We started on the corner of 81st and Roosevelt Ave where there's a lady grilling elotes in a shopping cart. Elotes are corn on the cob Mexican Style. Corn is originally from Latin America and is the main ingredient for a lot of Latin foods.

My elote had everything on it: mayonnaise, butter, chili powder, crumbled Mexican cheese, and fresh limejuice. Jaquie just excluded the mayo. I've had sweeter corn, but the combination of ingredients made for a great start to the feeding frenzy.

Next stop, a walk-up Colombian establishment, Los Chuzos y Algo Mas, located on the northeast corner of 79th street and Roosevelt Ave. The name translates to Skewers and Something Else; in this case, the something else was typical Colombian fruit juice. Though guanabana (soursop) was on the menu, I decided to go with mora en leche (blackberry milkshake). Jaquie had the pineapple juice that seemed to disappear like any other drink that has ever been at her arms length, given her habit to drink very fast. Colombian juices are made from a wide variety of fruits, some of which are not well known in the US. The less known ones are guanabana, tomate de arbol (tamarillo), lulo (no translation). Reason enough to visit paradise.

The chuzo (meat on a skewer) was marinated mainly with cilantro and lime. The meat was tender and will take down the typical New York shish kebab any day of the week. It's served with a small arepa and tasty on its own; yet we couldn’t resist drenching it in hot sauce and golf sauce, which is just ketchup combined with mayonnaise. We Colombians are obsessed with mixing mayo and ketchup.

On the way back we decided to try the tacos at Taqueria Coatzingo 40-18 82nd street. Loaded with guacamole and served with delicious chips and great salsa. The tacos scored a 7 out of 10 on Jaquie’s authenticity scale. I give them two guac-covered thumbs up. We split a glass of Horchata, a cold drink made from rice, almonds, cinnamon and vanilla. It made Jaquie smile like a kid in a candy store, clearly scoring a perfect 10.

Overall we spent about $24. We barely even touched the tip of the iceberg on Roosevelt Avenue. Definitely much more to explore!

Where’s your favorite latin food street vendor??