I knew, in a general way, that there were a lot of taquerias in Bushwick, and that you could find freshly-made tortillas there, as well. But living so close to Sunset Park has spoiled me for choices, and Bushwick is kind of out of my way, and I wasn’t sure which streets had the taquerias and which the annoyingly young, beautiful and hip people . . . and so I procrastinated.
This, I’ve decided, is the summer that I’m going to get to know Bushwick a little better. Its reputation for coolness has scared me away in the past, along with the convoluted subway connections between here and there. On the other hand, it has fantastic street art and abundant Mexican and Ecuadorian food choices. It also turns out to be easy to bike to, with Citibike stations aplenty.
What this means, among other things, is that you can expect more food posts in the near future. In the meantime, feast your eyes on these works, illuminating the side of a wholesale meat market on Stockholm Street at Myrtle Avenue.
Ba Xuyen, a modest storefront on Sunset Park’s 8th Avenue, was a favorite of the old Outer Boroughs crowd at Chowhound (the plug has been mercifully pulled on the sad remnants of that site), which became a personal favorite when I moved to Brooklyn. Katie shared my enthusiasm – to the extent that in the waning days of her college semester in Spain, she had just one request. When we picked her up at JFK, could we please bring a grilled pork banh mi and a honeydew milk tea from Ba Xuyen?
We obliged, of course.
And yet, for various reasons that didn’t amount to much individually, but slowly added up, several years had gone by since my last visit. There was the time I was craving a banh mi, but for some reason couldn’t find the storefront (it’s nothing if not unobtrusive) and settled for sesame pancakes from the dumpling place instead. Then the pandemic grounded me. When my Sunset Park visits resumed, I generally headed for the southern end of the 8th Avenue strip, drawn by the markets there, and only worked my way as far north as Yun Nan Flavour Garden or Wong Wong Noodle Soup.
In other words, I was overdue for the banh mi that has forever ruined all other banh mi’s for me.
Last weekend, the National Audubon Society teamed up with the group Runstreet to host a running tour of the Audubon Murals in Upper Manhattan. Let’s see . . . an event that combines running, birds and street art? Sign me up!
And so, only slightly challenged by weekend train schedules, I headed across the East River and up, up, uptown to the Harlem Public at Broadway and W. 149th. A small crowd of participants had already gathered – easily recognized, first, by the fact that they were milling around outside a closed bar at 9 o’clock on a Sunday morning, and second, by their mix of running and bird-themed apparel. As we arrived, a preternaturally cheerful organizer checked us off from her list of registrants. New arrivals continued to trickle in, muttering about “trains” (the all-purpose NYC excuse for tardiness), until someone decided that it was time to get started.
First, though, some background on the Audubon Mural Project, echoing the introduction provided to us by Avi Gitler, a local gallery owner and project coordinator. The ambitious goal is to depict all of the more than 300 North American birds threatened with extinction because of climate change. Eight years into the effort, the count has reached 138, spread across 100 murals, mostly in Upper Manhattan – where John James Audubon was once a major landowner, and where he is buried in the cemetery of Trinity Church.
On Memorial Day, I mixed up my running routine by heading out of Prospect Park to the north, in a general Prospect Heights/Crown Heights direction. With spring migration winding down, I figured it was high time to start reacquainting myself with the less birdy sections of my borough (though as we know, birds are everywhere). And so I meandered through Grand Army Plaza, around the glassy Richard Meier building with the prestigious “1” address, then north on Underhill and east on Park Place. Eventually I hit the complicated intersection where Park Place and Washington and Grand avenues converge to define a small triangle. The triangle is surrounded by a construction fence decorated by multiple artists.
Naturally, I paused to snap photos of my favorite panels:
Having just arrived in Puebla on Friday, I can’t claim to know much about the city (other than the fact that El Carmen on Calle 16 de Septiembre makes incredible cemitas), and there’s certainly beautiful, funny and provocative art to be seen driving into the main bus station, or walking around the Centro Histórico. But if there’s a more extensive – and stunning – display than the one found in Ciudad Mural in the Barrio de Xanenetla…well, I’d be surprised.
Eric and I arrived in Mexico City yesterday afternoon. In our first 24 hours in the city, we consumed tacos al pastor; de arrachera; de costillas con nopales…not to mention tostadas topped with a startling variety of sea creatures.
At the beginning of the last century, Sunset Park was home to radical Finnish immigrants who set about constructing a cooperative alternative to capitalism. It’s nice to see that spirit endure today – in a different language, of course, the Finns having mostly moved on.
A few more snapshots from around the neighborhood follow.
Sometimes, it’s not enough to park in the bike lane, or in the crosswalk . . . or perhaps all the bike lane and crosswalk parking is already taken. In that case, some Brooklyn motorists see no problem hopping the curb to claim a sidewalk spot.
Not only is sidewalk parking problematic for pedestrians, it also blocks one’s view of cool street art, like this mural in Gowanus. I did my best, but the between the silver Nissan on the sidewalk and the truck parked curbside, it was challenging to capture everything going on in the work.
Please don’t treat this as some sort of “bizarre foods” gross-out post. The “head” in tacos de cabeza doesn’t stare back at you or anything like that. It’s nothing more than shreds of meat painstakingly removed from the head of a roasted animal, then steamed to melting tenderness.
Nothing more, but also nothing less; while I normally go for strong flavors and crunch and char, I’ve come to appreciate the unadorned, unctuous meatiness of cabeza. It’s my go-to order from the Tacos El Bronco truck stationed on Fifth Av between 37th and 38th streets, across from the Jackie Gleason Bus Depot in Sunset Park. Taking advantage of a thaw in the weather and (mostly) clear sidewalks, that’s where I went for lunch today.