This was as heady a rum cake (slice, $3.50) as you'll ever find under bell glass. (Good thing I already had a full lunch on my stomach.) It bodes well for a Haitian menu that promises comprehensive use of fresh seasonings. Sour orange? Please.
Washington, D.C., has a decades-old Ethiopian community, and the district is home to more Ethiopians than any other U.S. city. But their cuisine has been notably resistant to Americanization, according to one D.C.-based food writer. "Why [has] no enterprising local chef come along and attempted to Westernize the Ethiopian meal," he asked. Allow Tsion (See-on) to offer a brief reply.
"Shorba," one transliteration of many from Arabic, simply means "soup." It shares a section of the menu with split lentil soup and several meat broths, each of which, back home, might also be called a shorba of one sort or another. A parenthetical "Yemeni style" adds no clarity for newcomers like me — the restaurant itself is Yemeni style.
It's made with barley, the menu does note, and so perhaps is a year-round variation on shorba qamah, a wheat soup typically served during Ramadan. Winning factors in its favor: low price ($2), lots of barley well-dosed with chopped onion, and enticing aromas that rose with the steam when my shorba arrived at the table.
Note, by the way, the incongruous pattern on the plate. In light of the television programming this afternoon, the wall hangings, and the framed photographs, all of them in accord with the handwritten Arabic signage at the counter, these markings can be taken simply as a sign of frugality. For all I know, the Yemeni equivalent of Fish's Eddy might carry Chinese-themed overstock, too.
Below: mushakal bilforn ($8), baked vegetables with rice (or, if you prefer, bread). Like the soup, this was steaming when it arrived.
Queen Sheeba Restaurant 317 West 141st St. (Edgecombe Ave.-Frederick Douglass Blvd.), Manhattan 212-862-6149
Faded lettering, shown on the 124th St. side of this blocklong building, marks a former Kress 5-10-25 cent store. The far side of the building (not shown) is home to a T-shirt and sneaker outlet, one of many along the 125th St. corridor. The massive barrel vault, however, is a legacy of an older and much grander establishment.
The Pabst Harlem Music Hall and Restaurant opened its doors in 1900. Like the Pabst Hotel, built one year earlier on the site of present-day Times Square, the Pabst Harlem figured in a nationwide marketing program to identify the brewery with prestige properties and advance "the cause of Pabst beer." A contemporary postcard view reveals a restaurant that could accommodate 1,400 customers at once, all dining in grand fashion. The PBR would be flowing, too, you'd imagine, though perhaps only in a side room off the glamorous main hall.
The Pabst Harlem closed in 1917, not long before the advent of Prohibition.
Pabst Harlem Music Hall and Restaurant 243 West 124th St. (Frederick Douglass-Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvds.), Manhattan
Midday meatloaf, stuffing, and collard greens ($8.50). The meatloaf, especially, could have been much better seasoned; even the finely chopped collards were tweaked only with a little onion.
Better to have arrived at the cafeteria earlier, for the Sunday-only breakfast service that offers the likes of salmon cakes, chicken livers, and stewed apples, or later, when opportunistic food vendors by the entrance, downstairs, had kicked into gear. One was grilling ribs; another was setting our sweet potato pie.
United House of Prayer for All People 2320 Frederick Douglass Blvd. (124th-125th Sts.), Manhattan 212-531-4418
Both these signs are still posted on the same block of St. Nicholas Ave., which cuts diagonally through southern Harlem. It's easy to understand the attraction for outdoor grillers: The broad sidewalk on the west side of the avenue gets good shade throughout the afternoon. And at one time an awning, probably meant to shelter a stoopline stand but now gone like the market that raised it, would also have provided protection from pop-up showers on days when the business was closed.
There's no blanket prohibition, however, against every kind of summer fun. How about ball playing?
"No cooking" St. Nicholas Ave. between West 114th and West 115th Sts., Manhattan
"Try this pudding in a leaf," the flyer urges. Duckunoo and blue draws are two names, each with several variations, for this Jamaican confection, but for the nonce let's employ the prosaic yet charming appellation tie-a-leaf ($3). Steamed and untied, the pudding — made from "cornmeal, coconut, spices, and sugar" — exposed many moist, glistening bits that had insinuated themselves in the wrapper leaves, and that didn't go a-begging. The bulk of the tie-a-leaf had a grainier texture, perhaps an unavoidable artifact of the cornmeal; the shop's sweet potato style might be another story.