I'm not sure what's more curious about this Korean-Mexican menu item — that the churros are apparently oven-baked rather than deep-fried, or that someone has given so much thought to how a hands-on, grab-and-go food should be properly plated. Seen in passing, not yet sampled.
The departure of a Sleepy's mattress store and renovations for an incoming urgent-care center exposed these traceries of the famed kosher dairy restaurant (est. 1905, moved here 1918, closed 2004). What looks like lettering, however, may never have been visible during the restaurant's long run. More likely this is the silhouette, highlighted by subsequent touch-up paint jobs, of the boxy metal trays that held the letters of Ratner's neon sign.
See also this menu, from 1987, and tell me you wouldn't like a little nesselrode pie.
Ratner's Surviving signage, 138 Delancey St. (Norfork-Suffolk Sts.), Manhattan (As of April 2015, no longer extant)
When I first spotted the curious label "public grocery," my mind ran to the sort of public market where shoppers once purchased fresh foodstuffs from multiple pushcart vendors. Nowadays, in New York, the indoor Essex Street Market and the outdoor Greenmarkets continue to fill the bill. The term "public market" itself, which until recent years was on the verge of becoming quaint, has been rehabilitated as a hallmark of civic virtue, in contrast to the (perceived) narrow self-interest of private parties.
The corner establishment shown here is, of course, a privately owned, for-profit enterprise (and all power to them; margins are low). I've stopped by, during the summer, for a cold can of soda, but on a more recent, winter, visit I couldn't bring myself to venture a cup of hotplate coffee. The current signage was installed at some indeterminate time after Mom & Sons got out of the restaurant business, decades ago, perhaps by the owners of Peace World Newsstand — a name long since effaced from the awning.
Current management isn't chatty. If there's a story behind "public grocery," perhaps the way to tease it out is to spend a few minutes by the counter while warming my hands on a cup of that coffee. I can take small sips.
It's an eye-catching storefront, even if the menu has no evident culinary connection with the namesake emirate. In particular, a "Dubai burger," though made with halal beef, otherwise seems to be nothing more than your usual well-dressed half-pounder. Perhaps the shop's name is a case of wishful thinking, or perhaps it's an homage to the owner's home country. The counterman this day was simply an employee, from Syria, and I didn't press the inquiry.
In the Andes, "ojotas" (oh-Hoh-tas), or sandals, usually connote a thrift-minded alternative to factory-made shoes. Originally they were fashioned from leather; rubber from recycled tires was used as early as the 1920s and is the default today. The ojotas and the feather — perhaps an eagle feather? — suggest a fellow who proudly identifies himself with Peru's indigenous population, or simply with country folk, and who hungers for good cooking without affectation. The roasted body of a second bird, held aloft, would be a morbid touch if not for those big blue eyes. See also chullo-wearing chicken.
This sighting was a surprise. Previously on EIT, I've noted that M&M Obama Deli, Obama Country Deli, and Obama Fried Chicken all have closed their doors. Their fate, however, was probably tied less to the president's approval rating than to the volatility of small businesses in general, and food-related businesses in particular. All three shuttered establishments took up the Obama name at least five years ago — an eternity in many New York neighborhoods nowadays — for the president's first term. This deli-grocery opened only in 2013, during his second.
Also shown, from just down the street: the Highland Park Carniceria Deli, a.k.a. Sandwich Heaven, and the Survival Grocery Deli.
Obama 44 Deli & Grocery 3076 Fulton St. (Shepherd Ave.-Highland Pl.), Cypress Hills, Brooklyn
These wheels aren't functional in the usual sense — note the leafy debris beginning to accumulate beneath the tires, which are snugged up against the facade of a brick-and-mortar building — but they aren't simply decorative, either. At one time this business was run from a food truck, with a menu that surely featured the namesake Dominican sandwich. (I've never been a big fan, myself, of the classic chimichurri, but I do have fond memories of a certain chimi burger.) As at the El Tapatio "truck" in Richmond, California, the proprietors of Rico Chimi are laying claim to street cred.
Rico Chimi 8001 Atlantic Ave. (at 80th St.), Woodhaven, Queens 347-644-5343 Also, without wheels, at 2928 Atlantic Ave. (Warwick-Ashford Sts.), Cypress Hills, Brooklyn 347-715-7272
My early investigations into yaroa, three years ago, revealed very little. Empanadas Monumental, which by all accounts brought this heavily layered Dominican dish to Upper Manhattan, has roots in the provincial capital of Santiago de los Caballeros — Santiago, in common speech. There, I've since discovered, yaroa became a beloved nighttime street food at the turn of the last century.
Caridad offers a domesticated rendition, a casserole, albeit one topped with mayoketchup. (I haven't partaken.) Though "Santiaguera" identifies it with the D.R.'s second city, the original dish may be named for an outlying town where a home cook first prepared it for family and friends: Gurabito de Yaroa. The word "yaroa" itself is in Taíno, a language spoken by some of the indigenous inhabitants of the region; its meaning is a mystery, to me.