"Just to name a few!" If you read English but not Chinese, only the tagline and the price are immediately intelligible. After a moment you might gather, since this sign stands outside a cafe, that it's a menu board, and by matching the price on the sign to the big red type in the window, you might then deduce that it names a list of lunch specials. A few of them, anyway.
Of course the menu board might spell out the bill of fare in English, too, or restrict itself to Chinese. Instead it offers an example of code-switching — a shift by a multilingual author or speaker between two or more languages, each expressed idiomatically rather than in translation — which in this context suggests a young, American-born staff. (I wouldn't expect such a sign in the eastern sprawl of Manhattan's Chinatown, for example, where many proprietors are recent immigrants from Fujian province and speak an English just as labored as my Mandarin.) Indeed, when I entered Kato Cafe, the countergals greeted me in an easy English, though perhaps for the sake of expediency they also offered a printed menu, fully translated, of Hong Kong-style light bites. After another visit, when I haven't just risen from a large group lunch, I'll have the appetite to offer you more particulars.
Like the short-lived original Teacher's, which was swallowed in the early 1980s by a Zabar's expansion one block to the south, Teacher's Too offered "international cuisine specially prepared to your order at moderate prices." By one account, in fact, the fare was "vaguely Oriental." Teacher's Too closed after a fire in 1996.
Teacher's Too Surviving signage, 2271 Broadway (West 81st-West 82nd Sts.), Manhattan
In English we have bread, cookies, and cakes; in Polish, chleb, ciastka, and ciasta. No translation is needed, however, for espresso and cappuccino (though a spell-checker couldn't hurt). The names of these two beverages are loanwords, which are rendered in the recipient languages just as they are in the donor language.
"Loan," some linguists maintain, is misleading, since the original spelling is appropriated rather than borrowed with the expectation of return. Payback, however, can take many forms, in this case through the acknowledgement of the preeminence of Italian coffee culture. The local Polish-American community offers a culinary return, too: On the largely Italian-American menu, several items that include sausage also have a kielbasa analog. I have my eyes on a hot sub with kielbasa, peppers, and onions.
Axutla, a small town in southwestern Puebla, Mexico, sits on one winding bank of the Rio Mixteco. Along the even-more-winding roads in that mountainous part of the country, by car it's about a half-hour, online maps tell me, from Tehuitzingo to the north or Tulcingo de Valle to the south. I haven't made the drive in either direction and (owing to unfortunate timing) haven't tried Bravo's pan de Axutla, either. I can't tell you, then, if it's all that different from other Mexican bread or if an American pizza oven does it justice.
Note, however, the owners' attempt to stand out from the crowd, in this case a crowd of Poblano restaurants and shops, by signaling the availability of a hyperlocal specialty. (In New York, which has attained Fujianese critical mass, Min Jiang Mini Cafe makes similar hometown appeals.) The illustration of the Iglesia de San Miguel, the one structure of any prominence in Axutla, is a charming touch — especially the birds that might have taken flight as the church bells began to ring.
Bravo's Pizzeria and Restaurant 112 Market St. (Mercer-Bergen Sts.), Passaic, New Jersey 973-777-1168
The Droste effect — in which an image contains a smaller version of itself, which in turn contains a still smaller version, and so on — was popularized by and named for a Dutch confectioner. In theory this recursiveness could go on endlessly; in practice it's constrained by space, by the resolution of the image, and by the resolving abilities of the human eye.
A blocklong outer wall is prime Droste territory, especially when it sports a collage dedicated to an American chocolatier. The inset shown in the second photo, however, doesn't take full advantage: It depicts what you might call the autographed corner of the building, nothing more.
Madelaine Chocolate Novelties 9603 Beach Channel Dr. (Beach 96th-Beach 97th Sts.), Rockaway Beach, Queens (Mural on the Rockaway Fwy. side of the main building, one of a complex) 718-945-1500 www.MadelaineChocolate.com
At certain sunny times of day when the blinds are set just right, the signage by the front door suggests, inadvertently, a lenticular ad — the sort that changes its appearance as you change your point of view. So, too, with the menus. Originally, citing one bill of fare, I'd written that daily dim sum service begins at 4:00. However, a separate dim sum menu, the sort with boxes to be ticked off, gives hours of 11:30-3:30 daily and lists even more items. Thanks for the fact-check, Anne!
Silver Pond 230 Main St. (Gerome-Center Aves.), Fort Lee, New Jersey 201-592-8338