As a wild food, cattails are both common and difficult to misidentify. A stand of cattails — in which young shoots grow among last year's stalks, many still topped by their distinctive fluffy seed heads — is as close as you'll get to finding a wild supermarket. The "tails" themselves aren't edible but can be burned as torches or tinder, or used as insulation. The stripped seed heads below might suggest that nest-building season has begun.
Cattails Along the Harlem Meer, Central Park, Manhattan
Basic one-dollar Mexican gelatinas, which typically are prepared from packaged mixes. More-elaborate renditions might add nuts, or mix variously colored cubes in what appears to be a creamy base, though this is generally gelatized, too.
From a showcase that also included vanilla, chocolate, grape, lime, and pistachio, among many other choices, I went for the strawberry, which had the color if not the full flavor of Bonomo.
Gelatina cart East 116th St. near the southwest corner with First Ave., Manhattan Encountered on a weekend afternoon; hours unknown
One rib and two riblets, surely cooked and trimmed indoors, were sticky with a sweet glaze, and chewy. Rice and beans would have been dry but for the offer (accepted) of thin beef gravy ladled on top. Costillas a la BBQ (lunch special, $5).
Lechonera Tropical & Grill (previously known as Lechonera El Barrio Restaurant) 172 East 103rd St. (Lexington-Third Aves.), Manhattan 212-722-1344
Tortas de papa are sometimes likened to latkes or hash browns. When served in a taco ($2), however, the texture is closer to tater tot; this one was flattish, but not so flat that I could easily fold my taco in two.
Pueblan taco stand Lexington Ave. near the northeast corner with 117th St., Manhattan
In the Mexican state of Morelos, a neighbor of Puebla, hardboiled egg is a common taco supplement, and "acorazado" — "battleship" — is a catch-all term for heavily loaded menu items. It's not a name I had at the ready when I first sighted the previous fellow's torta de papa taco with rice, egg, and rajas ($3), but a nod in his direction helped me secure the same.
Morelense taco stand Lexington Ave. near the northwest corner with 116th St., Manhattan
The pitmaster used to be a saucier, said my server, offering a back story for the sweet-tart granny smith sauce on this beef brisket (platter, $17). "Hand sliced beef brisket," the menu took care to specify up front. The egg salad included a little bacon, the sauteed cabbage, somewhat more.
Cod is the namesake of the bacalaito ($1.50), a Puerto Rican fritura whose oily texture owes nothing to omega-3s. It's delicious for that very reason. But give it a chance to breathe before you bite; it's no "cold fish fritter," as the takeout menu would have you believe.
116 St. Cuchifrito 168 East 116th St. (Lexington-Third Aves.), New York 212-876-4846
It's still higher than an elephant's eye, but the two remaining floors of this 1880s structure are stubble compared to its once-proud seven storeys. At first the building reportedly offered luxury apartments on its upper floors and housed the Mount Morris Bank below. The financial institution that arrived afterward operated as a retail bank, and there's no indication that grains were ever traded on the premises. But if they had been, imagine the possibilities: In 1954, Chemical Bank merged with the Corn Exchange Bank Trust Company, adopting the name, which lasted till a 1959 merger, of the Chemical Corn Exchange Bank.
Corn Exchange Bank Surviving two floors at 81 East 125th St. (at Park Ave.)