Founded in Manhattan at the turn of the 20th century, Schorsch & Co., "paper bag manufacturers," relocated in 1913 and operated here, in the Bronx, until going out of business in 1951. The company's kraft-paper sacks were marketed to the trade for packing items in bulk: "coffee, spices, rice, beans, nuts, or any loose groceries." On a more personal scale, smaller sacks were, and still are, useful for brown-bagging lunch if things head south.
Sierra Leonean food, Guinean style, was the summation of a fellow customer ordering two dishes to go. He was much more expansive than the counterwoman on the breadth of West African cuisine, especially as prepared near the permeable jungle border between Sierra Leone (the country of his birth) and Guinea (hers, reportedly). He also intimated that my cassava-leaf sauce ($10) was enriched, not by palm oil, but by some coconut product. I was unable to verify this, but my tastebuds, tentatively, concurred.
Unfamiliar businesses sometimes offer too many temptations to choose from. At bakeries, in the absence of other compelling intel, usually I'm partial to the pastries that are selling fastest. As with éclairs, so with these curados, which were prepared from a spirit called pitorro — in particular, the rightmost two jugs. One had been infused with Cafe Bustelo, the other, with "regular American" coffee, according to the counterwoman. Which would you reckon was more enticing, the half-full jug scented with an aromatic dark roast, or its nearly full companion whose long-undisturbed cap required a helping hand to open?
In its native Puerto Rico, where pitorro is often concocted on the q.t., "moonshine rum" is a common moniker. At this Bronx business, pitorro is produced on the up-and-up; indeed, since the makers are licensed as a farm distillery, they are required to use New York State corn, apples, and honey, in combination with brown sugar. That in-state pedigree comes with a privilege that surprised me on a Saturday afternoon (one recent summer, photo below): the right to offer tastings of distilled spirits at an outdoor farmers market.
Port Morris Distillery 780 East 133rd St. (Willow-Walnut Aves.) Port Morris, Bronx 718-585-3192 www.PortMorrisDistillery.com Closed Monday and Tuesday
From the successor to the superb Bangladeshi restaurant Neerob, now closed, here's a once-over of the "Indian & Bengali cuisine" at Al-Aqsa: vegetables, fish, and a typically palate-cleansing salad. Although the dining room remains busy, some of the mustard-oil shine seems to have come off; follow-up visit indicated.
A is not for "apartment house" with a commercial tenant tucked in the prow; A is for "Aztec architecture" enlivened by a chile-pepper apostrophe. As you've guessed, the deli counter focuses on Mexican fare. (A supplemental menu offers Dominican lunch specials, also prepared by an able hand; shards of concon, hidden behind the counter, await those who know to ask.) The edifice of my torta de lengua con todo ($7), a beef tongue sandwich with the works, was demolished in short order.
Andrea's Deli Grocery 1182 West Farms Rd. (at Home St.), Foxhurst, Bronx 718-589-2409
The owners of R&B, the deli-grocery that provides a kitchen for Mike, come from Yemen; though their bus-stop location doesn't preclude Yemeni dishes, sandwiches and sodas are a much easier sell. Mike himself hails from Antigua, but in the South Bronx, his home island's cuisine might not attract many regular customers. Jamaican is his meal ticket, and this afternoon it was mine, too: I carried off a portion of curry goat (small, $7) ladled over rice and red beans, plus cabbage and assorted vegetables. The curry itself was heavy with well-sauced chunks of meat and potatoes — even a marrow bone.
Also shown: Mike's logo, featuring the flags of both Antigua and Jamaica, and a closer look at surviving signage, across the way, for an electronics store. The many-hued plug for "color TV" (at the bottom of the yellow panel; click for a still-closer view) suggests a 1960s vintage.
Autumn leaves and buffet takeout: red rib tips and golden plaintains atop garlicky green beans (pint container plus a can of soda, $3.75). The food, what little I've tried — I was compelled by the electric sheen of the glazed pork — is notable mainly for quantity at low prices. The photo backdrop was a happy coincidence.
Previously: The signboard man shown below is an audio man, too. Like his colleagues in the touristy districts of Manhattan, he's steering customers from the main drag — in this case Fordham Rd., in the Bronx — to an otherwise obscure place of business down a side street. But rather than shout into the wind for hours at a stretch, he's wearing a small loudspeaker from which a female voice beckons, "Merry Land buffet, all you can eat, check it out," cycling from English to Spanish and back again.
The same message plays from a full-sized speaker outside the storefront, which previously was home to an old-school Chino-Latino joint called Haylemon. The current proprietors are Chinese, too, though on this afternoon their customers were exclusively black and Hispanic. The place was packed.
Merry Land 325 East 149th St (Morris-Courtlandt Aves.), Melrose, Bronx 718-665-6568 511 East 163rd St. (Washington-Third Aves.), Morrisania, Bronx 718-292-3411 2496 Elm Pl. (East Fordham Rd.-East 188th St.), Fordham, Bronx 718-220-8588
Most days this West African steam table ($6 per pound) employs two cooks, from two countries. On this afternoon the chief contribution by the Senegalese cook was a bluefish thiebou djeun (not shown), a dish that rarely looks photogenic except when plated to order in the back of the house, by someone who knows her business. The Guinean cook had prepared several sauces, heavy with beef (and perhaps a little lamb) and rich in palm oil. Best of these were two shown here, based on okra and on sweet potato leaves.
As for the meatballs, these were humdrum in appearance but very enticing on the tongue: The minced chicken had mingled with peanut butter and ginger. I don't know which cook gets the credit.