Bushwick: A Latin American Buffet
[Editor's note: The following six paragraphs were from the writer's original edit of this Bushwick Daily article - which were not included, sadly, in the final version. Enjoy!]
First of all, the superficial nature of this, a cursory survey of a group of Bushwick restaurants that constitute a kind of Latin American “buffet,” cannot be overemphasized. It is the smooth rock skipping over the glassy surface of Lake Titicaca, the long, curved knife yielding a razor thin curl of orange-red meat as it runs down the length of an al pastor trompo in Mexico City.
Neither is this a list for completists. Because there are, indeed, a few absentees - some conspicuous, others more understandable - on the diverse Bushwick landscape of Latin American food in all its dizzying variety. (We recognize that “Latin American” constitutes an egregious oversimplification that paints several distinct food traditions with one brush, but what can we say? People love categories).
Alert readers correct me if I’m wrong, but the famously meat-heavy cuisine of Argentina, so pleasing to easily-overwhelmed gringo palates, is nowhere to be found within the 11237. Long, slender Chile is likewise absent, although there is little mystery as to why: per a quick Google search, a serious jones for expressly “Chilean” food, for which there is little demand, requires arduous pilgrimages to either North Bergen, New Jersey, North Corona, Queens, or Oyster Bay 30 miles from Bushwick on Long Island. That’s a long way to go for one of Latin America’s least distinguished culinary offerings.
Other, much more lamentable gaps include Guatemala, whose cuisine provides a bridge between the starch-heavy of Central America and Mexico’s famously complex table, and Brazil, a massive piece of South American real estate represented in Bushwick not by a Churrascaria, but by an organic cafe peddling acai bowls and other healthy (yawn) options.
On the other hand, some fairly underrepresented national cuisines are given their due in Bushwick, including Salvadorean and Honduran, balancing out the overwhelming dominance of the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Ecuador.
So in the great self-deprecating tradition of Jewish humor, we cop to the dilettante-ish nature of this contrived buffet, cobbled together for the grazing pleasure of both food and geography enthusiasts. Furthermore, should you embark on a food tour of the neighborhood using this article as a guide, be aware that the majority of the here-in cataloged establishments are a basic, no-bullshit nature; don’t expect any reinterpretations, deconstructions, implosions or inversions of, say, the pupusa, empanada, lomo saltado or alcapurria. Also, know that some establishments plays fast and loose with “authenticity” (see entry on Mexican food) and that the term “Spanish Food,” which you will sometimes see grace many a restaurant’s frontage, has little to do with food from the Iberian Peninsula east of Portugal. It’s an adorable anachronism we suspect dates back to the days when “Oriental” was an acceptable ethnic descriptor.
Percentage of Bushwick’s Hispanic residents: 20.9% (Statisticatlas.com)
While in the context of Latin American food Mexican cuisine is unparalleled in its complexity and variety, just two things...click here to read the full article.