Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I’ll just trust my feet to find the sunset song

Sunday tutoring concluded, I meandered over to a restaurant I’d been meaning to try. I was hardly a trailblazer here: I learned of the place from an email from a fellow foodie friend, who read about it on a website that compiles “best of” foods from some other blogs…and I received my friend’s email several months ago, no less. Still, I felt I was staking out unknown territory: walk straight south from 826, and 5th Avenue bleeds into mysterious untapped landscapes. After leaving behind the gradually shading-off commercial opulence of Park Slope, you encounter about half a mile of Greenwood Cemetery, an MTA depot, a mysterious fence-shrouded lot, and finally the Hispanic portion of Sunset Park, to which I made my quest.

Exactly two miles out, I pushed open the door of Tacos Xochimilco and ordered a carnitas torta. It materialized in short order, at which point I stopped at a vendor with a friendly rainbow umbrella to pick up a hibiscus drink before doubling back to the hilly Sunset Park itself to eat. And how! This sandwich was definitely one of my top ten sandwiches ever, as I described it to my mother (prompting the inevitable, what are the other nine; a question for another day…)

A torta is always an experience, really. I got hooked when I tried one at Reading Terminal Market a couple years back; unfortunately, though the vendor still exists, it stopped serving tortas after my first lucky order. So I've developed the habit of looking for a replacement. Time Out NY wrote up a place in my neighborhood which is okay; I had a pretty good (and enormous) torta in SF…but nothing wonderful. ’til now! Somehow all Xochimilco’s ingredients combine into perfection: there’s the bread, barely containing the pork, slightly melted queso blanco, avocado, tomato, shredded lettuce, a healthy dose of jalapenos, onions, and beans that threaten to overwhelm the flimsy wrapping at any moment. I’d asked for it to be just a little bit spicy and it delivered just right. Though it’s a crazy-dense sandwich, it was gone before I knew it. Delicious.

And, oh, the view from that park. I have never been somewhere so scenic. The dimming of the day in mist: Look! The river, New Jersey, Governor’s Island, the Statue of Liberty, the Williamsburg Bank Tower, the Manhattan skyline, the bridges—everything. I couldn’t believe that the long grasping arm of gentrification hadn’t interceded (other than through interlopers such as your faithful narrator); instead, it’s street vendors, little restaurants, old-school hardware store signs, kids running around the park setting off bottle rockets, chasing each other’s bikes, swinging on swings too little for them (how I wished one had been free for me). I don’t know if the park (and the neighborhood) was named for times such as this evening—but surely it must have been.

As the sky darkened, I made my way uphill to Seventh Avenue to sneak a shortcut home through Brooklyn’s triangulation (magically, if you hit it right, 36th Street deadends into 20th or so, a source of constant surprise). On the park’s far side, I spotted the Pizza on the Park Café. Oh, that accent aigu. The sign of gentrification after all.


  1. ooooooooh. now i want a torta. sadly, i am mired in Denver, staring wistfully at pricey salads, one of which i will no doubt purchase consume before i depart.

  2. I hope you will eat one for me in the Mission in my absence!