South Of The Border On Roosevelt Avenue – QNS.com

South Of The Border On Roosevelt Avenue

The wilted balloons drooping behind running children, the crowd of people craning their necks to see a street performer dancing wildly with a mannequin to salsa music, the smell of hot corn on the cob slathered in mayonnaise and various meats tucked into tacos and drowned in hot saucea passerby might swear theyre witnessing a scene from a plaza deep in the heart of Mexico.
Roosevelt Avenue produces this illusion each Sunday afternoon, until the roar of the No. 7 train above drowns out the music and shouts of children. But duck into one of the restaurants painted in red, white and green and you can extend your imaginary vacation a bit longer.
The Mexican restaurants that line Roosevelt Avenue from the 50s to the 90s are nearly identical to their counterparts south of the border, and offer a haven whether you miss your mothers cooking or have never tried a down-home Mexican meal.
Most of the cuisine is tailored to appeal to Poblanos, or residents of the southern state of Puebla, who are the majority of New Yorks Mexican immigrant population. This means hearty bowls of pozole, a thick stew of hominy corn and pork topped with lettuce, radishes, raw onions and plenty of lime, smoky barbacoa, or barbecued goat, stacked on tostadas or wrapped in hot corn tortillas, and arguably the best dish of Mexican cuisine, chicken smothered in mole poblano. Mole, which comes from the Spanish word moler (to grind) is a thick black sauce made of chocolate, chile peppers, tomatoes and anything else the cook can find on the shelves of their kitchen, including bread, peanuts, onions and garlic. Done right, it can take a day to prepare.
Hand-written flourescent posters also advertise the various ingredients for tacos, some not for the faint of stomach. Tripe and tongue are favorites for the home-town crowd, but tacos al pastor, spicy pork with pineapple, are a good choice for beginners. Meat can also be stuffed in huaraches, thick tortillas that derive their name from the indigenous word for sandal because of their long, shoe-like shape, and in tortas, sandwiches on a roll, or a cemita, the tortas giant cousin.
The shy waitresses often speak only Spanish, but pointing works for those who dont speak the language or when the juke box comes on every half hour, blasting the latest Mana song and drowning out all conversations and the soccer game on TV.
Mexican delis, often attached to the restaurants, provide all the supplies for cooks ready to do it themselves. Spices hanging from ceiling to floor combat the scent of raw chorizo in one tiny grocery store where you can also buy comals (pans for cooking tortillas), molinos (stone bowls for grinding), and other sundry items, like statues of the Virgin of Guadalupe and bags of real chicharron (pork rinds). Finally, pick from a rainbow of sugary sodas in mango, guava or tamarind flavor to wash it all down.
E-mail this reporter at sarah@queenscourier.com.

More from Around New York