Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Taking the Trini Challenge

Taking the Trini (and Guyanese) Challenge - A comparison of Nostrand and Liberty Avenues
For chowhounds, travel can be both blessing and curse. A natural result of the food-hunting bug, travel becomes necessary as one's tastes mature - becoming more esoteric, rarified - and less easily satisfied in one's own backyard. Finding a good Chinese restaurant in your neighborhood? That can be difficult. Finding good Peruvian, South African, or (god forbid) Sir Lankan...? Now that can be a bitch - even if you're lucky enough to live in the East Village. It's enough to make you want to move to Queens.

But there's a positive side as well, especially for native New Yorkers stuck in their home-turf ruts. Whether its stinky tofu, or Es Campur, searching for that elusive dish can be just the impetus needed to get us off our collective butts, out of our boroughs - and into the rest of this place known as New York City. It's a big place - and we really ought to see more of it than just Manhattan.

On this occasion, the craving was for Trinidadian food: an urge to sample Shark and Bake, Cassava Balls - and find out just what the heck Bagani was... The web wasn't telling, and the Bronx sure wasn't providing. There was only one cure for it all - to whip out the unlimited Metro Card and head toward the wilds known as Brooklyn and Queens. Specifically, Nostrand/Utica and Liberty Avenues - located towards the ends of the 3 and the A. It must have been temporary insanity. From the Bronx, Canal Street is far enough. Riding the A train to the end? Now that's just nuts. But what could I do? It was a craving - and it had to be satisfied. The result: an impromptu walking tour of competing neighborhoods, a survey ultimately taking two weeks to complete.

The first weekend belonged to Brooklyn - with a sampling of Nostrand and Utica Avenues. Targeted locations included Patsy's Authentic Trinidad on Utica, Trinidad Roti Shop and Trinidad Golden Palace Restaurant - picks culled from chowhound, citysearch, menupages and (of course) Robert Sietsema. Yet the vibe seemed off, and the menus uninspired - filled with nothing more exotic than average offerings of roti, a little macaroni pie - and the occasional jerk chicken. Nothing that White Plains road couldn't have provided...and with a friendlier atmosphere. You don't get a very welcoming feel on Nostrand Avenue - at least not on that day. Or was it just me?

The second weekend belonged to Queens - a lengthy trip to the last stop of the A, at Lefferts Boulevard. A long ride - but worth every minute, if only to explore that strip of Liberty Avenue stretching from Lefferts to Van Wyck - a goldmine of Trini and Guyanese treasures. Here - the vibe was good, and so was the food...and the options. Doubles and roti shops of every stripe (including vegetarian) line the street, speckled with Guyanese restaurants (begging to be explored in future trips.) Though the well loved Singh's Roti remains to be sampled, highlights of the maiden voyage include Little Guyana Bake Shop, Hot and Spicy (aka Savi's Quik Serv) - and an upcoming restaurant known as Maracas Bay (with that title, it seems I'll get my Shark and Bake yet!)

My experience with Liberty Avenue was thrilling - and it will definitely be repeated. As for Brooklyn? Well...the 3 line will have to do without me for awhile. So Queens wins the title - at least for this subjective round. Was it a fair food fight? Who knows....but at least I have my roti - and yet another reason to someday move to Queens.

Now - where the hell can I find that &*^&^(* poi?

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