•    Shops, Groceries, and Restaurants   

    Along 5th Avenue lies a myriad of stores, restaurants, groceries and pharmacies to serve either one or a variety of the various Latino groups.  There are nearly two bodegas on every corner, with many advertising the types of specialty products they carry. Interspersed among the bodegas are a number of pharmacies, as well, each serving its own small portion of regulars.

    A sign for Mexican, Peruvian, and Ecuadorian specialties.

    Beginning a block above the park itself is a barrage of restaurants that amounts to a veritable tour of Latin America.  Just toss a dart at Central or South America, and Sunset Park will have somewhere for you to sample the cuisine.  There’s Columbian, Dominican, Ecuadorian, at least one El Salvadorean eatery and, of course, a plethora of Mexican restaurants.  Even at the few Chinese restaurants that have strayed that far west, one can still choose between sides of fried rice or fried plantains.

    A Profile: Tacos Matamoros

    When our groups made our trip to Sunset Park (after our meeting with Peter Napolitano) we were starving and looking for something to eat.  So, we walked a few blocks past a large variety of different restaurants until we settled upon on one particular taqueria on 45th Street: Tacos Matamoros.  Tacos Matamoros, especially at dusk, seems unexpected: it is dimly lit, the counter to order is far back off the street, and there is a large flat-screen TV in the rear playing Spanish-language soap operas.  We all crowded around, much to the waitresses’ dismay and placed a large order: tacos all around plus a burrito for myself.  The order seemed to take long, though, seeing into the kitchen, one could tell it was being freshly-made and prepared well.  We stood somewhat obtrusively around, chatting while waiting for the food.  I watched the waitress spoon large cups of Jamaica (hibiscus tea) and one of the line cooks shucking oysters like a professional.  When our food arrived, we took it to the park to eat under the sunset.

    The tacos left the best of Manhattan trying to catch up.  While I cannot speak for any of the meat, the tacos vegetarianos were piled high with queso cotija [I found it interesting and perhaps telling of the early gentrification of Sunset Park that the woman who took my order made sure I was okay that my vegetarian taco had cheese], vegetables, and cilantro, and served with radishes and a lime as a taco should.  My burrito was stuffed fat with more cotija and fillings as well as pinto beans, and it made Chipotle look like McDonald’s in comparison.  Another pleasant surprise of the meal was the horchata.  Because some of us had heard of it but had never seen or tried it, we ordered some to drink with our tacos.  For a mere $2, the “grande” size equates to a quart-sized styrofoam container of a delightfully sweetened, milky, rice beverage.  All together, the meal was wonderful, and worth the trip to Sunset Park alone.  Of course though, there are plenty of other things to see.

    Example: Containers of Jamaica and Horchata