Yo no soy marinero

...and sometimes I lose my way.

Most of us have been there: we're visiting a strange city and want to go out to eat, but we don't have reservations. There are, as always, parts of the city that are well-known for numerous restaurants and various cuisines.

Once upon a time, I was in New York City with my girlfriend, staying at a hotel up by the library they filmed part of Ghostbusters at. We wanted to have mexican food, so we asked at the hotel desk where we might find some. They pointed us up the street and around the corner, where we might find any number of mexican and south american eateries. We found one. And it was spanish.

We were treated to the driest chicken I have ever eaten and a spanish beer I couldn't pronouce when I tried to repeat its name after the waiter, three times, ("Papa-watch-oh?"; when he brought it, on the label was written "Budweiser"). "Epic fail" as they say.

The next night we decided to try our luck by Union Square, where I had heard there were lots of good places to eat, and I had even found a few restaurants on the internet. After an hour of walking around, I began to believe that these restaurants were ONLY on the internet, because they were nowhere to be found near Union Square.

Yout can call it bad luck, but I call it good, that we spent that hour wandering, one of us getting ever hungrier and ever crankier, causing a chain reaction of crankiness, because we finally found it. It was a restaurant I had never heard of, all by its lonesome, lights ablaze on a street that appeared to be nearly all residences. There were, outside and in, strands of what I might refer to as Christmas lights, but it was September. On the inside there were piƱatas, enchiladas, and rather small pitchers of margarita of which you could drink only rather small amounts of before your body automatically chose either fiesta or siesta. We had reached la tierra prometida, and it was everything I had imagined it would be.

I will go back the next time I'm in New York, assuming the restaurant still exists; assuming it ever did. I would not be surprised if it had appeared like an oasis in the desert of downtown, a refuge for the pure of heart in a city of sin. I does have a web page, however. You might still be able to find El Cantinero at 86 university Place, between 11th and 12th streets.

Some dreams come true.


Frank said...

A little late now, admittedly, but El Parador on 34th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues is another great Mexican place.

Next time you're back there, I recommend it.

fbg said...

I miss good mexican food. There is none here in Vienna, to my knowledge. At least I had some decent Indian food recently, and the Thai is really good right across the street from my apartment.

Thanks for the tip, and if you feel like trying El Cantinero out, let me know if it was as good as I thought it was when I was starving and tired that night.