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Dec 12, 2012 11:48 AM

El Barrio Homogenizing Gentrification

Around 103 and up to 106 on Lexington the homogenizing affects of property development took hold some time ago, though with newly gutted out store fronts on 106 and Lexington now, I predict that this trend is creeping.

Still the best nachos and sensational prices for fun and food, in a radius of some distance that as large than a coffee plantation in South America, can be found in the places that have been there and represent local property owners, and cater to the local Mexican population.

Once a Thai restaurant takes root, then my prediction it is sure to match the storefront settings of Fort Greene, Cobble Hill, transplanted to some extent to a section of this ethnic enclave of Manhattan.

The support the local places, and their owners is ethical, to stem to onslaught of homogeneity, that makes urban neighborhoods duplicated from LA to Chicago to North East. Also to preserve ethnic and cultural diversity within the city.

Thus stated, some time, I visited El Paso on 116 street (also just below 104 Street, at 1643 Lexington Ave ), identical, a budding Mexican chain of sorts, and only sampled the bottled Carte Blanche beer. These places do express the added capital, and diversity that has grown in the area, and are not really in the same market as the local places.

It will be interesting to see what will happen with this transformation in this area.

Still, the best buys and tastes are found at the places that have been in the area a long time.

Some recommends, La Fogata Bar at 2104 2nd Avenue and live songs almost nightly at Santa Maria just above 104 on Second Ave.

I recommend the nachos at Jaguar on 108 and Lexington.

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  1. There was a time, not all that long ago, when nachos and a Mexican restaurant in East Harlem would have been as much of a foreign invasion into the Puerto Rican enclave as a Thai restaurant.

    6 Replies
    1. re: barberinibee

      Pardon for not mentioning the Puerto Rican establishments, which are certainly rooted more firmly, so to speak, in the differing areas of this expansive neighborhood.

      116 between 3rd and 2nd is quite Mexican these days, with Dominican place on corner 116 and 2nd, south side.

      Sandy's on the north side 116 and 2nd, I have not visited, but behind there is a great Dominican drinking establishment.

      Great places, all, for coffee and a dish of plantain with beans and rice, and a large slab of pig meat, with the fat thick, just below the crispy skin. The Puerto Rican establishments that is.

      You stand correct, concerning demographics, historically.

      I do not see the Thais making roots in that area.

      Thus said, the exploitation of the word 'Thai' for the name of a restaurant, or wine bar, of manifestation that predictions that are educated in manner, and based on experiences in many other such places with "Thai" over the front of the storefront, in Manhattan, may appear near Lexington and 106. It will put authentic Thai food to shame.

      The signified and the signifier.....or the signified and absence of the signifier.

      There is a great signified place to dance with signifier to Latin and Mexican music, a DJ nightly, on 110th street.

      Next to where Euphoria 69 used to be, south side between Lexington and 3rd. They have food, and drink.

      Agua Fresca 207 East 117th Street, near 2nd / 3rd, is one of the more upmarket places, and I have to say, nice place to display yourself in a very bourgeois...jest....... Food is not bad.

      I am curious as to why Euphoria 69 closed.

      1. re: jonkyo

        I don't entirely follow some of your arguments about gentrification but I appreciate the suggestions for solid places up there. Focusing on that would probably serve your cause best, and help encourage patronage to the businesses which you see integral to the spirit of that neighborhood. I know whenever I'm up there, I've been let down by previous suggestions - but I know there's great hidden gems to be found, so it's frustrating.

        1. re: sugartoof

          "I don't entirely follow some of your arguments about gentrification"

          That is fine.

          I am arguing from a view point that may share similarity to Theodor Adorno's critique of culture and valuing Schoenberg over Stravinsky.

          Or perhaps it is an argument for the undisturbed peasant foods or foods of the commoner, that have been cultivated over more than a century, for the palates of both the upwardly mobile, the hippie, the academic, the traveling circus, as well as the sedentary homemaker, and you.

          The death of the classic diner and endless refills, is just one aspect of what I refer to in the gentrification I talk about, and just one aspect, or layer, or something that is affected.

          The replacements for these are busy high volume places, higher prices, and hybridization between the bare eggs and bacon, with tacky but refined in some way decor, and added features such as veggie burgers, sprouts, houmous, with sometimes olive oil on the tables.

          A diner is a diner. An Italian Restaurant is just that. A Donner or Gyro Falafal venue is also just that. These new diners are Stravinsky, and the classic diner is the closest one will get to a dancing romani gypsy, in NJ NYC or New England, unless you happen to out beyond the hours of 5 am, still consuming beer, and you run into Jack Johns of Nat Geo's American Gypsy, who can tell you all about the Romani diet, or some about it.

          Outer Stretches of solid soil over the waters from Manhattan offer many a delightful diner, stuck in time. For Manhattan, I just Dominican places Washington Heights.

          1. re: jonkyo

            So what does Pad Thai represent that Mofongo doesn't?

            1. re: jonkyo

              Endless refills of coffee, yes, but not much else in New York that I can remember. That's something that makes New York different from most other parts of the country, where they will give you unlimited refills of tea with new teabags for free. In some places I've been to in the South, they give free refills of Coke, too.

            2. re: sugartoof

              Furthermore, it is about urban culture, urban development, lifestyle, commerce, and as well as post colonial commodification of culture and ethnicity.

              It is best to stay near the places where the locals go, then the more commercialized places.

              El Barrio venues offers more than Dos Caminos, though Dos Caminos is not exactly a Mexican Restaurant as it is a wine and dine place for meeting people, and having fun.

              I do recommend Sozan at 105 Reade Street in Tribeca. That is quite authentic and does not try to contrive anything other than a great place for Puerto Rican food and good times.

        2. I think the reason for this difficult to understand posting is that it was translated using some sort of online tool:

          The signified and the signifier.....or the signified and absence of the signifier.

          There is a great signified place to dance with signifier to Latin and Mexican music, a DJ nightly, on 110th street.

          2 Replies
          1. re: thegforceny

            My first post...some typos....due to too much ingestion of the product from coffee plantations, all located south of El Barrio, NYC.

            I was just using reference to semiological terms as quip...for fun.

            Signified being sign or word

            Signifier being what it representing.. mental conception.

            See Ferdinand Saussure, Course in general linguistics, and the classic structuralist work on food and cooking is by the French anthropologist Claud Levi Strauss, The Cooked and the Raw.