What can be said about the Red Hook soccer field vendors that hasn’t already been said before? I think Porkchop Express has pretty much given the most insightful and detailed converage of the Red Hook vendors one can find on the internet, so I’m just going to get to the point and tell you what I thought about the food.
After parking the car we made our way down Bay Street where we found the Rojas Ceviche stand sitting at the end with what appeared to be the shortest line out of all the stands (and by “shortest” i mean “no line”). Not being deterred by the lack of a line or the fact that it was seafood coming from a stand, we ordered the mixto ceviche and a water. With our cevicho (it came in a container roughly the size of container of soup from a midtown power lunch, enough to fill one person but also enough to split between 2 people) came a little container of what turned out to be hot sauce. We opened up the ceviche, poured in the hotsauce, and dug in, and let me tell you, in flat out honesty, that this was some of, if not the best ceviche Ive ever had. I should also tell you that this might be just the second time I’ve ever had ceviche, but this shit was good. The broth was lemony but with a hint of saltiness, and had what looked like parsley floating around in a cloudy white haze. I could’ve eaten that shit like it was soup. And then there was meat. Now when getting this ceviche I unfairly expected 2 things: 1.) There wasn’t going to be much meat, and 2.) The meat wasn’t going to be the best. I was wrong on both accounts. The thing was filled with red onions, shrimp, octopus, squid, and white fish, and each piece was sizable, tender, and flavorful. This thing got 10’s across the board, from portion size to flavor, to quality. I am going to go out on a limb right now and say that this ceviche alone might be reason enough to visit the Red Hook vendors. There are, of course, other options…
While researching the Red Hook vendors on Porkchop Express, the one thing that seemed to get the most attention was the huarache. I mean look at that thing: meat, cheese, lettuce, cilantro, crema, tomatoes, and lord knows what else packed into a gigantic grainy tortilla. It’s like a giant taco married to a burrito minus the filler, and Porkchop Express gives this thing rave reviews, so of course I’m getting one. So immediately after we finish our ceviche, I go in search of the huarache. Now on Porkchop Express he mentions two places that sell them, Hernandez Huarache and Martinez Huarache, and from what I could tell, neither of which were there. Instead there was a big metal food truck with a makeshift tent in front of it, and Dale Earnhardt “3” on the side, and line seemingly 10 miles long. Normally I’d look at that line and say “F it”, but I had just watched an episode of “No Reservations” where this guy in Uruguay talks about how all we really have in life is time and how he likes waiting in lines. So I keep this in mind and couple it with the fact that it’s Sunday, I ain’t got shit to do, and the weather’s nice, and I say “F it” again and wait in line. About 20 minutes into waiting I ask Jacquline if she thinks that it would be a good idea for her to go get some other food for us to try while I wait, and she agrees and goes to get some pork and cheese pupusas and a tamale.
The pupusas were good, as it was crispy on the bottom but moist on the inside, almost like a flattened griddle-baked tamale. There was a variety of pupusas to choose from, randing from pork and cheese, to beans and cheese, to veggies and cheese, etc., but we opted for the pork and cheese, which I feel was a good way to go about the afternoon. Topped with crema and coupled with some slaw, it was a quality snack, waiting in line or not.
We decided to save the tamale for our huarache finale, which turned out to be about a half hour later. Yes, that’s right, I ended up waiting about an hour for some motherfucking food. I think what slowed down the service was people with big orders. A couple of times I saw someone come around the side and make an order and the next thing I know the cooks seemed to drop everything and make like 50 things before tending to the ever growing line. But whatever, the weather was nice…right? So I finally get to the front, and I order my bistek huarache, and the lady says “it’s going to be a few minutes.” And Im like “how many?” And she says “8”, and I say “F it! I’ll wait!” (not really but I said “I’ll wait.”) because fuck it man, I’ve already waited an hour what the fuck is 8 minutes?
And then, as if she was merely testing my mettle, she puts together a huarache and hands it to me. I pay the $6, and walk away feeling accomplished.
We go and sit on a bench next to a field where a soccer game is going on, and I immediately go to work, and it’s good. I mean, with that combo of stuff can you really go wrong? I mean, really? However I wasn’t feeling the tortilla. It was sort of brittle and a little too grainy, reminding me almost of a pita instead of a tortilla. And about halfway through it hit me: this wasn’t worth waiting an hour for. 15 minute wait? On a nice Sunday afternoon, sure? 1/2 hour? Maybe. But an hour? Well I wouldn’t do it again is all I’m saying. However, for $6, it’s a pretty good bargain as it’s still pretty good and the thing will fill you up like a mofo.
So in conclusion, if you like some authentic South American/Latin food on the cheap, this can’t be missed. Especially since there are rumors flying around that this could be its last year. The ceviche from Rojas Ceviech? Awesome. Pupusas? Great. The tamale that I forgot to tell you about? Quality, The fabled Huarache? Good, just don’t wait an hour for it. Honestly, if the line goes past the park entrance, you might be in for a lot of standing around and you might want to check back later.
More details about the Red Hook vendors? Porkchop Express!