Serious Eats: New York
Red Hook Vendors: A Quick Guide for the Uninitiated
The Red Hook vendors are slated to open this weekend—almost three months behind their typical schedule, all due to more stringent oversight from the city health department.
What to Expect
New and/or Refurbished Carts or Trucks: The casual tabletop setups for cooking tortillas and pupusas and what not will be replaced by food carts or trucks, as mandated by the city. That stipulation has some vendors in debt up to $50,000 on new equipment expenses. [Brooklyn Paper]
Higher Prices? Roy Edroso makes the not-too-distant leap of logic that food prices may go up to pay for those new carts—and make up for the weeks vendors spent forcibly idle. [Village Voice]
Hot Weather: Forecasts say 94-degree high on Saturday, 89 on Sunday. And NY1 this morning said humidity will make it feel like it's in the 100s. Bring sunscreen and stay hydrated, eaters! [weather.com]
Perhaps Some Tension: Longtime patrons may be harboring some resentment against gentrifying interlopers. [Eater comments]
How to Get There
Vendors set up at the Red Hook Recreational Area, near the corner of Bay and Clinton streets.
By Subway: Closest station is the F/G at Smith & 9th Street Station. It's roughly a nine-block walk (map).
By Bus: The B61 bus in Brooklyn will take you to "Ikea Station," just a few blocks away. Head away from the water down Halleck Street; follow Halleck, taking a left as it turns into Columbia Street; bang a right on Bay, and walk until you get to Clinton (map).
By Hacking Ikea: We came up with an Ikea ferry and shuttle bus "hack." Ride the furniture store's shuttle bus or ferry out to Red Hook. But be warned; actual paying Ikea customers get preferential treatment.
What You Might Eat
The word is that not all the vendors may show up this weekend—and the Brooklyn Paper has it that at least three have called it quits. But here's generally what's on offer.
Tacos: Not the crunchy U-shape kind you get at Taco Bell. Think fresh, floppy corn tortillas, warm from the grill, topped with carne asada or barbacoa and chopped onion, cilantro, lettuce, and salsa.
Huaraches: "A tasty treat hailing from South-Central Mexico, this flat, oblong cake of masa (moist cornmeal dough) is rolled, pressed, stuffed with a thin layer of black bean, pressed again, and thrown on a griddle until nice and crisp. You can top them with a bit of salsa picante and grated queso anejo, or go the whole hog and pile on meats, chilies, onions, sour cream, and whatever else lies within reach." [Porkchop Express]
Grilled Corn: Ears of sweet, golden corn on a stick, rolled in mayo and sprinkled with lots of grated cheese and chili powder. Simply brilliant.
Lemonades, Limeades, Melon Drinks, Horchatas, and Fruit: There are typically a couple of fruit stalls to keep your diet balanced and your body refreshed. You can pick up chopped watermelon chunks, canteloupe, pineapple, coconut.
If you haven't yet been or are new to the soccer taco scene, you may be surprised to learn that the vendors have been serving up pan-American fare at the Red Hook ball fields since 1974—"in one form or another," says Cesar Fuentes, who represents the vendors.
Last year, the city cracked down on the operation, opting not to renew the vendors' temporary use agreement and opening up the park concessions for competitive bidding, as is done at other city parks. The vendors were forced to apply for a permit, and it looked for a while like they might be forced out. Luckily, a bunch of folks rallied, including Senator Chuck Schumer, who stepped in to help, and the vendors got a six-year permit to operate in the park.
An Awesome Resource
No one covers the Red Hook vendors like Porkchop Express. Stand-by-stand breakdowns, interviews, history, and detailed coverage of the scene. Visit porkchop-express.blogspot.com/search/label/Red Hook