Mexican Eats: Esquites and Gorditas on the Street in Sunset Park
The cart at 45th and 5th in Sunset Park doesn't have a name, though it would be incredibly hard to miss from it's rainbow beach umbrella stretching over a line-up of equally colorful juices. There's a lemon lime agua fresca, a brown tamarind juice, creamy horchata, and a jamaica juice, blood red and tart from dried hibiscus flowers. All are super-concentrated with blocks of ice bobbing at their centers, ready to be ladled into Styrofoam cups and handed to those strolling the avenue and in need of a drink.
The stand is a family enterprise, from Morelos, Mexico, and they've been operating in the same spot for seven or eight years. The sons in Yankee caps, as comfortable in Brooklyn slang as their native Spanish, are anchored to the corner by their mom's home cooking and their dad's juicing. The menu is short, just empanadas, gorditas, elotes, and esquites, snacks as essential to the street as paved concrete and parking tickets.
Here, the elotes ($2), mayonnaise-slathered ears of corn on sticks doused in powdered cheese and chili are not as good as the esquites ($2.50), which have all the pleasures of the elote but without the need for dental floss. Corn kernels are cut from the cob, the milky starch scraped into the mix, and then simmered into a sort of cream-less creamed corn. It becomes a simple soup, with leaves of epazote folded in, which loses its pungency from the cooking, turning soft and mild like spinach.
The gorditas ($2.50) are corn disks filled with shredded chicken and tomato, or soft and sticky chicharrón. Plucked from the fryer, the thin crust of masa shatters like a flaky croissant; underneath the layer of soft, chewy corn, the filling is almost moot. The rounds are split open, piled with lettuce, avocado, crema, and a green sauce that leaves the mouth with a lasting burn to relish long after you've demolished the gordita, like a rough and fleeting kiss.
Corner of 45th Street and 5th Avenue, Sunset Park, Brooklyn (map)