With summer now drawing to close, the heatwave seemingly a distant and disturbing memory, and so too are opportunities for sunny, sweater-free trips to Bronx Zoo. We've given you tips for many eats around the zoo's peripheries, most recently one of the milkiest, more refreshing horchatas you'll find in the borough, but most visitors veer towards Arthur Avenue. So what if you want to hit up the once and former Little Italy, but don't want to overstuff yourself on red sauce? Maybe your kids want a hero, but you want something lighter? Or you just want something on the go that won't grease up your hands or cause a mess?
On the southeastern corner of Arthur Avenue and 188th Street, from 3 to 11 p.m. every day, you'll find a corner set up of a coco helado cart and coolers spilling out of a van. The coolers are marked with a simple paper sign, reading "elote y esquites." (On the weekends, you will also find tamales. They are decent by New York standards, but nothing to write home about.) Elote is a beloved Mexican street snack of boiled corn rubbed with condiments that can include mayo, chili powder, sour cream, lime, and cheese. Esquites is more or less the same dish served soupy—the corn kernels boiled, sauteed and then shucked, in a cup.
Go for the esquites, and get the large ($4). While common on Roosevelt Avenue, the dish is only seen here and there in the Bronx. It is a generous portion that could easily be shared by two parties who just want a light and invigorating snack. (It could be supplemented, as well, with some of Casa della Mozzarella's deliciously creamy bocconcini.) The cup is topped, as is typical, with a heap of mayo, a pile of salty, crumbled cotija cheese, and some chili powder.
There's nothing fancy about this esquites; the chili powder is standard and storebought, packing a slight roasted burn but not much complexity. But it's a tasty, and quick, snack nonetheless. The corn kernels are mild and chewy, and as the cheese and mayo melt into the soup it becomes thicker, a little cooler, and much creamier in a way that recalls chowder. Sprigs of epazote, found swimming amidst the kernels, add a punchy herbal note. The cup can easily be consumed on the walk down Fordham Road over to the Zoo, freeing your hands up just in the knick of time.
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