Eat Arepas at the Beach

June is already around the corner, and for me that usually means plenty of visits to the beach. Selector extraordinaire Rata kindly invited me and Grace of Spades to binge on arepas and beers with him, while we play vintage vinyl all afternoon. Please join us a few Sundays from now at Rockaway Beach!

Shake It Up at Caracas Rockaway - June 12, 2016

Sunday, June 12 – Caracas Rockaway – 106-01 Shore Front Parkway, Queens, NY – No Cover

Downtown Top Ranking & Queen Majesty Hot Sauce

This week, I’m packing a one-two punch of gigs for Thursday and Friday. First up, I’ll be joining Deadly Dragon Sound at Downtown Top Ranking in the basement of the Delancey. Expect heavy roots, some digital 80s stuff, and a few surprises in the deepest part of the night.

Downtown Top Ranking

Thursday, August 27 – The Delancey – 168 Delancey Street, New York, NY – No Cover before 11pm

Friday, I’ll be playing a bunch of soul, funk, reggae, and other oddities at Queen Majesty‘s launch party for her brand new hot sauce flavor: Red Habanero and Black Coffee! I’m very excited, as a longtime fan of her original Scotch Bonnet & Ginger flavor. Come to the Heatonist shop in the early evening for spicy treats and cocktails, and stay for the music. We’ll be partying til 9pm.

Queen Majesty Hot Sauce Launch Party

Friday, August 28 – Heatonist – 121 Wythe Ave, Brooklyn, NY – No Cover

Spinning Wheels + Munchie’s Lickle Taste

Ben the Beyonder was kind enough to ask me to bring some tunes to The Rock Shop in Brooklyn for Spinning Wheels this Friday. It’s going to be a lot of fun as we plow through a whole heap of 60s soul and other treats! I’ll open up the night around 9pm, and word on the street is that Ticklah (billed as Earl Maxton for those in the know) will be doing a set later on in the evening.

Spinning Wheels at The Rock Shop

Friday, October 4 – The Rock Shop – 249 4th Ave, Brooklyn, NY – $5

Coming up later in October, The Apple Meets The Orange for a bashment celebrating K Vibes‘ birthday! A team of New York City selectors including myself, Diggy Brown, Twice, Joseph Demension, President Carter, sound system operator Chanter, and heavyweight Downbeat Tony Screw will all be making the trek out to Munchie’s Lickle Taste in South Orange, NJ. A feast will be served and 45s will be played!

I’m very excited for this, as Munchie’s was kind enough to deliver some oxtail to me at the last Reggae On The Boardwalk event this year, and it was delicious. I can only imagine that having it prepared fresh at the source will be better. Come out and enjoy the food and music with all of us.

The Apple Meets The Orange at Munchie's Lickle Taste

Saturday, October 19 – Munchie’s Lickle Taste – 307c Irvington Ave, South Orange, NJ – $5

Deep Brooklyn: Sunset Park

At the far end of Sunset Park, almost to Bay Ridge, you’ll find Arish’s Barber Shop just past 5th Avenue on 61st Street. He’s from the Dominican Republic, and came to New York City in 1990. Mention any neighborhood in southern Brooklyn to him and he’ll tell you a story about it.

Arish Barber Shop

Arish’s place is a little gem in this neighborhood, where many barber shops are noisy, dirty, and unwelcoming to newcomers. The inside of his shop is filled with dark wood detailing and artifacts of Afro-Caribbean origin he’s picked up along his travels. He only works with one other barber and knows his clients well… and they come from all over Brooklyn to get their hair cut here. Sometimes I see entire families waiting on the bench, waiting for a turn to sit in the chair.

Arish in his barber shop

The cool thing about Arish is that he can make you feel comfortable by talking about pretty much anything. If you crack a joke in Spanish, he’ll respond in kind. If you bring up local news, you’re sure to get his opinion. Bring up reggae music and he’ll recommend some tunes… all while craftily handling the straight razor. Just don’t talk too much while he’s got it on your neck.

Arish Barber Shop

I love this spot because it’s affordable, unpretentious, and really chill. I usually call ahead, but if you drop by and don’t mind waiting a bit he will always find time for you. I lived in Sunset Park for years, and though I no longer reside there I make trips back every few weeks to see Arish. It’s always worth it.

Sunset Park

The neighborhood is a mix of Central Americans, Mexicans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans and an increasingly visible minority of young professionals looking for affordable housing. Many people consider it a far-flung neighborhood, but to be honest, the presence of the N and D express trains at 36th Street makes it about a 25 minute trip from lower Manhattan. Rents have been rising steadily. The neighborhood feels different than it did even seven years ago; things are changing fast. 5th Avenue is the main drag, filled with restaurants, shoe stores, 99 cent stores, and amazing cake shops.

Cake Shop

If you go to 51st Street and 5th Ave, you can eat the best tacos on the east coast at Ricos Tacos. Choose from carnitas, bistec, pollo, lengua, al pastor and more meats than I can remember at the moment.

Ricos Tacos

They serve the corn tortilla tacos with radish, cilantro and lime. The best part is that they’re open 24 hours a day – perfect after a long night. Grab a Sidral Mundet (Mexican apple soda) or horchata and sit outside. I have yet to find a better taco spot on this side of the country.

Ricos Tacos

You can’t miss this spot. Just look for the pig mural.

Ricos Tacos

Sunset Park is also home to Johnny’s Pizza, a holdover from a time when the neighborhood was more Italian. Many of these folks have moved on to Bay Ridge, just south of this corner at 58th Street and 5th Ave. Johnny’s has the best grandma slice in New York for my money. A few years ago Papa John’s opened a store next door, but Johnny’s is still going strong.

Johnny's Pizza

Dominican restaurants pepper the blocks throughout the hood. Most of them have counter seating and hot trays of specialties like carne guisado, platanos and oxtail.

Dominican Food

Another distinguishing characteristic of Sunset is the density of churches. I’m pretty sure it has more churches than any neighborhood in New York. The most famous one is the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help at 59th Street and 5th Ave. This huge building is an architectural landmark, and was built around beginning of the 20th century on what was then known as Irish Hill. Like the Italians, most of the Irish residents of this neighborhood have long since left, though you can still see some hanging out at the Irish Haven on 58th Street and 4th Ave.

Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help

These days, it’s not uncommon to see Puerto Rican flags alongside American flags draping out of apartment windows or on flagpoles outside restaurants. To me, it’s a perfect symbol of what Sunset Park really is: a neighborhood full of immigrants who are working hard to make it in America.

Puerto Rican flag

Deep Brooklyn: Bensonhurst

This is the first post I’m making in a category called Deep Brooklyn – a highlight of places in my favorite borough that most people don’t encounter. If it’s easy to get there from Manhattan, chances are it will never be on this list.

I don’t find myself in Bensonhurst often, though it’s not too far away from me. On this particular day, I was not in the best of moods because I had somehow managed to get an eye infection over Christmas weekend while everyone else was getting gifts. The only doctor that could see me the following Monday happened to be on 86th Street near Bay Parkway, so I hopped the N train for my appointment.

When you pass 59th Street on the N, the train suddenly surfaces and southern Brooklyn opens up before you. It’s a different world when you’re used to riding underground. I got off at New Utrecht and switched to the D until Bay Parkway. The doctor was thorough, diagnosed my problem right away and instructed me to boil an egg and put it on my eye to increase blood flow to the area. Great, I guess I’ll eat some eggs later. After picking up some prescription eye drops, I realized I wasn’t too far from a great place to grab some more appetizing food: L & B Spumoni Gardens, at the border of Gravesend. So I walked east on 86th underneath the tracks.

Bensonhurst is a mix of mostly old-school Italians, former Soviet immigrants and newer Asian immigrants. I saw a lot of places on my walk that I wanted to stop into but I was on a mission. Next time I’m around I’ll check some of these other places out.

Most people don’t think about getting Italian ice on December 26th, but Spumoni Gardens is busy til closing time without fail. I’m not known for my proclivity for cold weather, but I grabbed a Sicilian slice (the best in Brooklyn by far) and a cup of spumoni and sat outside to eat.

For those of you who don’t know what spumoni is, the best way to describe it is a pistachio flavored cream ice. It’s the perfect dessert to follow up a piping hot square slice of pizza on a cold day. My hands were freezing cold but I didn’t give a shit. I walked to the train station finishing my cup, feeling fortunate that a mishap led me back to this neighborhood.