Puebla
47 First Ave.
(btw’n 2nd and 3rd Streets)

East Village
(212) 473-6643

 


by Rachael Parenta

My preamble:

I am not Jesse Post. By that I mean I’m not some renowned Internet food critic from Brooklyn. Rather, I’m just your run-of-the-mill finicky eater/stand-up comedian from Brooklyn. Well, I was born in New Jersey but I live in Brooklyn now, just a few blocks from where my Great Aunt Ester and Great Uncle Jack resided a half a century ago. So am I gentrifier or am I merely reclaiming my roots? Exactly.

My point is that I don’t usually write about food. Usually, I date people for four to five weeks then spend two to three years telling jokes about them. The only time I write about food is when I use food in my poignant yet hysterical extended metaphors. (I have a great example where I talk about my relationship with the Chipwich.) However, there is a tiny eatery in the East Village that I enjoy so much it has inspired me to write and share with you.


My other preamble:

It seems that food critics are mostly uncaring snooty bastards. They go to an eatery, they tell you how marvelous it is, and then you go there, spend money, and wind up hating it. Yes, I suppose you could wind up enjoying it but there’s really no way for you to know for sure. Food critics don’t tell you what kind of food they enjoy or what they dislike, so how do you know if your tastes line up with the critic’s? I, not actually being a critic, would like to give you some of my food preferences and background. If your preferences match up with mine you’ll probably want to check out the place that I focus on in this blog post. If not, you probably won’t want to go there. I think that’s fair.

I grew up in a household that did not cook TV dinners. We ate home-cooked meals made mostly from scratch by my father. Dad cooked mainly central and southern Italian food with a little Americana thrown in. It is said by my parents’ friends that my father is an outstanding cook. We also had Chinese take-out on Sundays. As I grew older my tastes broadened to include other ethnic foods such as Thai, Mexican, Cuban, Louisiana Creole, and Caesar Salad. I do eat Indian food on occasion, but it is almost never my first choice. I continue to abstain from frozen dinners except when I’m very drunk and did not satiate my appetite with nachos at some point. I love nachos when I’ve been drinking. Love’em! And those frozen dinners, when necessary, are always Amy’s brand.

Other food-related things you should know about me follow this sentence. I don’t eat cheese and lettuce together, which means no cheese on salad. (That’s right — I order my Caesar salad without Parmesan.) Also, I do not put lettuce on my cheeseburgers. I don’t like mayo, but I love garlic. In fact, I think mayo and garlic are opposites. (I don’t have room here to expound on that theory.) I don’t like humus despite its popularity. I don’t drink beer but I do enjoy hard cider, wine, and vodka. I only eat apple pie when it’s accompanied by ice cream. I will eat ice cream unaccompanied. I love shellfish. I often take semi-sweet chocolate chips and dip them in a jar of peanut butter with my finger, consume the peanut-butter-smothered chocolate chips, and then put the jar of peanut butter back in the fridge.

If you relate to any or all of My Other Preamble then you might want to check out my favorite Mexican food place in New York City.

The Burrito Place is cozy. It’s what someone from my parents’ generation might call, “a hole in the wall.” The whole restaurant is about as big as an East Village studio apartment. The kitchen sits behind the glass counter where you place your order. On the patrons’ side of the glass counter stand three small black tables, each of which seats two. I refer to this eatery as “The Burrito Place” because I don’t know its actual name. I blame my ignorance on the blue scaffolding that has covered the sign for the year I’ve been patronizing the tiny restaurant. I call it that because I always order the spinach burrito, but don’t let the nickname fool you — The Burrito Place offers many other dishes besides the spinach burrito. I just haven’t had any of them. Except for that one time.

After performing at some Lower East Side comedy show with my friend and fellow comedian Charles Star (who originally introduced me to The Burrito Place) I did order a chicken spinach burrito. The burritos are pretty big. I stand about 5 feet 1 inch tall, and the burritos are approximately 5/6 of my torso measured lengthwise and 2/3 of my torso in thickness. In an attempt to save money I suggested that Charles and I split a spinach burrito. Charles thought that a great idea, except he wanted to add chicken. That makes perfect sense because a burrito is not 5/6 of his torso measured lengthwise, nor 2/3 of his torso in thickness. Adding the chicken added cost, and of course we had to get guacamole. What is the point of Mexican food if you’re not going to get guacamole? And that’s why Mexican restaurants charge extra for it — they know people will pay. So on this day when I ordered something other than the spinach burrito in order to save money, I did not save any money. I did, however, gain a new experience.

The chicken spinach burrito was just as delightful as the spinach burrito. Both burrito types include beans, rice, and cheese wrapped in the tortilla. But what makes a Burrito Place burrito special is the green hot sauce The Burrito Lady puts on top of the burrito. I call the woman who takes the food orders, “The Burrito Lady,” because I don’t know her actual name. Don’t worry, though, I don’t call her that to her face. I don’t call her anything to her face. I walk in smile, say hello, and place my order. Don’t judge me — she doesn’t know my name either. She doesn’t even know what I do for a living. At least I know what she does for a living — she owns The Burrito Place. Yes, the small woman behind the counter, whose torso is probably equivalent in size to her burritos measured lengthwise, owns the joint. I know this because one day I asked her if she did and she said yes. Or she said, “si.” I can’t remember.

I think this is where I should tell you that The Burrito Lady used to hate me. She always looked at me with a hint of disdain. I’d walk in and order my spinach burrito with guacamole. The Burrito Lady would nod, turn around, and go make the burrito or tell the other lady who works there to make the burrito. Despite the cold reception I kept eating there because I really liked the spinach burrito. My relationship with The Burrito Lady took a turn for the worse when I went through my “no dairy” phase. I had decided that if I stopped eating dairy my complexion would clear up, and this phase heavily complicated my burrito ordering. I’d say “Hello.” She’d just look at me, and then I’d place my order.

“Can I have a spinach burrito with no cheese, no sour cream, a little hot sauce, and guacamole?” I’d ask.

“Guacamole is extra,” she’d stoically inform me.

“Yes, I know,” I’d respond. Then The Burrito Lady would proceed to fuck up the order. She’d bring me a burrito with no cheese but with sour cream and no hot sauce and no guacamole. I’d have to ask for guacamole again and some hot sauce on the side. I’d scrape off the sour cream. Those few non-dairy months really put a strain on our already unpleasant relationship. I kept going anyway. I was like a dude who keeps dating the crazy girl because the sex is so good. He hates the crazy but loves the sex. In this case I hated being hated but I loved the burrito.

At some point I stopped the non-dairy nonsense. And then, one day, The Burrito Lady smiled at me. Then she said, “Spinach burrito with guacamole?”

“Yes,” I cheerfully responded.

“Hot sauce?” she asked.

“Yes ma’am.”

I have no idea what changed. I could now enjoy the sex and the girl. But I’ve interrupted my description of the hot sauce, which is why the burrito is good.

The green hot sauce is spicy. So much so that your nose might run, but not so that your eyes tear or you need a gallon of milk to cool your mouth. The Burrito Place also offers a spicy red salsa. You have to ask for it, but it doesn’t cost extra. Now that I’m in with The Burrito Lady I don’t bother asking for the red salsa. I’d rather not make waves. Who cares anyway? Green. Red. I’m no racist. It’s all the same when you flush the toilet — am I right?

So, if you are ever in the East Village looking for Mexican food, check out The Burrito Place. They’re open until 11pm and deliver in the neighborhood until 10pm. And if The Burrito Lady isn’t nice to you at first, just give her six or seven months and she’ll warm up to you. Or maybe not — I’m very charismatic.

Advertisements