Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mexico without Leaving Home

Last night was Cinco de Mayo. We've had some Spaniards living in our home, but they'd never seen this Mexican festival. I decided to take them to my favorite place - a little hole in the wall restaurant on President Street off Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn that serves some of the best Mexican food in the city (in my opinion). It's the real deal. But this little place is often empty and its owner, Joseph, who wears a sombrero and dresses like a caballero, often sits alone. He has been alone, it seems, for months. Every time we order from there he can't thank me enough. Every time I walk by I am saddened by his aloneness. And by the fact that people don't know how good his portobello fajitas or arroz con camarones is. But last night the place was slammed, as my daughter who waits table would say. Every table was taken. We were first in line for a table for three, but a long line of people soon formed behind us. After a little while a young woman came up to me and said, "Your table will be ready soon. Would you like to order?" I'd never seen her there before and asked how long she'd been working. "Actually I'm a customer. I'm just helping out." The woman who cleared out table was also a customer. The guy who poured our water. We watched as people finished their meals, bussed their own tables, helped customers get seated, packed take-out. When we finished, we asked if we could help too, but Joseph said, "You have helped by being here." In truth most people were done and the place was emptying out. As we left, the woman who seated us was carting the last tray of dishes to the sink.