Getting Good Mexican Fare in Sunset Park – While You Can

Mi Pequeño Chinantla is tucked in the very back of La Union Deli Grocery on 5th Avenue. (Photo by Lesley Téllez via Brooklyn Based)

With retail and office development proceeding apace at Industry City, the multi-ethnic, working class neighborhood of Sunset Park is beginning to change. Before that happens, writes Lesley Téllez in Brooklyn Based, it’s worth checking out authentic Mexican fare along 5th Avenue, where, she notes, “sweeping change hasn’t taken hold yet.”

On a recent weekday, a vendor at a fold-up table near the park sold elotes, or street corn, and cold aguas frescas. The name “Xochil,” the Nahuatl word for flower, graced a pizzeria, across from a shop selling tacos and masa-based snacks. Women pushed children in strollers and middle-school aged kids huddled together in groups down the sidewalks, nearly all of them chattering in Spanish.

The question, Téllez writes, is what the future will bring, because “changing demographics could mean changing dining tastes.”

“It does cause an impact when you start to see $15 cups of coffee in Industry City. It’s not something that our people will be able to buy,” says Adán Palermo, a lifelong Mexican-American resident of Sunset Park and an outreach worker at Uprose, a local activist organization devoted to climate justice and raising awareness about gentrification-related issues. “As we see interest and investment start to go up, our folks are left out, in keeping up with the higher rents. And it displaces them.”

While most asking rents fell in Brooklyn last year, according to NYU’s Furman Center, rents in Sunset Park rose 13 percent, a sign of the surge of development in the neighborhood.

Téllez features five Mexican eateries, including Mi Pequeño Chinantla, tucked in the back of La Union Deli Grocery, that specializes in fresh-made tamales (served daily), stews and mutton barbacoa (sold on the weekends).  and Antojitos Mexicanos, with “masa-based snacks” such as tacos, quesadillas, huaraches and tlacoyos. Only women staff the eatery, she says, a good sign because “women are considered the masa whisperers in Mexican culture.”

Read more in Brooklyn Based about other Mexican eateries, including one with several “masa-based snacks” that is entirely staffed entirely by women – a good sign, says the writer, because “women are considered the masa whisperers in Mexican culture.”

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