For several years now, I've been meaning to make it to the Red Hook Ballfields during summer. I've heard about the amazing Latin food and the arepas ladies and the mangos-on-a-stick, but up until now, I've never been -- although last summer I tried to find the food stalls, ending up by mistake west of the ball fields and in the vicinity of the then-new Fairway grocery store.
But today! Today, we finally went!
It is SO worth the trek to Red Hook - the food is both amazing and dirt cheap, but the crowd makes the experience even more fun. Soccer and softball fields abut one another and at the eastern edge of the parks, in a dirt lot, there is a wide L of family-run food stalls selling fantastic Guatemalan, Mexican, Equadorian, El Salvadoran and Honduran fare, and lined up at all the stalls are a crazy, noisy mix of yuppies and hipsters and foodies and a huge population of Hispanic people cheering the soccer teams, and kids - tons and tons of kids! - and everyone is eating tacos and papusas and taquitos and arepas on greasy paper plates and drinking aqua fresca and looking for spare napkins. There were maybe 15 different stalls and a motley assortment of picnic and folding tables set out, but Kevin and I ended up sitting on the grass once we'd purchased our heaping steak tacos from the stand with the longest line (I figured someone had to know something, and picked the stall that looked the most popular).
While we waited in the one line, Kevin explored a stand a few yards east and came back with amazing taquito-type things: fresh tortillas (as in, a woman was flattening the dough, throwing it on to the grill, and then setting aside once charred) wrapped around chicken and fried, then heaped with pickled onions and cabbage, salsa and some quesa fresca. As I tried to stymie the flow of vinegar and taco sauce from my chin, I spied a father wheeling his daughter past in a Maclaren stroller, a Balducci's canvas bag slung from one handle. On my other side, a non-stop chatter of Spanish.
We filled up before being able to get any of the grilled corn or the mangos-on-sticks (a whole mango, peeled and roughly scored, on a skewer, squirted with lime juice and doused with chili powder), but did manage to down 3 aqua frescas - two lime and one watermelon. All in all, for the three drinks, two taquitos and two tacos, we were out maybe - maybe - $15.
It's a big ol' party down at the Red Hook Ballfields, and I suggest anyone looking for authentic Latin food and a really good time check it out. A word to the wise: this is a field trip for your foodie friends, not your in-laws from Ohio. The ball fields are... how do you say, surrounded by housing projects. Red Hook is still rather...gritty...so be forewarned that it's a hike to the nearest subway station, and that there are no Starbucks in sight.
The food stalls at the Red Hook Ballfields are open on Saturdays and Sundays during the summer, from noonish to about 5pm. They only accept cash, and I'd bring my own wet-naps next time! To get there, take the F to Smith and 9th St, cross under the BQE and head for Bay Street - the food stalls are at Clinton and Bay.
(Editor's note -- I had pics of the actual, you know...FOOD, but apparently the Macro setting and bright afternoon sun did not agree with one another, and the photos were just blinding white blobs, with some lettuce on the permiter. Oops.)