J’adore a great long walk. A bonus if it’s on a sunny day, but just a dry day will do. Of course, there is a destination on these walks (mostly), but as they say, it is the journey that counts. And as long as that journey is filled with familiar and unfamiliar people, places and experiences, my stride will remain long and with purpose.
These long walks often take place on a weekend or holiday when I can enlist some of my fellow pedometeristas. We pepper in errands from our “to do” lists, window shopping and, of course, eating. These walks are often treasure troves for finding places where I must eat either at that point or that are at least placed on my MEAT (Must Eat At Tomorrow) list.
Jason, my friend and reluctant walking companion, wanted to go to Target on 116th Street and the highway to check out some things on a holiday Monday. While he wanted to rent a car to do this (really?!), I suggested a hearty walk. Okay, so it was freezing and there was a little blanket of snow on the ground, but it would be a journey. He was in.
Soon we were off making our way across 116th Street when Jason stopped dead in his tracks at Lexington Avenue and beelined into El Aguila (137 E. 116th St. at Lexington Avenue, (212) 410-2450, www.elaguilamex.com). He loves some Mexican food and obviously knew where to get it.
Jason’s original idea was to go to a cafe around the corner, so while he ordered I went to check out Spaha Cafe. It was small but with a nicely designed modern French country look. The items on display looked appealing and there was an interesting menu. It went on the MEAT list.
I returned to Jason finishing his order: chicken and carnitas tacos and fresh melon juice. Friends don’t let friends eat alone…I ordered a tamale, just for a nosh. We sat at a bright red table and Jason retrieved the condiments from the fresh salsa bar: hot red, mild green and what seemed like an avocado salsa crema.
As we waited I took note of the clean space festooned with the colors and decorations of Mexico. There was music that was way too loud for my taste, but I could handle it for the duration. One of the staff was tending to the prepared menu laid out in chafing trays. There was chicken, pork, beef tongue, beans and way too many others for me to remember. Prices were very reasonable.
By the time our number was up, we were ready to chow down. The tacos looked respectable. Jason thought the carnitas taco had better flavor than the chicken. My chilies and cheese tamale was steamed well and the masa was flavorful but not too dense. The highlight was the fresh juice. I can drink that anytime.
Open 24 hours a day, I now know where I can get an affordable late night fix! Gracias, El Aguila!
Now fortified with “the food of the eagle,” Jason and I flew on our journey. Target was a bust, but we took the opportunity to walk past and look into Rao’s. I hope I get invited to eat there one day. And, as if going for a gold medal, we trooped further downtown to visit Jason’s parents for a brief visit.
Now, this wasn’t the longest walk I have taken, but the added weather and conditions made it just that much harder. My legs were happy we took the bus home. It was then that I felt grateful to live in such a great city and wonderfully rich and diverse neighborhood.
So the next time your to do/”Honey Do” list calls for a short public transportation ride, instead, call a friend, lace up those walking shoes and hit the pavement. I guarantee quality time with great conversation while being productive and active, and always having a new food experience!
From the west to the east, thank you, Harlem!
Enjoy, get eating and thanks for reading!
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Kysha Harris is owner of SCHOP! SCHOP! is available for weekly service or for home entertaining. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? E-mail kysha@iSCHOP.com.