From death to dearth: 5th Avenue from Greenwood to Ratnerville.

The South Slope/Greenwood Heights area has changed quite a bit in the last few years.  I can remember, as a freshly arrived resident of 3rd St. in the early part of 2004, the first time I ventured below 9th St.: my roommate at the time suggested we traipse down 5th Ave. to this bar called Buttermilk.  When I learned that its latitude was 16th St., I was both confused and concerned.  As we had looked at housing near Prospect Ave and 7th Ave and not been too impressed with the local area (read as: there wasn’t anything there but plastic-sided houses with bars on the windows), I wasn’t terribly eager to cross what I considered at the time to be the line of familiarity.

Of course, that’s totally ludicrous, and we probably now would be among the hippest people on earth if we had just taken that 2br-plus-rec-room apartment on Prospect Ave.  The lesson, of course: I’m a moron.  But the spread of Park Slope-style hipness DOES have a boundary, right?  Obviously the cemetery forced a redirection of the cool folks: some went southwest towards Windsor Terrace and certain doom.  Others, apparently, have hugged the corridor between the dead people and the fumes-sucking Gowanus Expressway driver-zombies – at its narrowest, two blocks between 3rd and 5th Avenues.

Well, I’m here to tell you that it all comes to a screeching halt on 5th Avenue, at least temporarily, at 25th Street, where one side of the avenue is all cemetery, and the other is all gas station and tombstone wholesale (someone needs more than one?).  But ambling north from that intersection provides an ever-increasing number of interesting gentrification-signifiers, starting with perhaps the first between 23rd and 22nd Sts: D.F. Taqueria.  Covered recently in all of the major press (including by Mr. Sietsema), this is probably the furthest south restaurant that caters primarily to the deracinated whiteys spilling in from points elsewhere (for the record, I was the sixth such customer at 6:40pm on a Monday, with nobody darker in sight).

I wish I could say that I wanted to end up there, but really I was aiming for the OTHER taqueria mentioned in the VV article in question – the one that actually serves tacos and has zero portraits of Frieda Kahlo.  It was, unfortunately, closed (these are the breaks on Mondays if you don’t call first).  That said, the “mission-style” burrito that arrived on my plate for $7 and change was both enormous and the best I’ve had in NYC thus far – ordering it with “meat chili” will produce a chewy mixture of beans, chewy meat chunks, and a vaguely chilified flavor, along with the usual rice, sour cream, and tiny portion of guac.  I chopped up the ‘rito and pretended it was like chilaquiles, except with an un-fried flour tortilla.

Speaking of the fried tortillas, the chips are bagged but the salsa might be fresh.  Ask the waitress – if you’re not too obnoxious (like the two guys sitting at the bar were), she might tell you.

After the burrito bomb, I walked up to Prospect Ave to catch the B63 bus, passing a hip-looking café at about 20th St., and stopping at a lovely-smelling bakery to buy a rather disappointing (but still rapidly-consumed) lemony-chocolate chip cookie approximately ¾’ in diameter.  Then I stared out the bus window at the south and center Slopes.  Many changes since the last time I was down there (I lost 5th Ave. between 9th and Prospect in a breakup more than a year ago), but the most saddening was the closure of the pork store Pollio.  While it wasn’t the greatest pork store around, before A&S was open Sundays (and long before I was turned on to Alidoro) it was my go-to spot for Italian hero loveliness.  Sad, but when you’ve got a space-age/Manhattan-style Commerce Bank across the street from the formerly hip Great Lakes bar (further up on 5th at 1st Street), it’s not really surprising.


Filed under NYC

4 responses to “From death to dearth: 5th Avenue from Greenwood to Ratnerville.

  1. Hoyt Pollard

    Wait, Pollio’s closing? When? I was just there not too long ago.

  2. Looked closed already when I drove by…

  3. Anonymous

    South Slope is so great, its greatness should transcend lurking ex-girlfriends. I promise, we don’t bite. Taqueria DF is great and they deliver! You should have a beer with Mikey and me at Steinhof next time you’re in the ‘hood. Jess

  4. Mmm, Steinhof. Good thinking. Also need to get back and try the other taqueria.

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