Friday, April 30, 2010

The Red Hooks are Coming! The Red Hooks are Coming!

It's that time of year again, so brave your seasonal allergies or be sure to take your Claritin because weather pending, the Red Hook food vendors are making their way back to Brooklyn starting this weekend (May 2nd) and will be serving up all of your favorite foods. In case you've been living under a rock for the past few years or have recently moved to the tri-state area and have no idea what I'm talking about read here. Believe it or not, there is another reason to visit Red Hook aside from buying stylish-yet-affordable furniture from Ikea! Each Spring, a group of Latin food vendors hawk their culinary goodies outside the soccer fields located at the corner of Clinton and Bay Street. From El Salvadorian pupusas to Mexican huaraches, the return of these food vendors is highly anticipated by many, so come all but come early to avoid hoards of hungry New Yorkers.

This post will hopefully serve not only as a reminder that the food vendors are returning this weekend, but also as a preview for those of you who are virgins to the Red Hook soccer fields. For a most comprehensive list of vendors and general information I suggest you visit their website here. As long as you remember to bring cash and don't mind the prospect of sharing a table with strangers, you'll be rewarded with some of the best and most authentic Latin foods in all of the city. Going with a group of friends is your best bet, allowing you to sample a greater variety of food and help navigate the long lines. I suggest that after perusing the tasty offerings from each food vendor you utilize the divide and conquer technique; where everyone goes to separate food vendors and orders for everyone.

While you can't go wrong with any of the dishes, there seems to be some clear-cut fan favorites. Among them is the 2009 Vendy Award winning, Country Boys Taco Truck, run by husband and wife duo Fernando and Yolanda Martinez. Although the tacos here are good, the Country Boys Taco Truck's specialty is the huarache, an oblong-shaped piece of masa, smeared with beans, meat and other toppings. My favorite huarache is the Chicharr├│n, or fried pork rinds. The homemade salsas, pickled jalape├▒os and fresh crema work together to enhance the flavor of the crunchy pieces of pork.

Another favorite of just about everyone are pupusas. These El Salvadorian snacks are so popular that two different trucks serve them: El Olomega (claiming to be Red Hook's original Salvadorian pupusas) and the 2008 Vendy Award Finalist, Soler Dominican. These corn cakes are filled with anything from beans to TheChief's favorite, loroco (a South American flower bud). But my favorite is the Revuelta, a pork and cheese filling. Served with a side of salty and sweet cabbage, this is a must-try dish for any visitor.

The last truck I make sure to visit is the Vaquero fruit truck. With all of this delicious food you're going to need something refreshing to drink and the Aguas Frescas always hit the spot. Choose from tamarind to watermelon (pictured) or go with another Mexican classic, Horchata. Made from rice or almonds this milky-looking drink is a favorite of mine. But the real reason so many people come to this truck is for the Elote, or grilled corn on a stick that gets a splash of lemon juice before its slathered in mayonnaise, covered in cheese and sprinkled with chili powder. Simultaneously being sweet, salty and spicy, the elote is a huge flavor bomb.

Still not sure where these trucks are? Just look for the LONG LINES, a problem that none of the vendors will complain about after almost being shut down by the Department of Health in 2008. Fortunately, the food vendors won a six-year permit and have seen their popularity rise. In addition to the individual accolades of some food vendors, the entire Red Hook food vendor community is flourishing as Executive Director of the Food Vendors Committee, Cesar Fuentes, disclosed future plans of a Red Hook Mercado opening on Van Brunt Street. So whether you come by ferry, subway or car be sure to make your way out to Red Hook if you want an authentic taste of Latin America, just don't blame me for not warning you about the lines!

Red Hook Food Vendors
Corner of Clinton and Bay Street
Brooklyn, NY 11231

To see all our pics, please click the flickr link.

Red Hook Ball Fields on Urbanspoon


  1. For those in the know, you can take the free IKEA ferry from lower Manhattan (I think it's at Water Street) to Red Hook. Once you get off the ferry, it's a short walk to the ballfields.

  2. Here's the Serious Eats link about the water taxi: