A Train Uptown

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A is for Attestation

Accounted by: Bonnie

Awesome Photos by: Andy Curtin

I tend to wax philosophical in these End of the Line Dining posts. In this account, it is my intention to stick to the facts, and tell the story in a straightforward matter. Just as Alice did with her Adventures in Wonderland, I will begin at the beginning, and when I get to the end, I will stop. Here it goes: my attestation.

The facts: On December 16th , 2014, at 8:38pm Tania, Andy and I met on the platform of the A train at 14th Street and rode uptown to Inwood/ 207th Street. My boyfriend, Jim…(oh yes, if you haven’t heard by now, I’m in deep with a really great guy named Jim) (Remember in my last post when I said: “The romantic in me can still hope that my man is wandering in some sphere right now and when we collide it will be fireworks”? Well, it happened. Fireworks and all)… Anyway, Jim was going to come with us, a double date, but bailed at the last minute. Some people don’t think riding a train to the end of the line sounds fun when they have to get up at 6 a.m. the next day. I say, any day is a fine day for an end of the line dining adventure. He’ll learn.

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The back story: Inwood/207th Street is where Andy’s mother grew up. He told me that back in the day (and actually maybe still to this day) a lot of Wall Street people lived in this hood since they could take the A train straight down to the financial district.

Another back story: I went to this neighborhood with Jim back in October when Christian’s nephew got married. He was my date. The reception was at a place called La Marina, and we had a magical time dancing the night away surrounded by the bride’s family and a view of the George Washington Bridge and a few too many gin and tonics. From this journey, I had a vague idea of the lay of the land, and a feeling we’d find a good spot to dine. The neighborhood has a bustle to it. Cute restaurants and bars. I thought if we headed toward Dyckman Street, we’d be A-OK.

So I met Tania and Andy on the platform. We were all bursting with holiday cheer. Well, I don’t know if Andy was bursting with holiday cheer, but we were all in good spirits. After I got over my mild annoyance at the last-minute bail-out, that is. (Sorry Jim, I’ll tell better stories later. There are lots. I assure you, readers). Tania was armed with blank Christmas cards and an assortment of pens. In case we needed an activity on the ride. We were squeezing in one more End of the Line trip in 2014 before I left for California the following weekend and we all got lost in the mayhem of the season.

As planned, we got off the train and headed toward Dyckman Street, guided by my distant memory of restaurants and bars. Here are some things we saw along the way:

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Tania told me she could imagine my living in a house like this.

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Away in a Manger

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Oh! Holy Night

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Jolly Old St. Nicholas

There was a slight drizzle, but the night was warm.

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We wandered toward the water when we reached Dyckman, and almost went with a corner mofongo joint, but instead found our way into Mama Sushi. Sometimes I think there is a great spirit of End of the Line Dining that leads us exactly where we need to go. As you know, we rely wholly on instinct and wandering, not on our smart phones, maps and pre-reading of yelp reviews. So when we just let go and trust, there seems to be a divine helping hand. This time was no exception.

Okay, first of all, Mama Sushi is a DOMINICAN AND JAPANESE FUSION RESTAURANT.

Did you hear that?

DOMINICAN AND JAPANESE FUSION. Wait until you hear about the rolls we ordered. Just wait.

The atmosphere was lively. The room packed with parties of people and a healthy dose of holiday cheer. We sat down and were immediately given very attentive service. But the magic started when the owner, Susana, Mama Sushi herself, came up to our table to greet us.

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She was so excited about the night. They were celebrating an expansion with family and friends, and promised that later there would be karaoke. In Spanish. But she still hoped we would stay. She asked us if we were new to the neighborhood (a common question with this project, people always wonder how we found our way to their neighborhoods) and welcomed us whole-heartedly. We had a good laugh over how we must stick out, and then a debate over who was more of a dead giveaway: Andy or me? What do you think?

Andy?

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Or me?

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Right away, I ordered a drink called Japanese Sex. Because, well, why not? Ingredients: Bacardi Coconut Rum, Amaretto Disaronno, and Green Liqueur. Green Liqueur? Okay, fine. Tania and Andy ordered margaritas. On the server’s recommendation we ordered spring rolls and shrimp dumplings to start while we looked over the menu. We toasted the holidays and friendship and adventure, then ordered the following:

Salmon Tempura Roll: Salmon tempura, bacon, crispy white cheese & onion tempura & topped with sweet plantain, grilled steak or chicken, spicy kani and sofrito. (We chose steak, naturally, and no, this is not a joke).

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Hot Mama Roll: Tuna tartar, smoked salmon, cucumber, avocado & jalapeno, topped with sweet plantain and ginger.

Shrimp Teriyaki Bento Box: swerved with miso soup, white rice and a California roll.

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We ate and drank, swept up in the atmosphere. There was house music playing, and a general feeling that the room was about to party once the karaoke machine got fired up. There was also a great feeling of love in the air. Susana had a very infectious love for her restaurant and for her loyal customers. And she welcomed us right into the vibes.

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The food was… Well… what would you expect with that extreme combination of flavors? A bursting explosion in your mouth? That’s what I hoped for. And while there weren’t any oral nuclear explosions, the food did taste pretty good. Not wildly amazing, but pretty good. Probably because of all the love that went into the preparation. Love tastes good, doesn’t it? There’s a difference when something is prepared with pride. And I will definitely give Mama Sushi that.

Then the karaoke started. Susana, Mama Sushi, sang first. She belted out a heartfelt ballad in Spanish, on a wireless mic, wandering through the restaurant and serenading her customers. I swear I saw Tania get teary-eyed during the performance but she claims otherwise. It was a very moving and special performance to witness nonetheless.

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We did feel a little bit trapped, like when is the right time to dash for the door? Definitely not mid-song. But we were ready to trek back to Brooklyn after our meal (and tres leches for dessert). So after Susana’s performance, we got up to leave. She blocked our path and asked on the microphone why we were going. Of course. No quiet exits for the likes of us.  I said we just wanted to hear her sing, but we had to head home. She liked that. Though once we were outside, we did hear her say into the microphone:

Los Gringos no cantan.

Haha. Los Gringos no cantan. I guess we were the gringos. And I guess we didn’t sing, but I’ve been known to tear up a karaoke performance, so that’s not entirely true. But that night it was not in the cards. I wanted to get back to Brooklyn to snuggle into bed with my boyfriend, and Tania and Andy wanted to stop by a bar to see a friend DJ on the way home. We had other things to do.

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But we left with the love of the restaurant vibrating through our bones. Or at least a slight buzz from the crazy cocktails and the subsequent rounds of Asahi. I personally felt warm just with the feeling that we were witness to a very special moment in time. And that’s what I love about this project. We are observers and participants in all the nooks and crannies of our city. We go off the beaten track and find that other people are trying to live and love too, just like us.

Things got a little funny on the train ride home though.

You thought I was wrapping up a sweet tale of holiday cheer? Well, let’s not forget how crazy the holiday times make us too.

There was a man in a bright orange suit and an ankle-length black fur coat on board with us. He sat there with a friend and we didn’t think too much of him, other than the fact that he had a fantastic outfit on. When his friend left the train a few stops down the line, he got up and started ranting. Now, I usually tune out people’s rants, but this guy was loud and aggressive. He went on and on about how he was responsible for everyone on the train’s freedom, how he fought for us, and how no one appreciates what he’s done for the country, etc. etc. Things got sticky when he stood face to face with a couple of Hispanic guys and basically told them they had no right to be in our country.

Yuck.

Then somehow, a rather large woman got involved—hands in faces and yelling and all of that—when suddenly she was kicking the shit out of him with her umbrella. He fought back, sure. But she was winning. When the train pulled into the next stop, we moved out of that car and informed the driver there was a fight going on.

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And there we sat in the station at 163rd Street. Waiting for the police to come. While the crazy man stood on the platform yelling more off-color remarks about the people on the train.

While we were waylaid, Tania pulled out her Christmas card supplies. Yes, this is what I love about Tania. We’re delayed so we may as well write Christmas cards? It’s so deeply Tania that I smile just thinking about it. That’s what we did. While we waited for the police to come and for the craziness to die down, I wrote a card to Tania, Tania wrote to Andy, and Andy wrote to me.

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Once we finally got moving, at the next stop another character boarded the train. She entered calling everyone her sugar boo-boos, and when the driver announced we would be operating express she exclaimed with utter joy:

YES! YES! PRAISE JESUS! I’m going to see my man! Express! YES! God is good! Thank you Lord! Thank you Jesus!

Guess she was excited to go see her man too.

With the announcement at the next stop of the express stops, she made the same grand exclamations! YES! God is good!

Then promptly fell asleep. Guess all that excitement wore her out.

Wore us out too. I was happy to crawl into bed with my sugar boo-boo, full of the magic and adventure of the evening. He asked me how it was, and I said: Well, you’re just going to have to read the post, aren’t you?

YES!

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