Two weeks ago we went to Persian Bite for some Iranian food. Man, that was delicious. I still can’t even imagine how upsetting it must be to be an Iranian living in America and not being able to visit your family back home.
More than anything else, our current immigration policies reek of fear. And I think that’s what I find so unsettling.
Maybe I’m too much of a sucker for some of our more patriotic tropes. You know, things like “The land of the free and the home of the brave.” I’m also partial to “Liberty and justice for all.” And of course there’s “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
Do you know what’s brave? Being afraid of something and doing it anyway. Like storming the beaches at Normandy. Or admitting Syrian refugees even if there is a minuscule chance that some bad actors might use the opportunity to cause harm.
Why do we have to be brave? Because there are some American ideals that are important to protect.
I’m not going to debate our broken immigration system. Because it’s broken. There’s no doubt. And I don’t know how to fix it. But as a nation we’ve decided to rely on undocumented workers for so long that they’ve put down roots. They have provided us with food. They have cleaned our homes. They have watched over our children. They have built our infrastructure.
Now the new regime wants them gone. And that means breaking up families. This story is tragic. And immigrant communities are terrified. So here is the foodie response.
Go out to eat.
I am absolutely serious. Yes, this has pangs of the post 9/11 days when President Bush was saying the best thing we could do to support our country was to go out and shop. It kind of felt hollow and wrong. I’m not suggesting that all you need to do is go out to eat. However, if you have limited time for protesting and letter writing, this is a good place to start.
There are restaurants that serve immigrant communities, and what some are finding is that during these waves of ICE sweeps, their customers are staying home. That’s bad for business.
Just in case you aren’t keenly aware of some of the great authentic ethnic restaurants we have in the area, I thought I’d provide a short list of places you might want to visit in the very very near future for a little latin flavor.
77 N Lake Street in Albany is within a stone’s throw of Sovrana’s. This is where you go for cricket tacos. But the steak tacos are also delicious, and I hear there are other great oaxacan dishes to be found. I’ve been, and I enjoyed it. I really need to make a return visit.
La Mexicana Grocery
1759 State Street in Schenectady. This was the first bona fide taqueria that I found in the area, and perhaps my favorite thing on the menu is the carnitas torta with extra jalapeno peppers. Since the peppers are pickled, they help to cut through some of the richness of the meat. Man, those carnitas are wonderful.
Flores Family Restaurant
1427 State St for Salvadoran and Peruvian food. Pupusas? You bet. Lomo saltado, oh yeah. Actually, it’s hard for me to get anything beyond the pupusas here. The kids love the ones that are stuffed with beans, but they are bean lovers.
Viva Cinco De Mayo
809 Madison Ave is the new player in town. They have taken over the old Bread & Honey space in the student ghetto. The shop hasn’t been open long enough for me to get a good read on the place, but I have it under good authority that the sopes are pretty special.
Mr. Pio Pio
160 Quail Street is where you can get a side order of a whole grilled chicken. Seriously, that chicken with green sauce is amazing. It’s been far too long since I’ve done takeout from here. And that chicken does brilliantly as takeout. Some of the other dishes less so. Just don’t forget to get as many pots of that green sauce as you can.
260 Central Avenue is where I’ve been dying to get lechon for years, but have still never tried this reportedly delicious roast pork option. Man, I do love a great roast pork, and I hear tantalizing things from people I trust about this spot.
That’s a good list for starters. Yes, it keeps everything within a Latin American framework. But soon I’m sure we’ll be talking about great Muslim-owned restaurants to support as well. At least the travel ban is being held up by the courts for the time being. And should immigration officials expand their net to other vulnerable groups we’ll cover those too.
Our diversity has always been our strength. Certainly, the Capital Region is a much better place to live thanks to these amazing restaurants that serve immigrant communities as well as the public at large.
We are lucky to have them. Please support them during these challenging times. That said, if you are going to go today, you might want to call first. February 16 is the Day Without Immigrants Strike, and while I think that might be focussed on larger cities, you never know.