The Brooklyn born-and-raised artist offers recs for Caribbean food, a killer Bed-Stuy cafe and the phenomenon known as The Empanada Lady
Ali’s Roti Shop
My family is Caribbean-American and my mom’s from Guyana, and I wanted to highlight authentic Caribbean food that all of us grew up going to so people can go eat there!
They’re Trinidadian and their food is ah-mazing —
I don’t really eat meat, and the cool thing about Caribbean food is there’s always a fish option. They have a really solid shrimp curry roti… it’s spicy, but not too spicy. It’s a healthy dose, but not gonna kill you.
1267 Fulton St, (718) 783-0316 ; 337 Utica Ave, (718) 778-7329
I love being where the people are — where people are being authentic and fun and having a good time.
This particular cafe is really awesome in the summertime. It’s just like the whole world comes out. He introduced me because all his homies go here, and I ended up going by myself and I was running into people I knew. Like, girl, I haven’t seen you since middle school… college. It’s just a random hot party, hotties all over hanging out being friends. The DJs here are awesome. I’ve been here at all times of day. I can get some work done if I don’t run into anyone. And there’s food — it’s authentic Haitian food.
What I also love is this is a very beautiful place for Black Brooklyn — well-to-do Black Brooklyn, you could say. For Young Black Brooklyn to be out together in a small way. I love small venues, I love that intimate cozy vibe. This place kind of has that — it can be very homey, and at the same time, it can be a turn up covered with people.
894 Broadway, (718) 450-3255, cafeerzulie.com
If you text me and I’m over there, I will come over in a heartbeat. It’s a couple blocks from my house. It’s a Dominican restaurant and — you know how Boston Market has like the Rotisserie Chicken? They do that, but they have like five kinds of meat and all kinds of potatoes and yucca and yams… and then they have their special two kinds of rice…
They’re like the neighborhood heartbeat, because there are so few places to order food over where we’re from in East New York (Cypress Hills, technically). It just has this homey thing — it’s the same ladies always who are just like, ‘Hey, what’s up!’ and I practice my spanish with them…They know me.
188 Jamaica Ave, (718) 277-1737
“The Empanada Lady”
It’s not something you can go to — it’s a phenomenon that can happen to you if you’re lucky. The park near our house is called Highland Park, and it’s such a beautiful place, first of all. It’s got tennis courts, basketball courts, handball courts…pretty much everything.
I was there the other day, and I was on my bike and stopped for a break and the empanada lady walked by. And the empanada lady was the littest woman on planet earth. She was like, you know, I’ve got chicken empanada, beef empanada, cheese empanada… and we got these chicken empanadas. Oh my god, it was fresh! It was poppin’… the crust was still crunchy.
It was amazing. So that’s not something you can go to, but if you’re lucky…
”The Dude on the A Train”
I gotta shout out to the guys who sell the nutcrackers on the train — the little radioactive alcohol beverages. The dude on the A train! He’s got porn, he’s got loose cigarettes. He’s an after-hours person. He comes on the A train like, ‘I’ve got everything! I’ve got family DVDs!’ He starts listing off whatever recently came out. ‘I’ve got Moana! Also, I’ve got rated R… You trying to make a date night?’ Built-in date night right there.”
Shoutout to the underground economy — it’s my favorite thing.
Feature image: Ben Curry
[This interview has been edited and condensed.]