For Your Society

Sample Mexican Music and Spirits at El Kallejón

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On a recent Sunday afternoon, a young man in a yellow-striped tracksuit was ambling toward Third Avenue, in East Harlem, when a storefront tucked between a heating-and-plumbing-supply shop and a Mexican restaurant caught his attention. Maybe it was the music—fast-paced norteño rhythms followed by Argentinean ska filtered through the open doorway. Perhaps it was the décor—framed black-and-white pictures, cheeky signs urging patrons to drink more, a leopard mask fixed in a rictus grin. Or maybe it was simply the promise of tequila, mezcal, and even sotol, a smooth spirit from Chihuahua that is distilled from the juice of a spiny plant called the desert spoon and is rather difficult to find in New York. Inside the warmly lit bar, a clutch of couples were meeting to ring out the weekend. Another group of young folks discussed recent visits to Mexico around a wooden table. “He’s a charro, basically like a Mexican cowboy,” a woman said of an acquaintance, as she ladled guacamole, crab, and shrimp from a long dish. “He took us to an event where they had to lasso the front feet of a bull!” A waiter brought a Maria Sabina, a steaming flatbread pizza with goat cheese, herbs, and wild mushrooms. A jazz drummer finished off a plate of flautas de pensamientos, made with pork brains and roasted chili. “I don’t know what I just ate,” he muttered. “But that was delicious.” Outside, the man in the tracksuit continued to peer in. Was it any good? he seemed to be asking. “It’s excellent,” a patron uttered, stumbling out. “Fantástico.” ♦


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