He lives in Bed-Stuy. I live in Harlem. I don’t mind riding the G Train (mostly waiting for the G train, in which time I may have penned multiple novels), so it must be true love.
It’s been a suffocating-hot week off Myrtle Avenue, the ices melting in their freezer carts before the paper cup of melty mango makes its way to my happy hands.
We stop by the deli, which has the blue raspberry flavor of slushie tonight — his favorite. He offers me his straw. I take a sip and feel the plasticy-blue sugar rush to the center of my brain, the tips of my fingers, shockwaves somewhere between sweet and revolting.
“You really like that?” I ask him.
I realize this is the first time I’m being bitchy to him, judgmental. I apologize. There are worse flaws than questionable slushie preference.
Luckily, Mr. Bed-Stuy has five-star air-conditioning. His soft skin gets cool to the touch inside his bright apartment, but I stay hothot, like the subway platform swelter is trapped under my skin. I shower, and feel better, awake, hungry.
We walk to Beast of Bourbon, in a concrete building full of football on TV and big groups of guys in baseball hats huddled around. He knows what to get — pork and ribs — a mountain of BBQ on a brown paper-lined tray, and a bowl of grey-green collard greens, which are just the right amount of bitter. I can’t decide between their two hundred-some whiskeys, ryes, and bourbons, and end up drinking Diet Coke. We play with the sauces on unmarked bottles on the tables: there’s a vinegary-tart one, and a hot-hot-hot one, and a hot-sweet one, and they all get sopped up with our smoky-rich meat.
On a hot Bed-Stuy night, with BBQ in our bellies and twinkles in our eyes, my hand in his hand, what is there to do besides stop by the Ice Cream House on Bedford? This place is popular with the Hassidic crowd. It’s a stadium-sized, rainbow-colored palace. And who doesn’t like Hebrew pop songs playing while you devour kosher, vegan “ice cream” surrounded by cakes shaped like cars and trains and top hats?
On the walk home, there are two guys doing pushups on the sidewalk. This seems to go on forever, we turn back and their taut horizontal bodies are still going up and down and up. A man in a dapper suit and a neon blue tie saunters by, humming.
“Like my slushie,” he says, and I feel slightly better.
It’s been a summer of good eats in Bed-Stuy. My stance on donuts is totally transformed at Dough. Donuts tend to be my last-choice sweet, just ahead of funnel cake and behind cotton candy, which makes my teeth hurt and my brain pound. But Dough’s Dulce de Leche, hot from the fryer, is a game-changer. One bite and I know it’s true love, G train and all. The yeasty, fluffy-dense, plump caramel vanilla cake is studded with salty slivers of almond. My heart skips a few beats. I’m happy when Mr. Bed-Stuy doesn’t want a bite (he’s a classic glazed man), and sad when the donut is gone.
A less life-changing but still satisfying sweet treat are the zeppoles at Mike’s Pizza on Myrtle Avenue, which are four for a dollar, hot, fresh, and airy. They’re best at 11 PM, right before they lock up. Be smarter than I am and don’t get powdered sugar all over your red dress in a bout of careless zeppole enthusiasm.
Question: The walk to David’s Brisket House is a long one, through some un-scenic projects, and another 90-ish degree, punishingly humid day. Do it anyway?
Answer: Hell yes!
The New York Times said it best: “Thank goodness for Brooklyn, where Yemeni Muslim guys serve exemplary Jewish deli sandwiches to a predominantly African-American crowd.”
We order pastrami on rye and brisket on a roll to share, both slathered in spicy mustard, but I hog the pastrami. It’s so smokily, swarthily delicious, so unapologetic in its sweet-savory meaty goodness, that I let out a little moan. Mr. Bed-Stuy laughs at me, but he is also glad we made the trip.
All this gluttony calls for coffee. The cold-brew at Daily Press will do the trick. It’s made from Intelligentsia beans and served by a stone-cold serious barrista…and the cute little café has great AC. Or caffeinate for a cause at ReConnect, a charm-filled coffee shop run by a nonprofit that works to give young from the streets opportunity and employment. Plus, they make a mean latte.
I have good subway karma. The train home arrives fast, and there’s a seat for me from which to write love poems, the best of which inevitably include pastrami sammies.