A few weekends back I decided to give a new restaurant a try instead of defaulting to my usual. Typically, I would indulge in my usual dish of oxtails and plantains. On this particular weekend, I wandered unintentionally into an Ecuadorian restaurant in Jackson Heights. If you walked too fast you would miss it. Such a hole in the wall was this spot that I can’t recall the name.
The ambiance inside was dark and sensual with music blaring out of the speakers on either side of the restaurant. I found a spot in booth in the back. I was secluded but not alone as friendly glances and tips of a hat greeted my sweetly.
“Que te gusta?”
“I’m sorry,” I responded gently, “I don’t speak Spanish.”
“I’m sorry love. What can I get you?” With pen poised she was ready to take my order.
I hadn’t quite gotten the chance to review my menu so I asked for my waitress’ recommendation. I expressed my interest in having something authentically Ecuadorian and I preferred a bit of spice with my meals. That last part came out in a rather corny fashion but my waitress spared me the embarrassment with a generous smile. She assured me I would like the Ecuadorian sausage. I trusted this woman with my life and agreed to the dish.
After she left I felt a bit vulnerable being a woman on a solo date. I fiddled with my phone and glanced expectantly at the door for a date that would not come. Maybe I’ll spot someone I know. It was after all Jackson Heights; I only lived three train stops away. A familiar face wouldn’t prove that unusual.
“A dance before your meal guapa” spoke a deep, dark voice.
I looked up from my phone, startled. “Excuse me?”
“I said would you like to dance Hermosa?” he extended his hand and at the moment I had remembered music was playing. Despite my heritage I wasn’t the best dance partner and my fear of public humiliation kept me from sexy adventures with strangers.
“Thank you but no thank you,” I said simply.
“Don’t be shy.” He said.
“I’m not shy I just would rather not.”
He asked a bit more forcefully this time as if to demand me of my affections. I politely declined each time recognizing the response of my fellow restaurant patrons.
“Shoo, Ramon!” My waitress arrived with plate in hand. “Can’t you see la mujere isn’t playing your game?”
Ramon retreated. A scolded dog with his tail between his legs. I mouthed a thank you to my waitress and she put my plate down.
“Es delicioso!” She kissed her fingers to her lips. “Mouth-watering.”
And it was. I left no prisoner behind in the war of the plate. I hardly savored the dish before I reconciled with myself to order a to-go plate. The spices, flavors and aromas swirled like the rush of a tornado. The Ecuadorian sausage was exactly as she had said: mouth-watering. The disappointment of the end of my meal was enough to make me cry. Thankfully I kept my composure long enough to order seconds for my midnight “snack’.