I did a bit of wandering today, checking in with neighborhood businesses and eating. El Shater, the Lebanese grocery on 43rd Ave. and 43rd St. seems to be doing OK: the owner said that nobody in the neighborhood has done anything stupid, people are buying...though, sadly, friends of the family are missing five people in the WTC. It seemed to be business as usual, the teenage son at the register, playing hip-hop tapes, his friends hanging out in the back of the store. Got a shwarma sandwich (the beef is much better than the chicken; fabulous homemade hot sauce; lots of turnip pickle) and a bottled yogurt drink (Romi's brand: they're based in Patterson, NJ, and I think lots of Middle Eastern stores carry their products. They make a great lebneh, too--quality stuff, worth seeking out). If you're in the neighborhood, do visit: their baked goods don't do much for me, but they have astonishingly good olives, nice meat, and excellent fresh nuts (both Turkish and Iranian pistachios, wonderful almonds). Take-out sandwiches can be eaten on benches by the playground on Skillman Ave., one block north. They're great people--a picture-book example of what a family business should be.
Stopped in at Hemsin, the Turkish restaurant on Queens Boulevard--my first time since they moved down the block to bigger digs. They've made beautiful use of their new space. It was pretty empty, but that could just have been the hour. Got a lahmacun to go (made to order; best in the city, I think), and a couple pounds of cookies (there are these pistachio-covered, cherry jam-filled ones that are particularly awesome). Noticed on the menu that they do a traditional Turkish breakfast plate ("ozel kahvalti tabagi"): fresh-baked bread, jam, cheese, olives, cucumber, tomato, hard-boiled eggs. Necessarily accompanied, of course, by many glasses of tea. Anybody tried this? I'm definitely going to soon.
Bought a big ol' plant at the florist on 46th St. & Greenpoint (neither food- nor Muslim-owned-business-supporting-related, I know, but hey, it just seemed like a good day to buy a plant, and it's a nice store), and some staples at the Turkish convenience store on 43rd Ave. & 46th St. (another place worth knowing about for neighborhood residents: apparently just another convenience store, it has tons of Turkish packaged products, very good bread, decent baklava delivered from somewhere, nice teapots and sets of glasses, and really cheap, lovely-smelling olive oil soap for a fraction of what you'd pay for same in schmancy stores). Spent the rest of the afternoon unconscious, catching up on long-deferred sleep.
Hope to hear from other hounds about their neighborhood places. Even if not all of us can set up all-day defensive bases over cups of tea, it seems very important to at least stop in to Muslim and Arab owned business and just ask: How are you guys doing? Is there anything I can do to help? And if there is anything to be done, post here, and we'll all help. (Speaking of which, has anyone checked on Speengar, the Afghani kebab house on 69th St.? I love that place, and haven't yet had a chance to go by.)
Wishing strength and courage to all,
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