Here is a list of beverages and refreshers you may find along the streets of Roosevelt Avenue. If you have any questions, send them my way and I will do some investigating. If you have any corrections, send them along. This is in preparation for the Roosevelt Avenue Street Food Crawl aka Taco Crawl.
Arroz con leche – Rice in milk. Usually found in a covered metal basin which may be confused with a tamale basin. Rice pudding is creamy dessert, arroz con leche is more of a drink (though still creamy). There is a lady usually at the Jackson Heights farmer’s market who sells this, it is rare on Roosevelt Ave though.
Jarritos, Inca Kola, Postobon, Mexican Coke (real sugar, best Coke in your life), Yerba Mate, Colombiana Kola Champagne, Pony Malta and flavors you might find unfamiliar like apple or pineapple.
There is a lot to say about each one of these. Fortunately, here is a great text-only rundown of South American sodas
Soda de lata – Translation: canned soda
Aguas Frescas (Water based drinks, translation: fresh waters):
At many full service and some taco carts, they will have these big jugs of white, yellow, green, brown, and purple drinks. The bottom is full of ice and you can see it sweating on a hot day. They usually give you a big 16 oz for about $2. Here are some of common ones, listed in declining popularity:
White – Horchata – Sweet rice milk. Possibly with a hint of cinnamon.
Brown – Tamarind – Hard to explain. A little sweet, a little sour, a little spiced. You should try it.
Purplish Red – Jamaica – also known as hibiscus. This is sweet, similar to a berry taste. It’s not a berry though, the juice is extracted from a flower.
Greenish Yellow – Limon – Lime, although it translates to Lemon… confusing…
Orange – Naranja – Orange
Jugos Naturales – Translation: natural juices.
Going to a stand like this is like a mini-juice bar (but with just as many ingredients). Simple and healthy. You can usually do combinations of drinks. They will end up being between 2 and 5 dollars. One of the more popular storefronts is Los Chuzos y Algo Mas on 79th street, which has about 18 selections to choose from. There are some big carts with tons of fruits on there too, notably between 104th and 108th street on Roosevelt, which is pictured below. This place has many hard to find fruits for juices such as chinola (passion fruit), mamey zapote (indescribable, aphrodisiac fruit indigenous to Mexico, see wiki), morir sonando (carribean drink, possibly orange juice, milk, cane sugar, and chopped ice. More info wiki) and zanahoria(carrot)
Salpicon – fruit cocktail
Coca - whole coconut. It’s a coconut with it’s outsides shaped to hold in the hand. You stick a straw in and you drink. You can also eat the insides by scooping it off with a spoon.
Coca and Salpicon can be found from the same lady (pictured above) between Junction and Warren on Roosevelt Ave, north side.
Raspados – Essentially a Latin Snow Cone. Raspar is Spanish for “scrape”
By far the most popular place for raspados is El Bohio at 99th street. On a bright day after 2pm, the line is down to the street corner. The man shaves the ice in front of you, scoops it into a cup and puts in any number of the syrups available such as:
fambruesa – raspberry
leche – sweet milk
Naranja – orange
fresa – strawberry
chinola – passion fruit
coca – coconut
limon – lemon
and then you can get a sweet cream to put on top of it all (probably called lechera). The cream turns it reminiscent of yogurt to me.
Don’t worry as much about the translations. They usually have the syrups on display, so you can usually just point to the corresponding color you want. Also many of these drink makers speak English enough to communicate flavors.
Cholados - A raspado with fruit in it. Like a Raspado Deluxe.
Batido - Similar to a milk shake, but with no ice cream. Like a milk based smoothie. The flavors are the same as those above, generally.
Helado – Ice Cream
There are more than a few Marino’s Italian Ices carts and also ice cream in general. There are also pops that come by a stick in a cup and other sticked ices, sometimes called palitos. One palito dealer in particular is on the south east corner at Benham (across from Tia Julia truck), he sells flavors of: coco (chocolate), pina(pineapple), mora(blackberry), guanabana(soursop), arequipe(Colombian dulce de leche), tamarindo, and maracuya (passion fruit).
But the ice cream-esque item that I’ve only seen on Roosevelt Avenue is:
Crema Guayava - these usually come in two flavors, guava and probably vanilla. It’s like a whipped topping that is served in a cup or ice cream cone. These do not need refrigeration to retain their shape, which is not the most comforting fact. The ladies make these themselves from a special machine. I don’t believe they are dairy. There is still much to be found out about this mysterious frosty delight.
**Update** This may also be called espumilla.
If I was going on this trip for the first time, I would not want to miss one of the agua frescas like horchata and maybe a respado or cholado. A jugo naturale would be good too. Hmm, they all are worth a sip. Also keep a look out for the elusive Mexican Coke. Some vendors sell it on the street, but you are more likely to get it if you cheat the pavement and enter into nearly any deli past 75th street.
Finally, you will have a hard time finding these on the June 27 Taco Crawl, because they are usually wintertime drinks:
Morocho - Creamy, hot corn based drink. Tastes like rice pudding a bit.
Quaker - hot oatmeal based drink. You probably will want to wait til December for this one.
Champurrado - Similar to hot chocolate, but in a corn-based liquid.