Like most tech addicts I wake up from my bed, eyes halfway open and stretch my hand out searching for my phone. Once I retrieve it, I unlock the home page to tap on the cute ghost icon in front of a lemon hue backdrop. Once I enter the app I check a few people’s Snapchat stories; it’s honestly a great way to wake up.A morning filled with inspiration with my newsfeed filled with people shopping in the latest pop-up shops, visiting art galleries,rocking-out in concerts or even finding out what’s new on Netflix; Snapchat does have it all.
Recently in my morning tradition of watching Snapchat stories, I saw my friend walking into a restaurant in Spanish Harlem.The infamous Carlos Santana, “Maria, Maria” song came to mind.
“Oh Maria, Maria
She reminds me of a West Side Story
Growing up in Spanish Harlem”
I remember the song like it was yesterday.However, whenever I sang the lyrics, I always replaced Maria with my name, Melody.Being a former resident of this town for about 15 years I truly miss the salsa blasting from speakers and people playing dominos as if I was back in the islands.
Now I visit a place where I once called home, and it saddens me; gentrification took over, and it’s culture that gave me so much joy is slowly tearing into pieces.However, when I came across my friend Snapchat of her walking into a restaurant on East 117th Street, it left me with a hope that Spanish Harlem could keep it’s lively folkways.
I had to check out the restaurant for myself so later on in the day I did just that.I walked to East 117th Street and entered El Kallejon Lounge.The minute I came inside, I caught a whiff of spectacular spices and became memorized by the range of colorful decorations.Of course, being a fan of Frida Kahlo (the famous Mexican-born feminist painter who was widely known for her self-portraits) her portrait was the first decoration that made my eye glisten.As I took a couple more steps inside the restaurant, the staff immediately greeted me, and as the menu was handed to me, I couldn’t decide on food just yet.I had taken a look around before I decided what I wanted to eat.Each inch of the restaurant made me feel as if I was in the museum. El Kallejon Lounge atmosphere made me feel like I can make myself at home.
As I looked around the restaurant like a tourist in an unfamiliar country, I was pleased by the various Spanish influences.The owner of the restaurant noticed how I was admiring the establishment designs and offered me to take a look in his backyard.I accepted the offer and wasn’t shock to see the outside was just as charming as the inside.Referencing back to Frida Kahlo, the painter house, “Casa Azul” was famous for its bright blue hue while surrounded by plants and flowers.El Kallejon took a page out of her book and made it their own with an art piece showing a range of people from different backgrounds which expresses to me the then and now of Spanish Harlem.
After looking around and admiring the art, I decided it’s time to wind down and eat finally.El Kallejon is known for their delicious tapas(tapas are small Spanish dishes usually paired with drinks) I looked at the menu and decided to order a white sangria and a cheese platter.
The cheese plate included my all-time favorite brie I scooped a piece out and let it melt in my mouth.The cheese plate was paired perfectly with Serrano ham.
After my tastebuds had beamed with delight, I decided to order another tapa and drink.I didn’t want to end my dining experience with El Kallejon just yet.I decided to order a mixed drink since the menu was calling my name (or maybe the sangria was already getting to my head)The owner recommend The Suave Rico since I’m not the fan of spicy drinks.The Suave Rico included tequila, cachaca muddled berries, lemongrass, fresh mint lime, habanero, cilantro.
The second tapas I decided to go with was mini meatballs made with homemade Lola sauce.Lola sauce is usually made with steaks.The sauce includes balsamic and red wine and is mixed with various seasonings after everything is cooked together in a saucepan it’s refrigerated for up to a month.The sauce was so good I asked for the extra warm tortilla to savor the taste till it was all gone.
As I was about bid my farewell I learned El Kallejon has happy hour, Sunday brunch and games.I hope my friends who watch my Snapchat stories won’t get tired of me coming here because I found my new favorite place.