Best Markets -- El Quetzal


The quetzal is a tropical bird with colorful plumage and a long forked tail, a national symbol of Guatemala. El Quetzal is also the name of a Guatemalen grocery in Jamaica, Queens, located on Hillside Avenue, under which the F train runs. The grocery is less than a block from the Parsons Ave. stop. It's a classic New York City bodega, a dense warren of ethnographic products so super-organized that you'll find yourself walking hesitantly down the narrow aisle, fearful of knocking a thousand things off the wall with an inadvertent swipe of your arm. Following are some of the products we found there.


A plastic case near the front of the store sells Mexican-leaning pastries, many topped with colorful ridges of crumbles. One was an oblong roll shaped like a braided empanada. Cut it open and out spills a sweetened condensed milk filling that looks like--well, never mind!


Hung up on adhesive cards we discovered cheap mayo offered in plastic bags--an idea whose time has come?


There are bottled sauces galore. On the left is a sauce with the rather unfortunate name of Maya-ik, which tastes more sweet, salty, and sour than peppery. In the middle is Picamas, a cilantro-driven green chile sauce that's also suprisingly sweet. On the right is a sauce whose name translates "Church Sauce." It's like a species of Worcestershire, only--surprise!--sweeter. I think we can conclude that Guatemalans like lots of sugar in their table sauces.


Here are some English-style biscuits made with rice flour instead of wheat.

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Finally, we have an envelope of instant coffee with an engagingly retrograde picture of a blue enamel coffee pot. The envelope claims to make 6 to 8 cups, but seemed adequate for only a scant 2 cups by our tastes. Guatemalans like their coffee on the weak side, with lots of milk and sugar, we presume. 160-06 Hillside Avenue, Jamaica, Queens, 718-759-8574 

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