Where to Take a Middle-School Spanish Class for a Field Trip Lunch?
Whitney D. asks: I am a middle school Spanish teacher taking my class on a field trip. I was hoping we could stop afterward to taste the cuisine of a Spanish-speaking country. The restaurant must be open during the weekday and large enough to accommodate a class of 30 or so. It should be inexpensive and located in either Brooklyn or Queens.
Dear Whitney D.: For Ecuadorian, you might try Sol de Quito in Bushwick. The premises seats 45 or so, so it could accommodate your class, and there are many interesting dishes that could provoke a discussion among your students.
There are plenty of combo platters that could be shared by two students, including "montero," a mountain climber's special, and "escudo," which includes little heaps of ceviche, goat stew, and guatitia, a yellow braise of potatoes and tripe that will also provide something of a bovine anatomy lesson.
Another possibility is the newcomer Chifa in Jackson Heights, which is a Peruvian-Chinese restaurant that will cause the students to wonder why such a combination exists. Not only does the restaurant offer Peruvian-Chinese standards, it also has plenty of normal Peruvian dishes, including spice-rubbed chickens with green sauce, sautés of french fries and beef strips that might remind the kids of school lunch, and ceviches that feature already-cooked fish.
Of course, Mexican food is already well-known here in the States, having ascended via fast-food franchises like Taco Bell to being one of our country's most favored cuisines. But why not take the kids to a Pueblan place started by new immigrants? Where the sauces called moles predate the Spanish Conquest of the Americas? Many of these places, often descended from groceries, would be too small for your class, but one that's large enough is Tacos Cachanilla, where you can get chicken pipian (in a pumpkinseed sauce) or the same bird in mole poblano (the chocolate-laced sauce associated with Puebla). Other good menu choices typical of the Southern Mexican table include pozole, huaraches, and platters of lengua, stewed tongue. It would be good to challenge your students culinarily as well as linguistically!
At any of these places it would be wise to call ahead and make a reservation, and perhaps the best thing might be to arrange a buffet so that the students can try many things at once. That's a good way to keep the price down, too, and shorten the time spent at the restaurant. Good luck!