200408__food_huarache.jpgImagine a place where you could choose amongst authentic Mexican, Honduran, Colombian, Guatemalan, Dominican, and Salvadoran food. A place where you and a friend wouldn't need to spend more than $10 to stuff yourselves on everything from Guatemalan tamales to Mexican huaraches, Salvadoran pupusas to Dominican plantains--all while enjoying the beautiful summertime weather.

Now imagine if that place also had a huge pool right across the street where you could sun yourself for free, and even swim some laps to work up an appetite first. Sound too good to be true? It's not, if you're willing to make the pilgrimage to Red Hook, an out-of-the-way corner of Brooklyn that juxtaposes hardscrabble housing projects alongside artists staking claim to affordable housing.

Red Hook also plays home to a big recreational area that includes soccer fields, a gym, and a huge pool (the one where you'll be catching some rays before downing some pupusas). The soccer matches tend to feature Latino teams such as Liga Mexico and Liga Guatemala and a few years back some enterprising Latino food vendors got the brilliant idea to serve up some home cooking to the captive audience of friends and family of the players.

2004_08_food_pupusas.jpgThese games happen every Saturday and Sunday from late April through early October, and these vendors are ready to grill meats, squeeze fresh fruit juices, and pat out pupusa patties by hand from 10am until their rations run out (which must happen rather late in the day, as we recently found the vendors still very well stocked at mid-afternoon on a Saturday).

And while everyone from Time Out New York, to Chowhound.com to Gothamist's own Vittles Vamp has profiled this scene and its wondrousness, Gothamist was happy to find that the event is still flying under the radar of most gringos, making us feel like true food adventurers. We revisited the food again this summer (after venturing many times last year) and were gratified to find that things had not changed a bit. The Salvadoran pupusas were still hot off the griddle and perfectly complemented by the repollo (pickled cabbage) at its side, the Guatemalan tamales were moist from their banana-leaf steaming and mouth-meltingly good, and the staggering array of tropical fruit (from mango to coconut to papaya) still came with the Mexican option of an on-the-spot dousing in lime and paprika.

How to get there
By subway: F, G to Smith–9th St. Walk two blocks west on 9th St to Clinton St; turn left and continue north six blocks to Bay St. By bus: B77 to Red Hook.

Red Hook Recreational Center and Pool, 155 Bay Street, Phone: (718) 722-3211

Note: On Saturday, September 18th, the food vendors will be celebrating Mexican and Central American Independence with live bands, a DJ, clowns, etc.

--Allison Bojarski