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With the temperature rising, the summer street-food scene that infiltrates Sunset Park’s Fifth Avenue has trickled in along with the humidity. There’s a vigorous clustering on the street corners; atole and tamale vendors in the mornings; the ices, raspados, ice creams, and nieves sellers who hawk under rainbow umbrellas at midday; and, always, grilled corn elotes, slathered in mayonnaise and showered in dry cheese, for strolling the promenade in the evening when you’re deciding which taco truck will be dinner.
Pizzeria Xochil (4613 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-435-2288) extends the borders of its restaurant to set up an array of off-menu goodies on the sidewalk. The pizzeria captures the revolving nature of a New York City neighborhood, from late-nineteenth-century Irish, Polish, and Finnish demographics into an Italian stronghold in the early twentieth century to the current wave of Latino migrants. Among the dozen or so slice joints and diners that dot the avenue, you can often find tacos served alongside tuna melts, and quesadillas sharing menu space with garlic knots.
A collection of clip art is pasted to Xochil’s awning — a slice of pizza, a steaming cup of coffee, and the place’s name, which means “flower” in Nahuatl, one of the indigenous languages of Mesoamerica. The “Xochil” is wearing a chef’s hat and the C has been replaced with a horseshoe, a kooky cultural palimpsest; that’s what we’re good at.
On the street, Xochil sells Mexican-style shortbread cookies, polvorones (two for $1) stacked like poker chips in their glass case, some a tanned beige and others darker, close to burnt. The cookies turn to dust in the mouth; powdered crumbles float to the sidewalk. Are they good? Not especially, but they can tide an empty stomach over to the next block. The twenty flavors of ices are better ($1.50–$2), scoops of melon, coco, pineapple, and the kiwi-esque pitaya (or dragonfruit), which you can get doused in chamoy, the spicy-sweet-tart condiment made from salted plums and ground chiles. The aguas frescas ($2–$4), bobbing with ice in big plastic jugs, are a multihued collection of tamarind, horchata, orange, and lime. They’re thinner than juice, slightly sweeter than water, and exactly what a hot summer day requires.