Talking to Strangers: The Raw Beef


The worst advice for city dwelling I can imagine is “Never talk to strangers.” Talking to strangers is a joyous and useful habit. Of course, knowing whom to engage in a chat and whom to avoid at all cost is a skill you’ll have to hone yourself. But growing up in New York, I don’t remember being told not to do it. And as a curious eater, it would be just plain dumb not to seek tips from the randos you encounter on the street, in a bar, etc.

So, in this section, those randos will be honored, and their tips shared with the public (the good ones only, of course).

First off, a tribute to some friends I made in Sunnyside one night while wandering the streets alone. I happened into the Middle Eastern grocery/deli/bakery El Shater Corp. (where I discovered delicious house-made lebne). Two men were perched near the kitchen, eating from take-out containers. When I asked them what was good, one man tore a section off his own pita, and scooped a bit of raw beef from an aluminum container. He handed it to me, and it struck me that this was exceedingly intimate, and possibly unwise, but down it went.

The beef was mixed with bulgar wheat and seasoned with sesame oil, salt, and a little something spicy. This was a very delicious snack, though it’s hard to imagine eating a whole plate of it. “Later,” one of my friends said, “is when it hurts.” But I guess it was worth it. On my way back to the train that night, a car sped down Queens Boulevard and honked. “Bye Nina!” someone shouted from the window. It’s good to make friends.

El Shater Corp.
43-02 43rd Ave, at 43rd street
Sunnyside (7 train to 40th)
(718) 392-2702