A reader writes in, "Passed by Cabo Rojo--Puerto Rican joint on 10th Ave--shuttered. Owner said lost lease."
from Don Juan Tenorio's flickr
Restaurant critic Sam Sifton was a fan of this 51-year-old Chelsea spot. He wrote a lengthy, adoring review in The Times in 2002 and provided an atmospheric snippet of the place:
"They sit at the counter with their sunglasses pushed up on their heads, baggy shirts covering guns, radios, handcuffs. They eat rice, beans, pork chops, sliced avocado. They sit at the tables shoveling it in, tall uniformed men in shiny boots and the creased caps of the highway patrol or mutt-faced beat walkers in rumpled blue.
They come to Cabo Rojo from nearby galleries, pale-faced young women with tangled artist hair, for succulent roast pork, and they walk in on their way to the estimable Chelsea Commons down the street, bartenders taking a preshift meal: roast chicken, yellow rice, red beans, sweet plantains, a Coke.
They are neighborhood types, office workers, family -- a quick portrait of western Chelsea, with sound: New York-inflected Spanish, English with a Puerto Rican twang."
from toonvb's flickr
Cabo Rojo lasted for half a century. But the "neighborhood types" have lately become more gallery girls and condo boys than cops and Latino families. The New High Line is stretching further northward, bringing the destructive force of "renewal" in its wake. This block (and this end of Chelsea) is undergoing change. It will be swift, and it will be total.
Between pizza shop and check-cashing joint, the block already has Danny Emerman's "art-world hotspot" Bottino and the Swiss brasserie Trestle on Tenth. The block's bricks are daily suntanned by the reflection blazing off the "shimmering architecture" of the newish 245 10th Avenue condo directly across the street. And someday, the melancholy, crusty neon of Joe's Tavern on the northern corner will be gone; another wine bar will go in.
How could a place like Cabo Rojo continue to exist in an environment that is becoming increasingly hostile to anything not hotspotty?