Friday, January 7, 2011

Cabo Rojo


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?


EV Grieve said...

Unfortunately, we can take your conclusion:

How could a place like [ ] continue to exist in an environment that is becoming increasingly hostile to anything not hotspotty?

...and insert the name of any longtime neighborhood joint that serves everyday folks...

Tricia said...

I frequently pick up lunch from the various eateries on that block. Sad to see Cabo as well as its next door neighbor From Earth to You closed. The neighboring business owner told me the building the 2 restaurants occupy was sold. The pizza place next door, which actually has a variety of other food-I recommend thespinach pie-- remains open.

Anonymous said...

That place was great. Sorely missed.

Anonymous said...

And the test is when the replacing hot spot goes out of business in a year or so, does the place stay empty for years? How many institutions get shoved out and this happens? Why do many landlords seem content with valuable store front spaces staying empty for long periods? The market is for price gouging and greed at the expense of the life of the city.

Born in Chelsea said...

I wonder if they could have survived if they stayed open for dinner hours? We had to give up on eating here years ago because they'd always be finished with the meat dishes before 5... frustrating to want to order food and they've always run out, or there's one piece of chicken left in a pool of oil. Yes, I KNOW it was more of a lunch place, but we didn't want to eat something that heavy for lunch... and if you want to survive in a tough market, sometimes you have to adapt. Sad to see them go, but maybe if they'd stepped up a little, they'd still be hanging on.

Anonymous said...

i love that joe's tavern crusty rusty sign. jeremiah, maybe you will do a piece on it or have? anyone on this comment board ever gone there and when did it close? i wish i could have gone, it seemed like such a quiet hideaway, at one point... still, that corner still seems a bit more quietish than others. poor sign. :( -stef

Anonymous said...

i'm indeed crushed that cabo rojo is closed. had great food many times, and the two waitresses rocked.
but i'm interested in addressing the bottino and joe's tavern observations. bottino has been part of the landscape since the 1990s, and joe's tavern has been shuttered and a blot on the block for at least 12 years. so i wouldn't bemoan a wine bar going into the space. new york should be a mix of the old and new, not a bitter aversion to the present.

Jeremiah Moss said...

i haven't done anything about Joe's. i love the sign, but have never been able to find anything about the place.

a mix of the old and new is good, but that's not what's happening--what's happening in this city is an assault on the old to feed an obsession with the new. it's relentless.

Tricia said...

On Saturday I happened to see Norma coming out of Cabo and stopped to talk. Asked if they would reopen in new location, she said yes! With a new partner, she plans to open a place at Christopher & 12th Ave in the spring. promised to distribute fliers when available at the neighboring businesses on the block

Jeremiah Moss said...

hey, Tricia, that's great! thanks for passing along the news and keep us posted.

Anonymous said...

There is no 12th Ave. down at Christopher St. -that would put you in the Hudson River. I thought it was a typo for 12th St., but Christopher & 12th St. don't come close to intersecting. I wish that people would give an address (street number) when identifying a place, automatically.