The shelves are packed, the employees are friendly, the location is perfect, and the owner saw all of this coming.
“El Mercadito was always the plan,” said Red. “This is where I wanted to be.”
It shows. Keeping your doors open in an ever-changing Bushwick for a decade right next to the bustling Maria Hernandez Park doesn’t happen by accident.
I visited El Mercadito two days in a row, and on the second day the cashier recognized me. He greeted me like I’ve always been welcome. It was a touching act of kindness that makes Bushwick feel neighborly, but then this is what it means to be a bodega.
Bodegas make New York very special and every New Yorker holds his or her bodega dear. El Mercadito stands its ground in the network of bodegas of New York by giving us the necessities of everyday life, like detergent and lotto tickets.
What sets it apart is that it occupies a space in Bushwick no other store does; it is the bodega of Maria Hernandez Park.
Why You’ll Go:
Take a case off the Corona mounted on the far-left wall, get a turkey on a roll and some chicharrones. Hey! Even grab some lotto scratchers. The selection is huge. Head to the caddy corner park entrance and lay out in the sun for the rest of the day.
Why You’ll Come Back:
The ATM gives out $5 and $10 bills. I never, never see $5 bills at an ATM. If you’re like me and use a bank with approximately zero ATMs within a five-mile radius, the $5 and $10 bills are gold.
Tamarindo and soursop Goya nectar drinks. Whoa. I had to Google tamarindo because I was too embarrassed to ask the man working what it was. The drink is wild. It’s a legume-flavored sugary yet bitter juice. It’s strange and refreshing all at once.
What You Need to Know:
El Mercadito is located at 274 Knickerbocker Ave., directly across from Maria Hernandez Park. Yes, there is a bodega cat. I didn’t see it with my own two eyes. However, I did locate a cat carrier tucked away in the back corner and a Yelp review confirms he enjoys ear rubs.
Photos by Allyn Faenza