On this particular day, I was starting to worry about all the things I needed to get done. I crossed things off my mental checklist but it still felt as though I had a million and one things left to do. I figured it was time for a small break to clear my thoughts and go back full force. I coincidentally, received a call from one of my good and very pregnant friends. “He needs to come out soon!” she said. Her due date was quickly approaching and she wanted to help the process along. She heard that exercise can help induce labor so we decided to head to the park. After an hour or two, we whipped out our handy dandy smartphones to see what else we can do.

Most things I couldn’t help her with. Until we came across one.  “Aha! Spicy foods! I know just the place!” I almost too excitedly exclaimed. We made our way to El Gallo Azteca which is a Mexican restaurant located in the St. George area of Staten Island, New York. Don’t be fooled by its size, this is no hole in the wall restaurant. It has been a cherished spot for over 10 years and with good reason. We walked up to the counter and were greeted by a friendly worker who offered a few suggestions to us. I ordered a (grilled chicken sandwich) torta de pollo and my friend ordered a chicken quesadilla. I warned her to load up on the complimentary green and red salsas which pack quite a bit of heat.What fascinates me about this place is how they can take something as mundane as a sandwich and transform it into such a special, mouthwatering treat. The bread is soft, but not soggy. It is the perfect vehicle for the juicy grilled chicken, lettuce, tomato slices, and pickled jalapeño. The quesadilla is made very traditionally with Oaxaca cheese, and pieces of grilled chicken. As we were eating our food we started to notice all the beautiful artwork and decorations. There is a giant mural on one of the walls that seems to be an ode to the Mexican revolutionary, Emiliano Zapata.

Mural from El Gallo Azteca

Zapata helped redistribute the land occupied by the haciendas to the peasants who originally worked on them. The phrase pictured in the mural above ” La Tierra es de quien la trabaja”, translates to “The land belongs to those who cultivate it”. It was a slogan echoed by Zapata’s supporters during their fight to reclaim the land from the Spanish. Another thing I noticed about the restaurant is that is adorned with many roosters. I discovered that the rooster is believed to be a symbol of good luck. These roosters have clearly done their job because not only has the restaurant existed for over a decade, it’s helping to bring a divided community together. As I mentioned before, tensions have risen in Staten Island between Mexican immigrants and natives.That is why having a site like El Gallo Azteca, here is a very important. In regards to the decor, it seems as though nothing is accidentally placed but rather serves a purpose. Each piece captures your eye and makes you want to think about why it was put there. El Gallo Azteca offers amazing homestyle cuisine as well as noninvasive history lesson. I believe the reason they have lasted so long is for the fact that they take pride in and stay true to their culture, which shines through their menu.