You don’t have to wear a chef jacket to make an exquisite meal. You don’t even need a restaurant. You could be tucked into the back of a bodega in Queens, earning a cult following selling some of the best Mexican seafood in the borough.
Pedro Rodriguez made a name for himself selling cócteles de camarones in a small outdoor stand in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens. Fans lined up on summer weekends for a sweet, salty, briny cup of Rodriguez’s shrimp and octopus cocktails, spreading the word among the Latinx community that it was the go-to corner on a hot day for a taste of the Mexican seaside. Popularity led him to move indoors, to the back of a bodega, where he set up a seated counter and added to his menu.
Today, visitors can shimmy into the rear of the small deli year-round to order the same avocado-crested cocteles he’s served for years. He lists its ingredients as homemade tomato sauce, onions, lime, orange juice, and clam juice, but the rest is secret. You can top it with either shrimp, octopus, or a bit of each. Also available to order is an array of Mexican seafood, including a fried flauta de cazón with dogfish, octopus tacos, and a sea-bass ceviche served over a crispy tostada.
Its location in the rear of an everyday bodega belies Rodriguez’s attention to detail, evidenced in his treatment of his sea-bass empanadas. Upon frying, he sneaks mayonnaise, cilantro, and ripe avocado into the pockets’ slits, a touch of freshness that brings the beach to you on this noisy corner of New York City.