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Mohammed on 7th Avenue
Mohammed on 7th Avenue

A Tagine Lead and an Airport Ritual

Mohammed on 7th Avenue

“Kennedy [airport] has a robust, to put it mildly, waiting area for cab drivers seeking fares, out of sight of travelers. There the cabbies pray, nap, play soccer, throw dice — and eat takeout from a little cafe.”
– New York Times, December 31, 2009

Mohammed was dropping off a fare from JFK when he picked me up at Columbus Circle on Monday.

“I usually go to the airport around 12,” he told me, “There’s a restaurant in the parking lot. It’s very busy. They have American food and Indian food. Halal food. I like rice with chicken or beef.”

For Mohammed – who was born in Rabat, has been driving a cab six days a week for the past ten years and spends every summer with his wife and kids in Morocco – the trip to JFK is a ritual he never misses when he’s on duty, even if he’s empty [i.e. without a passenger]. Besides eating his lunch there, he prays.

When I told the cabbie I recently started driving a taxi and hadn’t been to the holding lot at JFK yet, he registered about 30 seconds of shock then switched into counseling mode: “8, 9, 10am is a bad time to go there. You can wait three hours for a fare. Go in the afternoon.”

I promised him I’d give it a try on my next shift and asked him where he likes to eat when he’s off duty.

“Weeeelll, I like lamb. You know tagine?”

“Yes! Yes!”

“There’s a restaurant in Astoria on Steinway Street between 27th and 28th where it’s very good. And the price is right.”

Though he first went to the restaurant with Moroccan friends after a Ramadan fast in 1998, Mohammed couldn’t remember the name of the place. But he did tell me that the owner is a guy named Tangawi.

I guess this means I’m making a trip to Steinway street and canvassing all the Moroccan restaurants in search of Mr. Tangawi and his allegedly delicious tagine.

But not before I infiltrate the cabbie holding lot at JFK airport – although I’ve got to admit I’m just as curious about the soccer and the prayers as I am about Mohammed’s meat and rice…

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  1. I’ve been there. It’s yummers. Next time you come by for yoga we’ll feast afterwards.

  2. Oh please do the tagine first! A Moroccan cabbie told about La Maison du CousCous a few years ago but it got shut down last year. I really want good tagine again! Pleeeeeeease =)

  3. My favorite tagine in NYC is still here: http://www.taginedining.com/
    It’s on 9th between 39 & 40, west side of the street, and looks like NOTHING from the outside. The area itself looks incredibly seedy, but the food is totally worth it. As is the music, belly dancing, and Algerian red wine.

    • Excellent, excellent, excellent. I still haven’t found a great tagine here. I’ll do everything I can to try this place before I go to Berlin. Thanks for the tip!