When she’s not driving a yellow cab or working toward her nursing degree, Constance Marie Barnes makes a potato salad “that can slap your mama,” prays for her passengers, and goes to McDonald’s for one reason: their bathroom.
The pint-sized cabbie from Queens – who would go vegan if it weren’t for goat stew – is also a mobile culinary encyclopedia. During our journey from Queens to Chelsea to Soho to the East Village, she ran down a list of at least ten restaurants that I had to try.
Unfortunately, we struck out every time she tried to drop me off somewhere: Negril in Chelsea has closed for good, as has Birdie’s Fried Chicken. Negril in the Village wasn’t open for lunch.
In any case, the place that intrigues me most among her recommended spots is The Door, where “they have a serious wickedness to their food.” According to Constance Marie, goat meat is cooked to perfection, red pea stew rocks, and fish is delicious at this Jamaican restaurant in eastern Queens.
Stay tuned for the report on the food quest to Jamaica – and for more on the cabbie in the purple fedora who drives like a maniac and talks like Miss Congeniality.
In the meantime, here’s a list of Constance Marie’s other recommended spots. Keep in mind that this is a cabbie who “can’t eat every and anywhere” and who chooses places where she can “freshen up and eat healthy” – most of the time:
Brown Cup, 334 8th Ave, (Btwn 26th & 27th St), Garment District, (212) 675-7765
Her favorite dish: any omelet
Sapphire Indian Cuisine, 1845 Broadway, Upper West Side, (212) 245-4444
Her favorite dishes: mango lassi, shrimp curry
Raw Star Cafe, 687 Washington Ave. (bet St. Marks and Prospect Ave.), Brooklyn
Her favorite dish: tahini pasta
Pure Food & Wine, 54 Irving Pl, Gramercy, (212) 477-1010
Her favorite dish: raw lasagne
Shake Shack, 11 Madison Ave (at 23rd St), Flatiron, 212-889-6600 (Other locations in Manhattan)
Her favorite dish: mushroom burger
Negril, 70 W. Third St. (bet. La Guardia Pl. & Thompson St.), Greenwich Village, 212-477-2804
Her favorite dishes: curried goat, appetizer sampler (also a fun place spend an evening and listen to music)
Elmo, 156 7th Ave between 19th & 20th,
Her favorite dish: French fries
Cafeteria, 119 7th Ave at 17th St.,
Her favorite dish: crab cakes