Brief Refreshment at Union Avenue Liquor.

Some refreshment from Union Avenue Liquor proved essential on our tour.

Last year, I got to meet Jim Leff, who, as the creator of Chowhound, is something of a celebrity for the food-obsessed.  To my great delight, Jim spent an afternoon with me and my brother Oren, introducing us to out-of-the-way eateries along the Hudson and in central Westchester.  This week, Oren and I were able to return the favor by bringing Jim on a food tour of New Rochelle’s West End.

The West End has been New Rochelle’s immigrant gateway for generations.  A century ago, it was heavily German (and called “Dutch Hill.”)  Then came a huge influx from Calabria and southern Italy.  Today, while there is still a sizable Italian-American presence, the dominant population is of Mexican origin, especially from the states of Jalisco and Michoacan.

For our tour, we concentrated on places that cater primarily to Latino customers and might be off-the-beaten-track for Anglos.  We did quite well – sampling tacos, sopes, horchata, chile relleno, and quite a few other items in the course of a three-hour stroll.  Alas, though, we failed entirely in our grand ambition of hitting all the many restaurants along Union and Washington Avenue — done in by a regrettable shortage of stomach space.

So the following list of spots we visited should not be regarded as comprehensive or even as a greatest hits.  It’s more of a random sampling of a remarkable neighborhood, with some highlights noted.  We’ll have to schedule another tour!

La Esquinita – 102 Union Avenue (“Spanish-Style” Shrimp)

Tecalitlan – 123 Union Avenue (Our Favorite Taco)

Battalia Brothers – 176 Webster Avenue (Smoked Mozzarella, Rice Balls, Potato Croquette)

El Trigal – 214 Union Avenue (Chile Relleno)

La Flor de Michoacan – 215 Union Avenue (Horchata)

Union Avenue Liquor – 236 Union Avenue (Best Selection of Tequila on Planet)

Saccone’s Pizza – 56 Sixth Street (Lemon Italian Ice)