A Double Dose of Trinidad: A Caribbean Outpost in Brooklyn

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This article by Elizabeth Flock appeared in The New York Times.

Every day of the week except Sunday, a line begins to form in the early morning outside a narrow storefront on Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant, often before the sun rises and the shop opens. Customers wait in their cars or line up on the sidewalk as the spicy-sweet smell of fried doubles drifts out the door.

A&A Bake & Doubles Shop is famous for its doubles: a typical Trinidadian breakfast of curried chickpeas stuffed inside fried bread, flavored here with tamarind, apple and mango sauces, and hot pepper. When approaching the counter, it is important to know how to describe the level of pepper you want: “mild,” “plenty” or “slight,” slight being the standard answer. It means somewhere in the middle.

Late one morning on a recent Saturday, the talk in line — which was discouragingly long but moving fast — was about whether to go down to Trinidad for Carnival in February, where to watch the big Floyd Mayweather fight that night and how many doubles to order.

Omar McKenzie, 34, ordered two (for a total of $3), which, he explained, was because he had just come from the gym. But he also craves doubles after a late night out. “It’s the hangover breakfast,” he said.

Mr. McKenzie spotted a friend from Grenada eating at the shop’s wooden outdoor table, and they slapped hands.

“You didn’t get enough of this food growing up?” Mr. McKenzie joked.

At the end of the line was Carolann Spencer, 47, a Trinidadian who had been coming to A&A for almost a decade. She lives around the corner. “But when I’m out of the neighborhood, I travel to come here,” she said. She ordered saheena, a flash-fried spinach delicacy available only a few days a week. When she brings her grandchildren, they get pholourie, dough balls filled with split peas.

Most of A&A’s customers seem to come from Trinidad or surrounding islands. The owners of the place, Noel and Geeta Brown, who are also from Trinidad, run the business with the help of their daughter and several staff members, and have made every effort to keep it like home. Ingredients are shipped in from Trinidad every week. Soca music plays at full blast. The walls are plastered with colorful posters and pictures: Caribbean capital cities, a local soccer player and Nicki Minaj, who was born in Trinidad. All the sauces and sodas are from Trinidad; A&A does not sell Coke or Pepsi. It even accepts the Trinidad and Tobago dollar as currency.

“I’ve made a lot of friends here,” said Mr. Brown, who bought A&A with his wife 12 years ago after running a roti shop in Queens for several years. “This is home away from home.”

According to Mr. Brown, about half of his customers are regulars, and he estimates that he sells about 2,000 doubles on a Saturday. But as Bedford-Stuyvesant changes, A&A is attracting new customers. On this Saturday, a white couple walked by the shop deep in conversation and almost missed it, but they craned their necks to look after noticing the crowd. A young Latino man ordered doubles, left the store, and then walked back in to ask the staff how exactly to eat it. Mr. Brown laughed. “You fold it,” he explained. “There’s no fork or knife. And if you open it the wrong way, everything falls out.” Heading back out onto Nostrand Avenue, the man folded the double and took an enormous bite. “He’s got it now,” Mr. Brown said, and he smiled.

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For the original report go to http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/26/nyregion/a-caribbean-outpost-in-brooklyn.html?_r=0#

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