Arroyo Grille

Main Street and Leverington Avenue
(Venice Island) Manayunk

"Jewronimo" is the name I had selected for myself, not truly comprehending at age ten that American Indians and American Jews didn't have more in common than a sense of discrimination. The name emerged as my moniker one Saturday morning in 1952 after I had watched eighteen straight weeks of the two hours of cowboy movies on Frontier Playhouse (7:00 A.M. to 9:00 A.M.) before rushing to synagogue to lay T'fillin at Shabbas services. Needless to say, I'd heard the Durango Kid, Hopalong Cassidy, Hoot Gibson, Ken Maynard and Lash Larue all mention the name of the Indian Chief with supererogatory respect. And perhaps because the Talmud was everpresent in my thoughts on Saturdays, the pronunciation of the word "Geronimo" by every cowboy worth a lick never sounded anything but Israeli.

My mother did not think this was a feather in my yarmulke. She wondered whether I'd be in full headdress by my Bar Mitzvah, three years in the future. She tried to show me the difference between Indians and Jews in her interaction with me, as a lesson in tough love. For the one month (one full moon), she stopped speaking to me in either English or Yiddish; instead, she puffed on her Pall Mall's and gestured only with circular smoke signals. To her dismay, I loved it, and attempted to reply by pounding cans of talcum powder in her direction.

At the beginning of the next month, my mother struck with a vengeance.

She yelled, "No more brisket with kasha and varnishkes!" I was advised that only Jews, not Indians, have mothers who cook that variety of food on Friday evenings.

"You'll eat speckled purple and yellow corn kernels," she announced.

All thoughts of mixing Moses and Maneto left me in a flaishidic flash. There was nothing more heartwarming, luscious and tender on earth as mom's baked brisket. Until now.

Arroyo Grille's Barbecue Sampler ($19.95) of fat free brisket, baby back ribs, spare ribs and pulled pork has returned my thoughts toward the Southwest.

As I understand this oasis' culinary culmination of brisketry, one Arroya Grille staffperson rubs the meat with a myriad mix of dried spices. The beef is then smoked ever so slowly above fruitwood logs and branches for no less than twenty hours. The resultant piece of mahogany-colored, smokey-flavored slab that is served on a huge platter can only be characterized as colossal. The marbleized exterior, when touched by the specially provided heavy handed knife, parts to a pristine opal pinkness. The flesh's slices are dissolving in wetness. One's tongue tracks against the grain until eye-teeth are able to garner a stronghold. Notice that you're chomping to the mental beat of a painted warrior's drum. Swallowing brings back memories of the credits at the end of all the cowboy movies you've ever seen.

Gene Autrey's face can be molded from the mound of garlic mashed potatoes assembled near the pulled pork and ribs. And the strands of sautéed escarole, bespeckled with pine nuts and raisins can be assembled around the barbecued chicken breast to resemble Champion's flamboyant mane.

Rub the sauce on your plate into drawings of buffalo, armadillo and snake. Yell for fire water and dance the toe-heel two-step. Traverse among Arroyo's metaphysical paintings of blue wolves, Santa Fe horses and mesa friezes, past the two story waterfall. Jump between cobalt blue walls, chili pepper sconces and urn chandeliers. Head for the outdoor grills, to eat on patios without reservation.


Copyright 2004 Richard Max Bockol, Esq. Back