At Unique Restaurants, Politics Plays a Part
New York City is a place where different cultures and different people connect. In Manhattan, there are folks from all over the country and all around the world questing for the “American Dream.” In order for some to do that, it means adapting to the culture of their new home, shedding as much of their previous life as they can to blend in. For others, it means bringing their culture with them, proudly displaying and sharing their culture with their new neighbors.
For years, Nicole Ponseca and Mauricio Salenas have both called New York City their home. Nicole is a first generation Filipino-American from San Diego. Mauricio immigrated to the United States from Bolivia in 1985. Both run restaruants — very different kinds and style of restaurants — and they both have very different takes on their place and the place of their restaurants in this city. Ponseca’s successes emerged through her aspiration to introduce under-represented Filipino cuisine into the oversaturated New York City restaurant market. Salenas’ diner, an independent, fully functioning restaurant inside of the mental health building at East Harlem’s Metropolitan Hospital, is his attempt at a staple of American dining, and his business, acording to Salenas, is floundering because of the success of Obamacare.
An All-American Fight Rooted in Filipino Cuisine
Entrepreneur and activist Nicole Ponseca is the owner of two well-known restaurants in Manhattan’s East Village. At Maharlika and Jeepney, Ponseca lovingly expresses Filipino culture, and both eateries have attract a large following of Filipinos, Filipino-Americans and New Yorkers alike.
As a daughter of Filipino immigrants, Ponseca is firm in her opposition to President Donald Trump’s proposed immigration policies. She has made a successful business based on the premise of promoting diversity, and now, she feels Trump is threatening that. The tragic irony, in her mind, is that her father, who immigrated to the United States and joined Navy while still a citizen of the Philippines, voted for Trump in the 2016 election. Nicole tries to come to peace with this.
At Metropolitan Hospital, A Downside to Obamacare
Bolivian-born Mauricio Salenas moved from his native town of Cochabomba to New York City in 1985 and soon after, he found work at the diner that he, today, is the manager of. Grand Café is a diner like you might expect anywhere else in the city; it has pictures of 1950’s movie stars on the wall, has pleather booths, and serves breakfast, lunch, or dinner at any time it’s open.
It is also a diner in a unique part of town: it is situated right inside the mental health building at Metropolitan Hospital in East Harlem. As you might expect, the diner is frequented by patients and doctors, but it is also wide open to people from the neighborhood. In recent years, however, the number of diners has been dwingling.
At a public hospital, it could be assumed that the Affordable Care Act is a good thing. But with a sinking patient base and wide-spread hospital cut backs on clinics and staff, Mauricio’s costumers just aren’t coming in the droves that they used to.
Unexpected Political Perspectives
Like Ponseca’s parents, Salenas is an immigrant to the United States. And like Ponseca’s father, Aniel, Selanas chooses to support particular political stances of Donald Trump, a person who outspokenly calls for the limitation of immigrants, legally or illegally, into the US.
Nicole Ponseca draws in her crowd of New Yorkers, and Filipinos, and Filipino-Americans by serving the cuisine from the archipelago of her parents’ birth. Nicole’s duel restaurants are both Filipino and American, which has proven to draw a large and loyal client base. Though it may have no impact whatsoever on the Grand Café’s financial troubles, Mauricio’s diner is neither an Authentic American diner, and is not representative of his native culture. However, Jeepney, Maharlika and Grand Café alike function to service, in one way or another, the people who come to them.