To wrap up a successful year with two long distance walks, 19 FreeWalkers got together to walk
- two things we do pretty well - in the Ironbound
section of Newark, this past Sunday, Nov. 7th.
Eleven of us (Nani, Nancy, Orville, Robert, Joyce, Yon, Cindy, John, Susan, Dagmar and I) started off at Penn Station, Newark, at around 3:30 p.m., heading down Ferry Street. This time, we took in the sights, sounds and smells of this interesting multi-ethnic, but decidedly Portuguese-Brazilian, section of Newark, sometimes called Ironbound (because of its heavy industry history and railroad border) and sometimes called "Down Neck" because of its peninsula shape.
View Ironbound Walking Tour map
Walking Tour of Ironbound
You can easily get the feeling that you are in a strange, yet not uncomfortable environment, with bright signs in reds and greens and yellows mixed in the businesses on Ferry Street. This street has always been the business hub of this part of town, regardless of whatever nationality was dominant.
My first recollection, walking at the beginning of Ferry Street from Penn Station, was the sight of a few Portuguese/Spanish restaurants and bars. Most like Iberia or Spanish Tavern have a long successful history in this area. Lately, Brazilians and Mexican immigrants have come to dominate the area, Earlier in past century, there were Polish, German, Lithuanian, Italian, Jewish and African-American populations. And there are still remnants of some of those populations in the area.
But we were on a hunt for a Portuguese specialty shop called Tucha
. These types of stores carry unique imported gifts like porcelain, pottery, soccer memorabilia and cookware - such as a cataplana
. A Portuguese cooking pot that looks like a wok but has a built-in hinged lid - to cook native dishes. Unfortunately, this is an old-school, religious community that seems to shut down on Sundays, except when that work involves bars, restaurants, and sports. We found Tucha
. But, its rolled-down metal grate was a sure sign that it was closed on Sundays too.
There is one primary Catholic church that supports the Portuguese population called Our Lady of Fatima
just off Ferry Street . The current church building was once a synagogue and had the Star of David showing in its facade. But apparently we missed it or it as covered over and there was little trace of its interesting history, so we moved on using our imagination to see what might have been the past.
Off we went to our next destination - the busy intersection of Five Corners
to see St Stephen's Lutheran Church.
This was originally a German church built in 1874. St. Stephen's is a handsome, almost New England type church, that seems a bit out of place in this otherwise Mediterranean-influenced area. This building has become popular lately for its role as an alien spawning locale in a scene from "War of the Worlds
" (starring Tom Cruise). Five Corners is shown being blown up in the movie using special effects.
We took a right turn at Five Corners to head to Pulaski Street and the old Polish
section of town. Our destination was to walk by St. Casimir's church
. My uncle Rev. Adalbert Kiczek was pastor of this parish in the mid-1960's. By all accounts, he was a popular priest until 1967 when he died right on the altar suffering a heart attack as he was about to say Mass. The really odd thing was that the other priest in the parish had passed away less than 24 hours before this happened. It made the headlines of the Star-Ledger and Newark Evening News at the time as the parish was left without a priest.
The church and this section of town looked clean and well kept and probably is still home to many Polish and other nationalities. Just going around the corner there was another St. Michael's Russian Church
and Our Lady of Mt Carmel Catholic Church
just a couple blocks away. Obviously, these working class neighborhoods had deep national and religious roots that they could support so many houses of worship in so small a space.
Next up we headed to shop for ethnic food. I had come across a highly rated sausage vendor called Lopes Sausage Co.
just a few blocks away on Walnut Street. Lopes is a family-run sausage manufacturer specializing in smoked Portuguese sausages including chouriço, chorizo, linguiça, morcelas, morcilla, and salpicao. I learned you can sample them free in their retail butcher shop. They are said to supply the White House with sausage on a regular basis
. But, they are not open on Sunday
With our minds focused on food, we walked past Sebra's Super Market
- which looked too much like any super market even though they are known to have ethnic specialties. Then we headed for our last stop at Sebra's Marisqueira
, a well known Portuguese seafood restaurant to see what it looked like and what they offered. Seabra's was an interesting blend of a bar/lounge with large horseshoe bar made for dining, driniking and lounging with a blue-white tile dining room. We passed by a window into the kitchen where we saw the body of a huge fish cut in many pieces waiting to become dinner for a lot of people. Prices were reasonable but not cheap. Parking is free across the street. I suspect the food is as good as it looked and the place was busy at about 5:00 p.m. this Sunday. Here's a recent review.
It was time to go to Mompou
Tapas Bar for some food and drink. We drifted in about 10 minutes after they opened and found Tom Landes
with his bike waiting for us at the front door. He had decided to do the Lenape Trail on his own terms - by bike. He started at Millburn and rode his bike following the general direction of the trail where he could and timed it to get to Newark for our party! Being a young septuagenarian, I consider him to be the FreeWalker Ironman.
Soon, several other FreeWalkers and friends drifted in to join us and we developed into a group of 19. Mompou is smallish, but a clean and cool place. While we took up nearly half the bar, the staff treated us very well. I think the true test was when we told our waiter that we wanted 19 separate checks for the food! The sangria we would split and work out together.
The food was excellent and the portions were reasonable for the price. Because of the size of the group and because we didnt know each other well, everyone ordered a separate dish so we did not get to try a variety of things. The sangria was also excellent. Perhaps the only criticism was that we might have done better value-wise going to a cheaper place. But overall, Mompou was a very nice place and suited our event well. I would come here again for a special occasion.
I discussed a few new ideas for walks and was able to distribute many dog tags
to those that participated in the Lenape34 Walk
. For next year, the FreeWalkers will offer some new challenges as well as repeat some of our successes.
For those that could not make it, dog tags will be sent via snail mail in the weeks ahead. Personally, I'm pleased with the way the FreeWalkers grew this year. My original intention of seeing if others might be interested in distance walking began with the 50-mile walk challenge. But its ended this year with creating other interesting walking challenges with the satisfaction of having benefited some really great trails (East Coast Greenway
& Lenape Trail
) that we are fortunate to have near us. Most of all, I think we have all benefited by having met and enjoyed our time together, making new friendships with a common interest. Walking not only improves fitness but it also improves the spirit.