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Son Lux Gets Homesick for Crown Heights Mexican Food

"I hadn't quite experienced anything like it before Crown Heights except for some stuff I witnessed in New Orleans."
December 15, 2015, 4:30pm

The guys of Son Lux have a lot to look forward to when they return home from their tour. The trio—Ryan Lott, Rafiq Bhatia, and Ian Chang—will probably hit up Chavela's in Crown Heights within 48 hours and wind down over their usual favorites (plus a generous side of rice and beans). They'll go on a long walk with the band's unofficial mascot, Ryan's dog Leroy, and probably stumble upon a random street party. Before they're back on the road, they'll squeeze in a visit to the Brooklyn Museum. Or a second meal at Chavela's because that's just how good it is.


VICE: What's your earliest memory of Crown Heights?
Ryan Lott: I moved to Crown Heights on the release day of the last Son Lux record, Lanterns [in October 2013]. Those first few moments were kind of unforgettable… on the release day of my record I also walked into a new home. It's a pretty loaded feeling, emotionally.

How would you describe the neighborhood to a first-time visitor
Rafiq Bhatia: I would probably say a vibrant, rapidly changing yet still a culturally diverse neighborhood with a really incredible mix of new, exciting establishments and also landmarked stuff.

*Lott:* I've never lived in a place where there are so many regular full-on festivals… like party in the streets, shut off the block, and throw down. I lucked out recently when I was home between tours and happened upon this incredible parade. I was just transfixed just watching drummers, dancers. I hadn't quite experienced anything like it before Crown Heights except for some stuff I witnessed in New Orleans, watching battling brass bands and second-line drummers.

What's your favorite thing to do in Crown Heights?
*Bhatia:* Ryan and I really like to walk up and down Eastern Parkway. There are islands on both sides of the road that are really great for walking and biking. Lined with beautiful trees. In the spring, summer and fall it's kind of a really gorgeous scene outside. It reminds me of boulevards in France.


*Lott:* I have a dog and when I'm home from tour, I walk about an hour and a half every day. I'm constantly walking around the neighborhood in a pretty wide circle. I'm always changing it up.

Do you have a favorite neighborhood character?
There's this one older woman that I see. She's very, very old. I think what she does is makes her way out of her apartment every morning and she's always dressed really well. She sits on this bench on the corner and I often see her talking to people. I haven't stopped to talk to her yet because of Leroy, I wouldn't want to freak her. She's just this beautiful older woman who sits there really peacefully and it looks like she's just people-watching all day. My guess is she's someone who's been there for decades, watching the neighborhood transform.

Where do you guys eat in Crown Heights?
*Bhatia:* We can't really finish this interview without naming Chavela's. I just moved back [to Crown Heights] recently and the defining moment of moving back was when I put Chavela's back on my speed dial. I swear that there have been more days that I've eaten food at Chavela's than there are days that I haven't. To call it delicious is really an understatement. It's a really delicious menu of Mexican fare that I think is rooted in traditional foods but also takes some great liberties. On the menu, I think all of us have our favorites but the Plato Don with Tilapia is really extraordinary. I would suggest starting there if you're having dinner. If you're having breakfast I would just have Huevos Ahogados.

*Lott:* It's also a great spot for band meetings. They have a really good lunch special.


*Bhatia:* If you're broke, you can get rice and beans with a side of guacamole for around $5 and it's a full meal. You might have leftovers afterwards. It's the best deal on food that I've come across in the neighborhood.

Do you have a favorite bar?
*Lott:* The closest bar to me happens to be my favorite beer bar, Covenhoven. It's a go-to spot if my wife and I are feeling extra lazy but we still want to go out. One time I was drinking there with friends and I was bragging about how close my apartment was. I was like, "I bet I could be at my door in less than a minute."

*Bhatia:* I think you said 20 seconds.

*Lott:* I think I made it back in 40 seconds.

Do you have a go-to coffee shop?
*Bhatia:* Little Zelda is the band's favorite coffee shop.

Where do you go for peace and quiet?
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden has been a source of serenity when I need to clear my head or just remove myself a little bit from the frenetic pace of the city. I'll go to the garden and it's amazing how rejuvenating it is, to just stroll around and see all the different plant life and the way it's been laid out.

*Lott:* One of the best things about Crown Heights is its proximity to Prospect Park, without being Park Slope. When I'm home, I do a lot of family picnics and family walks in Prospect Park. It's an incredible oasis of nature. It's the Central Park of Brooklyn. I'm really thankful to be near there.

What activity would you recommend to a first-time visitor?
If the weather is not cooperating at all, head right to the Brooklyn Museum because it's just an incredible museum. My wife and I are members. They're always bringing in amazing exhibits and the stuff that's there all the time is incredible. The architecture of the building is fantastic. At night, they do cool events like salsa dancing, First Saturdays, and live performances.

If the weather's nice, I usually direct people up and down Franklin for food, coffee, juice, and then up along Eastern Parkway, all the way to Grand Army [Plaza] and exploring the tip of the park there. It's unreal. You walk right into the park and it opens up to this giant field and you hear and feel the whole area just coming together. Soak in the sun, the fresh air. It's pretty magical. And this conversation is making me feel homesick.

This interview has been edited and condensed.