If you aren’t looking for Black Flamingo, chances are you won't notice it. Located in a nondescript corner of Williamsburg at 168 Borinquen Pl, the windows are dark, and while they set up outdoor seating during the summer, it’s not a place that spills out onto the street come the later months.
It all began as a collaborative idea between David Shapiro and Etan Fraiman (of Battery Harris), alongside Eli Goldstein (Soul Clap), Philipp Jung (M.A.N.D.Y.), Gadi Mizrahi (Wolf & Lamb), and creative partner, Bryce David. The goal was to create a “more intimate and sophisticated hang-out alternative to the big clubs popping up all over the city, focusing on music, sound, and intimacy.”
The first floor is a full service restaurant, featuring a fully vegetarian and Latin flavored menu, creative cocktails, and intimate atmosphere. Weekly specials are available on the menu, but when my friend and I stopped by on a recent Saturday night, we wanted to catch some of the staples that I’d heard of previously.
To start, we ordered watermelon and heirloom tomato salad, comprised of local grape heirloom tomatoes, watermelon, feta, jicama, and baby arugula in citrus mint vinaigrette. With its refreshing burst of both water and flavor, it served as the perfect attempt to beat the heat of a New York City summer. Next came a sampling of tacos, separated into Jerk tacos (seared mofongo, roasted fingerling sweet potato, refried black beans, jerk aioli, mango raita, crispy collard greens) and Al Pastor (ancho chile marinated jackfruit grilled with smoked mozzarella, refried black beans, seared pineapple, avocado, pico verde).
The rich, smoky flavor of the Jerk tacos went well with an accompanying Passing Me By cocktail (tequila, blood orange juice, triple sec, lime), but it was really the use of jackfruit in the Al Pastor tacos that stood out. For those unfamiliar with the exotic taste, it's a starchy fruit that reminds one of banana, pineapple and apple combined. The texture was so surprisingly satisfying, I had almost entirely forgotten that there was no meat involved. In fact it was better, with flavors more diverse and nuanced than if I had been eating just your typical chicken taco or the like.
We arrived early to eat, and at about 10 p.m. the lights in the restaurant dimmed, and the DJ in the corner started elevating the tempo of the music. A few more delicious cocktails later (I stuck with Passing Me By but a friend got the Permanent Vacation, which included Capel Pisco, lemon, pineapple, simple, and orange bitters) we decided to head downstairs and check out the rest of what Black Flamingo had to offer. It is here that really showcases Black Flamingo’s unique ways of thinking and pushing boundaries.
The space isn’t like the expansive, cavernous clubs that have popped up around the city; it’s a direct contrast to that. The low ceiling was filled with hundreds of balloons that had been blown up to deck out the space, and wooden analog Klipsch La Scala speakers pumped a steady stream of danceable beats for the pulsating crowd to enjoy. The sound quality was amazing, and avoided being deafeningly loud like other dance spaces I’d been to. It also strayed far from the bottle service, cover charge, bros, and other tropes that have come to define other “megaclubs”.
With DJs Doug Sherman, TORIBIO, and Joe Bronson spinning that evening, it was easy to get swept up into the night, and 1:30 a.m. came faster than it had in a long time.
So while Black Flamingo is in a bit of a nondescript location, nothing about the menu, drinks, or music is nondescript. The combination of a creative and tasty menu, tasty and affordable cocktails, and the high quality dance music downstairs makes it definitely worth an evening.