A Rare Nightclub Where the Food’s a Draw

Black Flamingo’s menu takes you from an al pastor taco made with jackfruit, to a fried plantain split filled with dairy-free strawberry ice cream.

black flamingo jack fruit crab cakes

Black Flamingo’s jackfruit “crab” cakes feature pulled jackfruit, sweet corn and fresh herbs served with cilantro chive aioli and topped with micro greens. Photo credit: Facebook/Black Flamingo.

At a place more known for its downstairs nightclub, you wouldn’t expect the food to be any good. You’d be wrong about Black Flamingo, though, the vegetarian and vegan spot at the intersection of Borinquen Place, Keap Street and South 6th in Williamsburg. The Latin-inspired menu takes you from a royal trumpet mushroom ceviche, to an al pastor taco made with jackfruit, to a fried plantain split filled with dairy-free strawberry ice cream. You can wash all of it down with drinks like the “Cool Lady,” made with Vida mezcal, mint, yellow Chartreuse, cardamom syrup, celery bitters and lime.

There was a conscious effort to make the cocktail program, food menu and focused music events all stand up on their own as well as complement each other. “I wanted to create a space for adults kind of in-between the stages in their life—still like to go out, still like to dance, like to party, but they pay attention to details a little bit more,” says partner Bryce David.

The attention to detail is especially clear in their vegan dishes, where they’re creating cheeses and creams in house rather than going for readily available substitutes. Chef Ben Dawson, who came over from Leyenda in Carroll Gardens, wanted to take a new perspective when re-creating taquería classics. “We feature dishes one might expect to find, such as esquites and guacamole, and pair them with unorthodox taco choices such as the bibimbap or Jam (latke and guava) taco,” Dawson says of their approach. “We also make sure that while we are an ovo-lacto vegetarian kitchen, all menu items can be prepared vegan.”

Really digging the photos from @heleneisfor! #discotaco

A photo posted by Black Flamingo (@blackflamingonyc) on

To make those cheeses and creams, “the basic principle is macerating various nuts in warm water,” according to Dawson. His process is deceptively simple, leaving a lot of space for creativity in the flavor details. “To make a basic cashew or other nut cheese, you simply soak the nuts in warm water, causing them to soften and expand. The water is then drained, and the nuts are pureed, causing a natural emulsion with the oils and fats in the nut and the water that has been absorbed,” he explains. “The rigid texture is eliminated by soaking, resulting in a rich, creamy texture quite similar to dairy. You can then add more water or other liquid for a cream, plus nutritional yeast and other seasonings to flavor the ‘cheese’ however you like.” It’s incredibly successful in their quesadilla, which is a super-filling dish that hits all the creamy, satisfying notes you’d expect from a dairy version.

“We wanted something that was accessible, yet healthy,” David explains. “It’s different than what we thought it was going to be, but it’s better than what we were intending to do.” For that, the cocktail-loving, disco-dancing vegans of Brooklyn are lucky.

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Alicia Kennedy is a Long Island–born, Brooklyn-based food writer and recipe developer.