In the Heart of Williamsburg Exists a Health-Conscious, Tropical Clubbing Getaway
Hidden deep within Brooklyn exists a tropical oasis. Contrary to the near-negative temperatures currently sweeping the Northeast at the moment, we find ourselves sipping on craft cocktails under palm trees; we might as well be in Miami. This is exactly the vibe intended at Black Flamingo, which is quickly becoming one of our favorite pre-clubbing spots in the city. With a tropical restaurant/bar upstairs, and downstairs possibly one of the best sound systems for vinyl throughout all five boroughs, Black Flamingo is a must-visit for both cocktail aficionados and vinyl-heads alike.
A collaborative idea between David Shapiro and Etan Fraiman of Brooklyn’s infamous Battery Harris—alongside Eli Goldstein (Soul Clap), Philipp Jung (M.A.N.D.Y.), Gadi Mizrahi (Wolf & Lamb), and creative partner Bryce David—Black Flamingo is the perfect example of how working together can equate to more than the sum of all the parts. Working with Andrea Lubrano and executive chef Soozee Nguyen, the gang put together a vegetarian menu that appeals to both herbivores and carnivores.
The menu, made up mostly of delectable tacos, is a breath of fresh air in this clubbing landscape that thinks hot dogs wrapped in bacon is the only food option applicable for a night out. The perfect apéritif or revitalization to one’s evening of dancing, these tacos may, in fact, be the most memorable thing of your night; and that is a good thing.
We downed two of the JAMs quicker than it took the chef to whip them up. These crispy potato latkes—with Gruyère, guava jam, fried garlic, scallion, red onion escabeche, Cotija, and a chive-dill crema—are probably the best thing this poverty-stricken writer will eat all year. Normally one predisposed to disliking vegetarian food, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I really did not miss meat in this dish. The latke served as a perfect example of how vegetarian food does not necessarily need to rely on tofu or other meat adulterants to create a fulfilling meal.
“I was looking to create a place that my favorite DJs and I could just go to and hang out and have great drinks.”
No night can go without quality drinks, and Black Flamingo showcases its tropical vibe with a curation of solid options that will make you forget that it is freezing out. Along with a champagne-filled happy hour, the drinks here are refreshing and will not weigh you down. We sipped on a Beeez (gin, yuzu honey, lemon juice) and a Smooth Operator (vodka, lime juice, cucumber, sugar, fresh basil leaves)—the latter being the better of the two, due to its use of fresh basil.
The ambiance upstairs is just half of the experience. What lies below is a wood-enclosed, 70-capacity shrine to vinyl. After all, house music is why we are here, and house music is what we received. Too often these days we are faced with sound systems that are way too fucking loud. It seems as if 10 years ago, someone decided that Funktion One equates to quality, and clubs around the world followed suit, installing these systems at a record pace. Contrary to metal-heads around the world, louder is not necessarily better. It was nice to walk away from the night without being deaf for the next week.
With a custom Klipsch La Scala system in tow, Black Flamingo gives every other club in New York a run for their money. One could easily tell the love and passion Philipp Jung, Eli Goldstein, and Gadi Mizrahi put into crafting this space. The club is always free and features an eclectic mix of electronic music—a rarity these days in the ever-increasing niche that is the Brooklyn clubbing scene. The night we visited featured disco music plucked straight from the ‘70s. Steve ShakeWell and JohnnyG got the packed house going at a shockingly early time for New York standards, which is a testament to the quality disco cuts they were spinning.
By midnight, the club was already popping off with a mix of people that gives us hope for the future of clubbing. It is rare that this writer immediately wants to go back to a venue the next day. Because of this afterglow, we thought it would be nice to sit down and chat with Eli Goldstein about the inspiration behind this oasis in the frozen tundra.
Ironically enough, Eli hopped on a phone call with us from Miami, where he and the rest of the Crew Love team call home during these frigid winter months. We chatted about everything from where house music belongs in the city to what we can expect from the Soul Clap in the future—and of course, his baby, Black Flamingo.
Where did the concept of Black Flamingo come from?
It really wasn’t me that actually came up with the concept. It was a friend of mine, David Shapiro, who was looking to open a year-round venue. He found the space and approached me to see if I would be interested in getting involved and being the music director, which I was.
What were you guys looking to add to the Brooklyn scene?
There are a lot of these massive, bigger clubs like Output and Verboten, and then there are these super niche, smaller venues such as Bossa Nova Civic Club and Palisades. What was really missing was a place that was warm, inviting and casual. Everything does not have to be like cutting-edge, underground techno—contrary to what most believe in Brooklyn at the moment. I was looking to create a place that my favorite DJs and I could just go to and hang out and have great drinks—basically like a grownup bar.
“I love eating while I’m partying—especially when you are going for hours, or even days.”
Tell us about this sound system we have heard so much about.
The sound system is really special. It’s Klipsch La Scala speakers; they’re wood and analog, and they are really warm. Vinyl sounds great, and it is really a space designed to play records.
Where did the idea of being a vegetarian restaurant come from?
The vegetarian restaurant thing was really initially a decision because it would be easy on the kitchen. As the club is the focus, we didn’t want things to be too complicated. A vegetarian kitchen is a lot easier to manage, because you don’t have to worry about the refrigeration. Also, my wife—who has been very involved with the food and designing the menu—is vegetarian. Her focus is healthy food, and it is a lot easier to have healthy food when you don’t have meat.
Why do you think clubs are like a void for quality food options?
I love eating while I’m partying—especially when you are going for hours, or even days. It’s really important to have food, and it is unfortunate that there are not enough healthy food options when you are out dancing. Just having a hot dog or burger at a party isn’t really good for you. It weighs you down, and it makes it hard to keep going. To be able to chew on something and get the nutrients in you without getting weighed down is key to a long weekend out.
What aspects do you think make up a perfect club? What did you want to bring from your experience touring extensively with Soul Clap back to Black Flamingo?
The perfect club for me has a wooden floor. Wood is great for acoustics. All the walls are wooden at Black Flamingo because of this. A crisp sound is as important as the volume. Along with a great sound, you really want to have an amazing staff. Getting to know your staff on a personal level makes everything run smother. You want the security to do their job, but not constantly bugging people. You want the business to run as a community. If everyone feels like they have a stake in it, they will all work harder. The DJ booth has to be really comfortable and facing the crowd. You don’t want to be far away from the dancefloor; you should be part of the party.
Leading up to EDC New York, we are attempting to get a vibe of the city from its key members. What is your perfect night out in Brooklyn?
Black Flamingo! No, but really getting a good base of food and booze in you before clubbing is key. There are so many great bars and restaurants in Brooklyn. Café Mogador in Williamsburg serves great Mediterranean food. Cerveceria Havemeyer< makes great fucking margaritas, and XIXA has these cocktails made in an ice cube that melts into your drink. There are so many great after-hours in Bushwick. A night out to Brooklyn is not complete unless you see the sun come up. Bushwick AV and Resolute throw great parties.
Being from Boston, you and Charles Levine have quite the interesting background. What were some things you guys wanted to take from your hometown and implement in the Big Apple?
Black Flamingo is really connected to the style of that dancefloor and is similar to one of my favorite clubs in Boston, Middlesex Lounge. It is important to have an eclectic kind of dancefloor, a good mix of people, and a good mix of music. Disco, house, and funk really brings in a diverse crowd. That diverse range is really important—it is something I really wanted to bring to the scene in New York with Black Flamingo.
Being a crate digger yourself, what is your favorite record store in Brooklyn—or New York City, for that matter?
What I really look for in a record store is an eclectic mix of music. Halcyon is great for techno, but it fails to carry enough variety for me. There are so many cool edits and disco reissues and house records and experimental stuff, that there should be record stores where you can go to a shop and get all this music—and you can’t in Brooklyn, which is the shittiest. There is actually a secret spot called Downtown 304, which is actually a distributor. You can order your records online and go and pick them up there, and occasionally, they will let you do some digging.
What can we expect to see from Soul Clap in 2016?
We just launched Crew Love Records, and the Crew Love album comes out this week, actually. So, that is really exciting. Crew Love Records is our flagship label with Wolf + Lamb. We are putting out all our albums there. We are also putting out a Nick Monaco album and a No Regular Play album, and then our Soul Clap album is coming out this fall, which is our second artist album. Also, be on the lookout for a big Crew Love tour we are doing this summer to support the release.
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