323 Franklin Avenue, Bed-stuy
I’m not usually one for sweet drinks; I actually like my cocktails supremely bitter and boozy. Even so, strangely enough, I hold a special place in my heart for frozen drinks. But since last summer’s Phrosties are now a distant memory, getting a frozen Pink Baby at Baby’s All Right involves swimming through throngs of people who think being health goth entails actual exercise, and Glady’s—even with its fantastic frozen cocktails—is less a bar and more a place to gorge on delicious Carribbean grub, the time was right for Chilo’s to come along, with its perfectly crafted frozen drinks.
A brand new Mexican-themed bar in Bed-Stuy owned by the people behind Mayfield in Crown Heights, Chilo’s has been a hit since the day it opened. Maybe it’s because people are finally feeling optimistic that summer isn’t too far off and Chilo’s is the perfect place to ring in the new season, with its backyard full of ample picnic table seating and a taco truck (which, yes, takes cards). Even the indoors retains an outdoor vibe: The big corner door was wide open on a warm evening and I imagine the large, nearly floor-to-ceiling windows will be open when it’s hot out, to let in the breeze.
Though Chilo’s would no doubt make a great spot for day drinking, it translates really well to nighttime. The place is illuminated by orange neon lighting and a neon Calavera along with shiny black tiles that help bounce light around in a strange way—something of a nod to the night sky. Add in the blaring 80s hits and the laser starry-sky projector and you’ve got yourself a place that embraces creatures of the night. And for those who worry that Chilo’s will suffer from some symptoms of banal hipster bar disorder, there are few: a street arty mural on the back wall and sugar-skull neon lights. But the crowd doesn’t seem to mind, and neither should you. You’ve got frosty things to drink, after all.
As for those drinks, the frozen margaritas and rotating frozen drink of the day (on our visit it was a chipotle rum concoction) will cost you $7 and are strong enough to warrant that price tag, as well as being not-too-sweet with a hit of tang and tartness. Most of the non-frozen cocktails were less than appealing, with super-sweet ingredients like Jarritos. (Cute, but unless it’s something that enhances the flavor or the alcohol rather than simply covering it up, no thanks.) However, Chilo’s does its beer cocktail right: The salt-rimmed Michelada is just spicy enough and slightly thick (like how they do it in Mexico), with a perfect limey finish. It wasn’t on the menu, but they whipped one up for me and with it proved their true Mexican chops.
As for the tacos, they leave something to be desired. Unfortunately they are less small Mexican bites and more heavy, oversized American meals, which is great if you’re looking for value over flavor—particularly because you’ll be super full after spending only $10. But if you’re more concerned with the latter, maybe pass on these. We tried a special of the day, the black bean and avocado tostado, only to encounter something that tasted vaguely of Fritos. The fish tacos had a similar issue: They were coated too heavily in creamy, cheesy stuff drowning out the fresh toppings and fish, which was over-battered to the point of just being a fried “something.” And in a borough with several great tortillerias, these were pretty mediocre flour ones.
That said, a shrimp taco was nearly perfect: Rolled up in a much more flavorful (and reasonably-sized) corn tortilla with perfectly grilled shrimp coated in a diablo sauce, it was exactly what I wanted. And speaking of sauces, all the homemade salsas were amazing, and Chilo’s offers several varieties, including a super-spicy habañero, a milder tomatillo avocado, and a classic salsa verde. Guests can also pick at a variety of classic garnishes: fresh, thinly sliced radishes, newly pickled jalapeños, and pickled onions.
Even if the food was average, I imagine I’ll be back when it’s hot out, drunker still, sipping on frozen margs and gobbling down tacos. Maybe next time I’ll break edge and go for pork.