5 Front Street, DUMBO
If you’re like me, the word margarita recalls a less-enlightened phase in life. These were neon-pink, high-fructose-sweetened elixirs with a twist of citric acid to ease the burn of bottom-shelf tequila. But Gran Electrica, the latest restaurant from the team behind Colonie in Boerum Hill, has a stylish Mexican theme, and its signature drink on the bar menu is a refreshing margarita sans slushy ice.
And there’s much more to relish from behind the bar. This elegant, “upscale” Mexican eatery is just two doors from Grimaldi’s; it might capture many of that popular pizza spot’s would-be diners, tired of waiting on its winding lines. Cocktails seem to be a focal point here, and the menu gleefully casts Latin ingredients in classic American-cocktail contexts. The Margarita Electrica, for instance, combines El Jimador tequila with Combier, fresh lime juice, simple syrup and lime salt, and there’s a Margarita de Pepino with the same, plus fresh cucumber juice and cilantro syrup. Seasonal margaritas might include the recent beet-stained rendition, which sports Day-Glo pink appeal and a subtle earthy flavor. Prickly pear, watermelon, agave nectar, and jalapeño make appearances in the many other cocktails, and the darkly satisfying Vida de Mole fuses Bittermens Xocolatl Mole bitters with mezcal, vermouth, campari and a twist of orange. As a bar snack, a wedge of Mexican chocolate would suit this drink well.
The more limited wine menu is strong on Spanish imports, in apparent salute to the country’s New World conquests. The bartender recommended a rich, velvety red from Rioja, which pairs excellently with mole poblano. The Portuguese Vinho Verde and Spanish Cava are fine options for much of the spicier, lighter fare, and a Long Island rosé from Channing Daughters Estate adds to the menu a local touch. There is a full arsenal of Mexican beer, ranging from a can of Tecate ($5) to a 32-oz. bottle of Corona Familiar ($14). The draft beers also include one local option (Sixpoint Bengali Tiger), plus Negro Modelo, Dos Equis and Pacifico. Not to be overlooked is the glorified Michelada, a typical hangover twister of Tecate and spices—in this case, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lime juice, Clamato, and celery and chili salts.
You can pick out for snacks a few tacos or chips and guacamole from the expansive food menu. They’re much pricier than the average Sunset Park taco shop for much the same fare: a pair of fish tacos with shredded cabbage; carnitas (or beef tongue) with onion, radish and cilantro. The food menu’s real appeal is in its “grande” platters, or entrées, which tend to favor savory comfort foods from the whole spectrum of Mexican regional cooking. A pork shoulder and hominy pozole sprinkled with chicharrons was an exercise in simple, humble traditions—and was especially soothing on a chilly autumn evening.
While we’re glad that Gran Electrica has brought this dish alive in DUMBO, as well as the tasty cocktails, there’s something kitschy in drinking and dining here. Is it the custom wallpaper of Day of Dead figures dancing around the Brooklyn Bridge? Is it the insistent use of Spanish throughout the menu descriptions? Is it the considerable prices for what is, after all, regional peasant food? Or the fact that the only actual Mexicans in the place are probably hidden somewhere in the closed-off kitchen? It’s probably all those things. And it could probably get pretty annoying—if you hadn’t had one too many margaritas.
Photo Noah Fecks