Photo by Austin McAllister
571 Lorimer Street, Williamsburg
On the corner of Metropolitan and Lorimer, the windows of a spartan silver trailer reveal a busy restaurant kitchen. Overhead, diners sip watermelon margaritas on an expansive roof deck, which is shaded by orange and yellow striped awnings. The trailer is tucked into a corrugated metal façade, parked in the dining room, where a model-thin hostess wearing Chuck Taylors and tattoos leads patrons to sunny tables beneath a skylight. After dark, wall sconces cast a neon pink glow. If Epcot were to add a Williamsburg pavilion to its World Showcase, it might look something like this—and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
On the night of our visit, the entire waitstaff enthusiastically sang “Happy Birthday” to a large party in the center of the room while a family with young kids happily snacked on guacamole at a corner table. It’s a different vibe from chef Ivan Garcia’s more subdued Mesa Coyoacan, but judging by how packed the place was, Zona Rosa’s boisterous bar-and-grill attitude has been well-received. If you can snag a seat on the roof, it’s worth a visit just to catch the last rays of evening sun while sipping a zempasuchitl. This earthy and slightly smoky cocktail, made with fresh lime and orange juices, orange liqueur and mezcal, is like the margarita’s raspy-voiced cousin. The margaritas here are made with fresh juices, too, and offered in traditional citrusy form or with watermelon, tamarind, pineapple and jalapeño flavors.
On our table, the shrimp ceviche, served in a pool of pico de gallo with buttery avocado, made a fresh and light starter, while the hot, stringy bowl of queso fundido, topped with spicy house-made chorizo, packed enough cheesy goodness to soak up a few mezcal cocktails. Other rib-sticking menu options include a Mexican hamburger, a juicy grass-fed patty with jalapeños, grilled mushrooms, melted cheese, avocado and chipotle mayo, and a braised Berkshire pork sandwich drowned in a bowl of salsa. The tacos Arabes were like tacos crossed with shawarma sandwiches, with marinated pork rolled tightly into a paper-wrapped tortilla and served on a tall, tiered tray with a selection of salsas. Unfortunately, the spiciest of these salsas was necessary to bring the dish to life, and the tiered tray was a conversation barrier. If our server came back to check on us, I would’ve asked for a plate. In short, if you’re a stickler for real-deal Mexican flavors, stick with Mesa Coyoacan (or your favorite taco truck). But if you’ve got a craving for Mexican-inspired pub grub with a little fresh air on the side, Zona Rosa is the place for you.