Roy Choi essentially gave birth to the modern food truck movement, when he debuted L.A.’s Korean taco-serving Kogi back in 2008. Not only that, but he asserted the tortilla as an ideal vessel for unifying wholly disparate cuisines, conveying everything from bulgogi to curry to Jewish brisket. Which is why eight years later and on the other side of the continent, a Bed-Stuy spot called Swell Dive, trumpeting Filipino/Tex-Mex, barely raises an eyebrow. Especially since it too views tortillas as edible tabula rasas of sorts for combining sisig, spam and queso into tidy, tasty packages.
Further styled as a laid-back, anything goes, surf shack, Swell Dive forges a seamless link between owners Dennis Mendoza and Autumn Stanford—also of nearby Brooklyn Kolache. Those housemade flour tortillas prove the perfect stand-in for rice, a Filipino staple, while fillings of chicken adobo, smoked pork sisig and chicken-fried spam couple up to refried beans, avocado and jalapeno slaw—all nods to Stanford’s native Texas (a bonus for commuters on the adjunct G-train: they intend to start offering breakfast tacos soon).
The food selection is complemented by an equally irreverent cocktail list, including the “Coco Chi” with pineapple, coconut cream and Tito’s, and the “Karate Kid,” featuring maple syrup, Cointreau and lime. Then there’s the $30 “Fishbowl,” a Curacao-tinted sea of juice, sprite, vodka and rum, containing 15 shots and multiple straws. We suppose it marries the Philippines’ Tiki tradition with Texas’ “everything’s bigger” mantra, because with all due respect to tortillas, booze remains one of the world’s most reliable unifiers.
1013 Bedford Ave., Bed-Stuy
Photos by Jane Bruce