Bushwick is hardly flush with lush green spaces, for sprawling out on the grass with a picnic. Which makes The Johnson’s partially enclosed front yard — furnished with squashy carpets of Astroturf, potted palms, picnic benches and pod swings — a close enough approximation. Although instead of six packs, you can supplement your summer spread with iced highballs of Desert Sun: tinted acid blue with curacao and slicked with a float of cassis. And in place of damp deli sandwiches, you’ll have direct access to the fare at Strange Flavor Burger Shack, the dive bar’s newest pop-up purveyor, stationed in a deep-fryer and burner-equipped shed.
Like The Johnson’s former tenant, Duncan’s Burgers, Strange Flavor has the double-stacked, all-American, smashed-style patty down, dutifully stocking their petite space with potato rolls, cheese slices and special sauce. Except thanks to the time that co-owner, Matthew Kleine, spent as a stage at Mission Chinese Food, most everything else on the menu has a surprise Sichuan twist — consider the Chop Burger, adorned with charred cabbage and peanuts and glazed in potent mala, a spiced oil charged with the buzzing heat of Sichuan peppercorns.
The brick-red brew also adds lip-sparkling sizzle to the stand’s most direct Mission takeaway, wings — although Strange Flavor’s could easily stand in for turkey legs at a renaissance fair, grasping beyond the confines of their flimsy paper boats. Credit the peppercorns too, for the tingle in the tartar that swaddles a “dry pot” fish sandwich, but it’s actually Japanese togarashi lending a sweeter, citrusy heat to tumbles of longbean tempura tipped with lime mayo, as well as corn-battered hot dogs scattered with cilantro, scallions and circlets of fried shallot.
This may not sound like the kind of stuff you’d expect to find at a bar, but it certainly makes for a pretty righteous picnic.
369 Troutman St, (862) 268-6213, Bushwick
Photos by Sasha Turrentine