Boasting one of Brooklyn’s very best backyards—ornamented with honest-to-goodness grape vines and other exotic, non-urban flora—The Pines team could simply fling open its doors the second that temperatures exceed 50-degrees, and call it spring. Yet, they’ve never been content to merely use the space as al fresco overflow for the restaurant, experimenting instead with various standalone concepts, from a Basque-style cider bar to a wood-burning small plates spot. And this season, they’ve actually given the trellised hideaway its own name—Josephina—a cacti bedecked taco pop-up, open from Thurdays-Sundays through the end of the summer season.
Equipped with a press and griddle, the tented kitchen now churns out handmade tortillas made from corn obtained from small organic farms in Mexico (although they hope to start sourcing upstate soon), and topped with cochinita pibil, carne asada, chorizo and potatoes, lamb barbacoa, or vegetables, along with housemade cotija cheese and queso fresco. Extras include aguachile, a liberally spiced catch-of-the-day ceviche; sikal pak, a Mexican pumpkin seed dip served with plantains; and a wholesome “PH” Bowl, black lentils, avocado and greens tossed with cotija dressing, and finished with a soft poached egg.
For dessert there is sweet masa cake with pistachio ice cream, and assorted paletas in flavors like green grape-cilantro, chocolate-hazelnut-coffee, passion fruit-chili, and coconut-kale. And they’ve even devised a separate drinks menu of virgin libations such as freshly-squeezed pink lemonade and creamy horchata, supplemented by bottles of Modelo, glasses of rosé, and tumblers of “La Soldadera,” a lip-tingling cocktail made with mezcal, guava, serrano, and lime.
Add in a weekend-long produce and provisions market, and it’s an ambitious venture indeed, for an establishment whose industrious, indoor restaurant still remains entirely operational. Although, perhaps, it will be precisely the push patrons need to schedule multiple visits; so be sure to stop by The Pines for duck rillettes and borsa vuota pasta during the earlier part of the week, and make Josephina’s your seasonal go-to for family taco night.
284 3rd Avenue, Gowanus
All photos by Jane Bruce.