Yesterday evening, a friend and I stood inside Dromedary, a new tiki bar near the Myrtle-Wyckoff L in Bushwick. In front of us a large drink was filled with crushed ice and topped with a purple and orange flower. It was called the Mt. Kilauea Colada, a “tribute to the still-erupting volcano of the Big Island,” and it looked like an icy whirlpool of melted crayons.
My friend took a sip. Her headed jolted back, her eyelid fluttered like a cartoon character, and then her entire face lit up. What in tarnation had happened in her mouth? I took a sip. It tasted like at least seven different things, but mostly rum, various juices of the tart variety, and a hint of spice. Precisely what it consisted of was unclear; but generally, it was a boozy delight, sophisticated and ridiculous at the same time.
“The fun thing is, anything can be tiki now—just throw an umbrella in it, right?” said Michael Lombardozzi, standing inside of his new “urban tiki” spot. “I wanted to make a bar that was inviting but not pretentious, and for the drinks to be the same way.” At Dromedary, that is what you get: a hell of a tiki menu that is delicious and straightforward, with plenty of lip-smacking tiki-themed drinks—abundant umbrellas attached—a quite relaxing tiki-themed atmosphere, including booths and tall tables, one side that opens to sidewalk seating and the street, and a single enchanting lighted wall sign that reads: “Beach.”
Plus, a killer food menu. A lot of it is of the kind of meat-grilled-over-a-flame variety—such as the pu pu platter, with sticky double-fried chicken wings, brown sugar-coated ribs, and some leggy prawns—that you might imagine in a tiki joint. Bet let me also add that the menu includes (I swear on all things holy, including the false tiki god) perhaps the best burger I’ve eaten in recent memory. Not not only is it precisely medium rare and juicy, it is also topped with roasted blue cheese, pickled onions, pickles, and a bun coated in honey. Yeah. Think about it. That’s fun, too. As a concept and in your mouth. Pungent meets savory meets sweet; it tastes incredible.
Combined, this might sound somewhat, oh, zany—but Lombardozzi, a Bensonhurst native, also spent a lot of time earning de rigueur New York City cocktail chops. For a long stretch, he ran the bar program at One if by Land, Two if By Sea in the West Village. So, yes, he can mix you an exceptional Last Word or a Sazarac, if you please. But because he was the boss there, he also got to experiment. For kicks, he made things like a Beet Soda: that red root vegetable juiced, with Campari, gin, cilantro, and then run through a syphon and carbonated. Voilà, beet soda.
When he left, he wanted to create his own place that could carry on that same tradition of tried and true good stuff, crossed with play. Where high and low could meet and mingle, and where there would be no judgment if the end product was not more complicated than pineapple, coconut, and rum. Lovingly, this is what Lombardozzo has gifted to us.
In addition to the Mt. Kilauea, we tried his Coconut Soda, which looks like an egg cream with vibrant dried mango powder sprinkled on top, a mix of gin, ginger, coconut La Croix and Li Hung. It was light, attractive, and yummy. He also presented us with a mock variation of a Fog Cutter, dumped in a bowl for two, delivered with a flaming brown sugar cube that sits in a hallowed-out lime, and two straws. We didn’t drink it because, if we had, in addition to what we’d already drunk, we’d be on the floor. Remember—this is served in a bowl. But if you do drink it, it will include a lot of intense liquors—gin, cognac, a bunch of rums—plus Orgeat, walnut and date, rather than the Cutter’s traditional almond, and then thoughtfully topped with dried hibiscus.
As with the drinks, the food effortlessly melds high and low. For example, there are deviled eggs, which are like medium-grade fancy, but Lombardozzi plays a joke on us all and tops them with little food ornaments: a cricket, a spam cube, and a fried chickpea. Hilarious! A joke on a platter, if you will. Then there’s a PB&J, but made with chicken liver mousse, satay peanuts, and apricot gooseberry jam. And let’s not forget that flaming pu pu platter (kimchi and veggie tempura included, in addition to the meat and sea offerings), and—the piece de résistance—“The 2nd Lombardozzi Burger Contest Winner.” Once you go Lombardozzi Burger, you’ll never go back.
Do you like to have a good time, and drink and eat while you’re at it? Then go to Dromedary very soon. It’s tiki, but it’s urban tiki. It follows no rules. And you never know what Lombardozzi might be scheming next. Maybe tiki through a syphon, for instant effect? “With a beer hat,” Lombardozzi adds, improving this idea. “Tiki beer hat helmets—there’s gotta be helmets.”
Dromedary: 266 Irving Avenue, Bushwick
All Photos by Louise Palmberg