The Bushwick space that was home to Tandem Bar until it closed in fall of 2015 has been reborn. Mad Tropical, a joint endeavor between owners of Greenpoint venue Tender Trap and Williamsburg restaurant Donna, officially opens this Thursday, May 18.
At preview parties Friday and Saturday, locals and friends alike came to see what was behind the aqua-lettered windows that had been shuttered for the past 18 months. Many remembered Mad Tropical as a pop-up inside of Tender Trap and came in force to experience a grander version of the kitschy tropical ambiance, complete with palm trees and tables handmade by co-owner Ryan Virag. (Virag’s partners are Darryl Nau, with whom he runs Tender Trap, and stylist Ingrid Ammann.)
Mad Tropical’s Mexican fare, overseen by Leif Huckman, will be in the vein of his restaurant Donna. For the preview opening, Donna Chiquita, as the operation is being called, featured cauliflower tacos and tlayuda, a Mexican pizza with black beans, avocado, mozzarella, pico de gallo and lettuce that was easily shared by both the patrons at the bar and bigger parties sitting around the large booths. On the drinks side, there are “party size” 16-oz. cocktails.
The real story behind Mad Tropical stretches back to the early aughts when Virag booked Huckman’s band at the now defunct Starfoods in the East Village. Later on, they became co-workers in the downtown scene along with Nau and the trio cut their teeth in the nightlife business running legendary venues APT and Santos Party House. As they’ve come into their own over the years, they’re ready to give the next generation the best of Manhattan’s vibes with the convenience of being in Brooklyn.
Mad Tropical, 236 Troutman St., bet. Wilson and Knickerbocker Aves., Bushwick.
Correction: The original version of this post misstated that Leif Huckman was an owner of Mad Tropical.