Gran Electrica is adding a jolt to DUMBO’s oft-maligned food scene.
The team behind Colonie — a year-old, seasonal, small plates outfit that has enlivened the equally barren Brooklyn Heights area — is hoping to work the same magic in DUMBO with authentic Mexican eats that eschew Tex-Mex constructs like quesadillas and burritos in favor of regional, home-style specialties like tortitas, tlacoyos, and garnachas.
“Mexico has one of the greatest cuisines in the world, and yet, most people don’t have a very accurate sense of what it’s really about,” said chef Sam Richman. “The food tends to be very specific to each region.”
Much like America, food in Mexico varies drastically from city to city (would you order a lobster roll in Memphis or barbecue in Maine?).
“Oaxaca, for example, is isolated by huge mountain ranges, so it’s maintained a very different kind of food from the rest of Mexico,” he said. “In Yucatan, you get a Caribbean influence, Veracruz is Spanish, and Mexico City is a very efficient place to eat, because you can experience flavors from all over the country.”
Richman and co-chef Brad McDonald hope to lead Gran Electrica’s guests on a similar journey, exposing palates to native Mexican ingredients like huazontle (a bitter, green vegetable) and epazonte (a pungent herb), and dishes like pozole rojo. costillas de cerdo, and aguachile.
But while the food may briefly transport diners to the valleys of Puebla or the coastal plains of Veracruz, the design — along with a cocktail menu of artfully infused mezcal drinks — won’t feel foreign for Brooklynites.
Exposed brick, tile, and gleaming blond wood interiors are jazzed with a tasteful dose of ironic Brooklyn chic — think gold painted, candlelit “alters,” a wall of potted green plants, and Day of the Dead wallpaper, slyly reinterpreted to reflect daily life in DUMBO.
“We were inspired by the Mexican artist Jose Guadalupe Posada, who does fantastic Day of the Dead drawings,” said co-owner Elise Rosenberg, “except ours has
two skeletons getting married, skeletal dog walkers, hipster bikers with handlebar mustaches, and babies wearing crocs in front of the Brooklyn Bridge, the park and the carousel.”
The macabre pastiche even depicts skeletons clamoring to get into Gran Electrica’s very own building on Front Street — an artistic flourish that’s grounded in reality, according to Rosenberg.
“This neighborhood has been starving for a really great dining options,” she said. “On opening weekend, almost all of our customers came from the apartment complexes at 70 Washington St. and One Main Street. Everyone talks in the elevators, everyone knows we’ve opened. It’s been kind of like a DUMBO class reunion.”
Gran Electrica [Five Front Street between Dock and Old Fulton Streets in DUMBO, (718) 852-2700].