Flatbush Zombie House is reimagining tiki.
The owners wanted to make tiki an authentic experience, even though it's a more or less a manufactured aesthetic.
"Originally, it was just that I wanted to open a tiki bar. Then I started doing homework and going around and drinking at all the different tiki bars in New York. What I realized is that tiki is this arbitrary, slapped-together aesthetic where Caribbean rum and cocktail culture had a Polynesian aesthetic superimposed on top of it," explained co-owner Josh Kaplan. "So this was aesthetically as least, reclaiming tiki for the Caribbean and using Caribbean flavors in traditional tiki drinks."
Flatbush Zombie House is a dimly-lit enclave focusing on Caribbean rum drinks in the heart of Flatbush, a West Indian neighborhood in south Brooklyn. (They like to boast that they are next door to some of the best jerk chicken in the whole city, which customers are encouraged to get to go and eat in the bar.) The drinks are almost breathtakingly delicious, as Kaplan comes up with the ideas, and co-owner Cynthia Merino works to perfect them.
And the dedication to Caribbean culture is evident from the moment you step into the bar from the crowded, gritty Flatbush Avenue. The bar itself is lined with the flags of the West Indian island nations, and the bottles behind the bar are a range of rums from all over the Caribbean.
The name also hints an association with the popular rap group, even though there is no connection (the name refers to the bar's location and the zombie, a classic tiki drink).
And even though neither of the owners are Caribbean, Kaplan argues that paying an honest tribute to a culture is what makes New York what it is.
"What's authentic to one person from a certain place, you might go down the street and the next little old lady who's making collard greens has a completely different way to do it and it's not authentic to her. Honesty is something tangible," Kaplan said. "If you are paying tribute to the culture that you're exploring, it isn't necessarily a bad thing."
And for good measure, they've got drinks named after both Travis Scott...
...and Big Pun.
And as New York City finally starts to get chilly in November, perhaps now is the best time to saddle up to a long bar, imagine yourself on an island, and warm up in Flatbush.
Move over breakfast tacos, here come breakfast dumplings! You can now order a bacon, egg and cheese in a dumpling
This slice of pizza is two feet long
This might be the best ramen you've had in America. But you're supposed to eat it alone.