Soon enough, we'll have quite a few new places to grab Filipino fast food in New York City, indicating we may be in the midst of an adobo overload. But why limit yourself to just one culture at a time when you can mash things together to form a beautiful new hybrid? Instead of focusing on all the ways that can go wrong, just get yourself to Swell Dive, Bed-Stuy’s new Filipino/Tex-Mex spot from the people who imported Texas's best breakfast pastry with the nearby Brooklyn Kolache.
What is Filipino/Tex-Mex? Tacos, tacos and more tacos (and also chips and queso) with a Southeast Asian bent. The truth is, you can find tacos basically everywhere in the city, from staircases to the back of bodegas and even the subway, so if you’re going to enter the taco game around here, you’ve gotta come correct. Swell Dive does, with generous portions of fillings like chicken fried spam, smoked pork sisig, chicken adobo or just a big rectangular hunk of fried cotija cheese piled onto flour tortillas.
At $4.75 each, it’s a little more than you’re used to paying per taco, but the upside is they’re very tasty. The queso also hits the spot, and comes with more gooey spicy goodness than just one basket of chips will cover, unless you’re positively drowning the things in it.
The cocktail menu runs on the sweet, tropical side of things, with drinks like the Karate Kid (pineapple juice, orange juice, lime, maple syrup, bitters, triple sec and rum) and the Coco Chi (pineapple juice, Coco Lopez, vodka) all running you $10. If you’re not in the mood for a cocktail, wine (red, wine and rose) runs you $9 each, and bottled beer including the likes of Coney Island Brewery, Red Stripe and Shiner Bock will cost you $6, with the exception of Montauk Light ($5) and Coopers Pale Ale ($7).
You can also get a $30 Fishbowl (orange juice, pineapple juice, lemon, lime, Sprite, sweet & sour, blue Curacao, vodka and Malibu rum that's sadly not served in an actual fishbowl) that the bartender said “has a lot of alcohol” and can comfortably provide booze for 4 or 5 people, but can also be about 3 drinks each if you and a pal want to do some team building and tackle it together.
The vibe of the restaurant is decidedly tropical, but it’s not in your face about it, the small size of the space making it feel like a laid back surf shack. A High Tide/Low Tide clock hangs above the entrance and a tank of mechanical jellyfish greet you in the bathroom, moving around gracefully enough to make you wonder at first if they’re alive in there. About a dozen chairs line the bar, and the majority of the tables comfortably seat two people, with another one that fits six and a larger table good for groups in the back near a projector screen that shows beach imagery and surf movies.
The tables all have music boxes attached to them as well, so if you’re there on a date and you hit a lull, or you say something very dumb and want to try to move on quickly, feel free to turn the handle on yours and let the gentle notes fill the silence between you two.
1013 Bedford Avenue (corner of Bedford and Lafayette). Open Monday - Sunday, 5 p.m. - 2 a.m.