It was with some trepidation on Wednesday that I visited Mad Tropical, the former Greenpoint pop-up bar that opened in the old Tandem space in Bushwick last weekend. I lived down the street from Tandem for several years, and that place was like a fourth roommate—always there for a drink or six at the end of the night, but also unbearably loud at all hours. I grieved when it shut down in October 2015—though I know it's all too common for beloved and much-frequented bars to shutter in this town, this was the first of my go-tos to close, and it stung.
The good news is, though Mad Tropical—helmed by Ryan Virag and Darryl Nau of Greenpoint's Tender Trap and Bushwick resident/stylist Ingrid Ammann—isn't Tandem, it looks like it'll still make for a pretty great neighborhood spot (full disclosure: Ammann invited me over as a guest to check it out). The joint is a little more jazzed up than its predecessor, boasting brand new wooden booths, some rainforest-esque vegetation, and toilet paper in the bathrooms. The drinks are about as lethal as Tandem's infamous dark 'n stormy, but there are more of them, and they come in 16 oz "party size" pints—offerings include the tequila-heavy Seed In The Pipe ($10) and the rummy Orang 'n Tang ($10).
And though Tandem's New American fare was a brunch standby in Bushwick (one of the great joys of that place was that you could make out with a stranger in the side-room and then eat avocado toast with him in the same spot the next morning), Mad Tropical's kitchen is now home to Donna Chiquita, an offshoot of Leif Huckman's Williamsburg spot Donna. Helmed by chef Tristan Harrington, formerly of Salt's Cure in LA, the food is decidedly Mexi-Cali style, with tacos and tlayuda (Mexican pizza) on the menu. Harrington was kind enough to let me sample some items, and the tlayuda did not disappoint.
Mad Tropical did retain some of Tandem's more memorable elements. The wooden bar is still the same, though it's now branded with Mad Tropical's name. The side "make-out" room is still stocked with small intimate tables, though hopefully I will not pass out with my head on any of them like I did in 2011. The (now soundproofed!) infamous back room, which hosted many a dance party in its time, will continue to host DJ nights and still sports a disco ball, though it's unclear whether the smoke machine will return.
And Ammann, who lives off the Morgan L stop, says she hopes the new spot will, like Tandem, serve as a focal point for the neighborhood. "Sitting yesterday afternoon, finally breathing a sigh of relief after the whirlwind required to open the doors, as the sun streamed through the colored glass and people trickled in happily, I felt proud and that we did the space, the neighborhood and our vision justice," she told us in an email.
But there's one thing Ammann doesn't want to take from Tandem: "We're going to do our best to keep people from being loud outside," she told us. Amen.
Mad Tropical is located at 236 Troutman Street between Wilson and Knickerbocker Avenues in Bushwick, Brooklyn (madtropical.com).