If you've been wandering around Canal Street in west SoHo or driven down Varick to the Holland Tunnel during the past month, you may have noticed a slew of giant palm trees in flatbed trucks, large amounts of sand, and a fence around a triangular spit of land between a Vespa dealership and a Citi Bike docking station. And as the weeks went by, you may have observed more and more palm trees popping up incongruously around the perimeter, framing a view of the 1 World Trade Center like an L.A. Snapchat filter.

This artificially tropical space is the surreal new home to Gitano NYC, a simulacrum of the stylish jungle bar and restaurant in Tulum. “A lot of people credit me with bringing New York to Tulum,” says Melissa Perlman, the co-owner, who opened the original Gitano in Mexico's popular beach destination in 2013. “Now I’m bringing Tulum to New York.”

But instead of the pounding of the surf and the songs of tropical birds, Gitano NYC has dulcet sounds of the Holland tunnel traffic. There's a big disco ball over the bar area, but no DJs or dancing, and a closing time of midnight on weekends to placate the neighbors.

Perlman and co-owner James Gardner are still putting the finishing touches on the 24,000 square foot space, which will ultimately feature a meditation labyrinth, a reflecting pool, and an herb garden. “We are using it as a community hub, that’ll focus on bringing some green into people’s lives, and not only in their cocktails," Perlman says. Food is cooked on an open fire, and the menu features tostadas, ceviches, and tacos, with mezcal cocktails.

Gardner started working on plans for the open-air restaurant back in January, when New York's weather least resembles the tropical oasis of Tulum. “At first I thought it was crazy,” he said. “I Googled 'wholesale palm trees' ... I found the price of them, and thought, I could do the project!” 500 full-size palm trees were trucked up from Miami for the project.

“James is a visionary. Who would think of doing this in the middle of Canal street?” said James DeSantis, co-owner of Manscapers NY, the design and landscaping firm that worked on the project. The 400 seat restaurant was built on the empty lot over the course of four months, working right up until the deadline for the preview dinner last night.

Gitano NYC has a 2 year lease on the space, but will only be open through October, and then the restaurant will move to Miami for the winter, returning to New York when the weather warms back up.

See the menu below. Gitano NYC is now open, serving brunch on weekends from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and lunch and dinner during the week. Gardner tells us, "We have a big and fabulous gay pride bunch on Sunday!"

Gitano NYC // 76 Varick Street

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