In the Dominican Republic, the people celebrate carnival in February, but at Carneval, the newest bar and restaurant in East Williamsburg, they celebrate every weekend. Guests enjoy salsa and taki taki late into the evenings, met with a surprise carnival troop bursting into the dinning room donning the famous masks, dancing through the crowd in high carnival spirit and sparkling, rainbow-colored suits.
“It gets bananas,” James Frazo told Bushwick Daily, the bartender for the evening. He pointed to the carnival masks hanging in the space which celebrate, “the tradition of making art with whatever is around, like paper mache, into really intricate art that they polish and wear to carnival.”
Sitting by the window facing Grand Street was a dragon mask, so intricate with its bulging eyes and delicate folds, it was mind boggling to believe every little detail was a product of paper mache and a pair of hands.
The history of carnival in D.R. is rooted in Spanish colonialism, and the website, Go Dominican Republic claims the first carnival took place in order to celebrate a visit by Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, who earned the title, “Defender of the Native Americans,” for standing against the atrocities of colonization.
After they gained their independence from Spain, the website adds, “costumes were then no longer associated with religious celebrations, and evolved into actual carnivals, celebrated during the three days prior to Ash Wednesday.” But carnival celebrations are not limited to D.R., variations of it are celebrated all over the world. There’s a lengthy list of countries who celebrate, including the likes of Italy, India, Brazil, the United States, Haiti, Colombia, Turkey and Belgium, to name a few.
Their menu, inspired by Carnivals from all over the world, is an extension of the global celebrations. Their offerings include some D.R. classics and tie in other Latinx dishes like ceviche, empanadas, mofongo and Argentinian skirt steak.
You’ll also find an array of crowd-pleasing dishes: angus beef burger, which Frazo raved about, chicken parmesan, Chinese rice, crab burger, and a dish dubbed “clams casino.”
Carneval’s drink program is something Frazo is especially excited about. In-stock are imported fizzy sodas, that will be served as soda cocktails, and imported beers like Presidente from D.R., a classic pilsner.
What he’s looking forward to the most are the pureed cocktails that source high quality fruit, he says. They’re not available yet, but for now, eaters curious for a taste of Carneval should wander in for happy hour, where craft beers flow for $3, and eats like chimi sliders and arepas are $5. Catch happy hour from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday!
Those who want a taste of carnival, however, should show up weekends later into the night, when spirits are high and the tradition alive.
HOURS : MONDAY – THURSDAY 3 PM – 12 AM
FRIDAY – SATURDAY 3 PM – 2 AM
SUNDAY 12 PM – to 12 AM
Cover image courtesy of @santiago_baila_lacalle.
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