Bushwick’s Newest Jazz Club Is A Triangle

For the last few months, a triangular sliver of land off Flushing Avenue has been home to a new bar called the Bushwick Triangle. Unassuming and tetris’d into the middle of Bushwick’s club scene along Flushing Avenue, you might’ve walked past it a dozen times on a late night and wondered: “What is that place?” 

What it is, is the newest venture of a seasoned Bushwick bar owner named Nabil Cheikhali. Cheikhali, who also owns a bar-slash-hookah-lounge on Wyckoff Avenue called El Mekka, is a Lebanon-born New Yorker with a special talent for adaptability. 

“There is a saying in Arabic,” Cheikhali told me, “The winds do not blow as the ships wish.”

“I guess they just didn’t see what I saw,” Nabil Cheikhali says about his decision to rent out the spot that became the Bushwick Triangle, a new bar and jazz club in the neighborhood. Below: Stan Killian on tenor saxophone, Silvan Joray on guitar, Isaac Jaffe on bass and David Nájera González on drums. Silvan Joray and Sam Levin host jam sessions at the club there every Tuesday night.

Flushing, Scott, and Johnson Avenues form the small triangle of land after which Cheikhali named the bar. Before that, the small plot was once home to a tire shop. After the shop’s owner left the tire business for the real estate business, he started renting the space out. With its odd shape, lack of a basement, and an interior begging for renovation, renters weren’t biting. The building remained vacant for some time before Cheikhali began leasing it. 

“I guess they just didn’t see what I saw,” Cheikhali told me.

What Cheikhali saw was potential. He saw a bustling jazz club, with an impressive rooftop. The area was strong enough: it sits a short walk away from clubs like Elsewhere, Brooklyn Mirage, House of Yes, Jupiter Disco, and the recently opened Red Pavilion. 

“I love the neighborhood. It’s just amazing,” says Cheikhali.

These days, with all its shiny newness, the bar embodies a futuristic, galactic vibe. Colored light emits from various objects, including the tables. Oscillating between red, green, and blue, it feels as though I’m seated inside a gaming computer. The walls are black and textured, ready to accommodate live music and loud nights. It’s welcoming and nice. 

The bar’s menu is somewhat of a global food tour—including things like mozzarella sticks, jerk chicken wings, and fried calamari— but the dishes that shine most come from Cheikhali’s own Lebanese background. 

“You want some shish kebabs? Hummus? Baba ganoush?” he asks. 

The baba ganoush is delicate and fragrant. A plate comes with pita, leaving just enough baba ganoush and hummus for the kebabs to sop up. The skewer meat is tender and grill-kissed. Cheikhali says all the food is homemade, and he seasons the kebabs himself. The baba ganoush comes from Souk El Shater, a Lebanese restaurant in Sunnyside, where the owner’s wife prepares it from scratch each day.

Upstairs, an expansive rooftop overlooks the three avenues. The 360-degree view showcases late night clubbers stumbling home, the chandelier store glowing across the street; the B57 chugging along. It can feel like a Bushwick observatory, squeezed into the most unlikely of places. 

Cheikhali immigrated to the city in 1988, at the age of 23, and started off working for a limo company. Twenty years later, he started offering black car services himself. The customers were loyal and loving. “The Nabil Mobile,” they would call him. 

Around 2013, after Uber gobbled up that line of work, Cheikhali left the business as he started going through a divorce. Cheikhali needed a change. He turned to Bushwick and the new scene of bars that were popping up everywhere in the neighborhood. 

First, he started with El Mekka, on Wyckoff Avenue. Originally, he had no intention of offering hookah. But the business was slow, so Cheikhali adapted quickly.

Now, at the Bushwick Triangle, Cheikhali says he’s ready to adapt once more. In his heart, he wants the place to be a jazz club. Elaborate murals are painted into the bar’s exterior, depicting various jazz legends. A couple months after opening, Cheikhali is still not sure jazz will work out.

He started with jazz nights every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Since then, he’s condensed them into one night: Tuesdays. But he’s optimistic more jazz will return. 

“I want so badly to get back to that,” he said. 

Struggling to build a local crowd, Cheikhali estimates that 90% of his business is coming from people visiting from outside of the neighborhood. 

“Not everything you dream of is going to go the way you want it.” Cheikhali told me. “But if it does, that’s freakin’ awesome.”

The Bushwick Triangle is located at 1277 Flushing Avenue. The bar is open daily, from 6pm to 2am. Keep up with the bar on Instagram.

Photos taken by Katey St. John. Mural painted by @hopsart_1.

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