Summer plus Memorial Day plus NYC equals rooftop bars. Last night, Williamsburg, Brooklyn welcomed another rooftop watering hole to its fast-growing hit list: El Techo, the sun-drenched spot upstairs from Chef Erik Ramirez's popular Llama Inn, kicked off its inaugural summer season with drinks, bites, and a surprising mix of millennials, thirty-somethings, and first wave Brooklynites. (In an area that can often make you feel like you've wandered onto the set of Girls - and where it's actually possible that you have - this combination of the old guard and the new is a welcome change.)
That change is likely due to El Techo's laid-back vibe, which has the feel of a Brooklyn house party you want to be invited to every weekend. Smaller than its city counterparts and flush with the BQE, the space invites guests to mix and mingle. Seating is cozy and a Slushie machine serves up frozen pisco sours, a twist on Peru's national drink.
"I used to get Slushies all the time when I went to the movies as a kid," said Chef Erik Ramirez, adding that he's hoping to bring a soft serve machine to El Techo, too.
There's also a colorful array of cleverly-named cocktails that highlight Peruvian and other Latin American ingredients. The Ay Que Calor! is a tart meets spicy treat thanks to aji panca-infused Pisco Porton, Ancho Reyes, lemon, and chancaca, and the Bolivian Marching Punch is a power-packed blend of Singani63, grapefruit, lemon, muña, and rose cava.
As for the food, Ramirez says he focused on creating "versions of things I've done in the past and that I know are going to work for the season."
Clams baked with parmesan, butter, and lime are El Techo's version of clams casino, and the salted croquettes are made from fish scraps that are salted in house. The spring vegetable crudité gets dressed up with the addition of huacatay, a mint-like herb that's native to Peru and that Ramirez cultivates, along with nasturtium and other edible flowers, in the El Techo garden.
"It doesn't sustain all of the restaurant's menu items," said Ramirez, but it does enable him to be spontaneous in the kitchen, noting that if he has an idea for an off-menu item, he can "just head up to the rooftop, pick some herbs, and create a new dish for the night."
As to what sets El Techo apart from other rooftop bars, Ramirez points to its concept, flavor profile, and location overlooking the BQE: "It doesn't get more Brooklyn than that."