This might be what they call a classic New York food fairytale.
Boy moves to New York. Boy starts selling fish tacos at out of a little stand at the Brooklyn Flea in Dumbo. Boy’s tacos develop a hungry following. Boy opens restaurant.
And to add to the cool factor, he opens it in the loading dock of a former garment factory in downtown Brooklyn — talk about economical use of space in this land-starved city.
The Boy in this case would be Forrest Cole, who explains on his Web site that he first started selling fish tacos at the flea after fruitlessly trying to find a “worthy example” of a Baja-style fish taco in the city.
Now, that’s talking quite a bit of smack about New York’s many pre-existing taco joints.
We had to see just how “worthy” these fish tacos were …
Now, the Loading Dock, which opened in December, is in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it location. Situated in what could be described as the armpit of downtown Brooklyn, it’s nearest landmarks are the McDonald’s across the street and the nearby police station.
Once you get there, however, the gray grittiness of wintertime Brooklyn washes away. The place is airy, spacious and more SoHo-like in decor than you’d expect of a fish taco stand turned restaurant.
But there’s a reason for its mod-rustic tables and luxe fur pelts draped over chairs just so — the place also doubles as an art gallery. (The current exhibition of massive watercolor headshots by Erik Hougen are bearable, if a little eerie, backdrops for lunch.)
There was immediately something to like about the place — its selection of Mexican sodas.
We started with a carnitas burrito, filled with rice, beans and slow-cooked pork ($8). This was a perfectly decent burrito — if a little overstuffed with rice and understuffed with pork.
As tasty as it was, after a few bites, we immediately regretted not heeding the strong urgings of the waiter to order the fried fish burrito ($10) instead.
Imagining a massive burrito stuffed with crispy, deep-fried fish instead was almost too much to bear.
Next, a carne asada taco ($4) and beer-battered Mahi-Mahi taco ($5) appeared.
Both came wrapped with six-inch corn tortillas and stuffed with onions, cilantro, lime, salsa and a delicious and creamy house-made dipping sauce made with avocado, tomatillo and parsley.
The grilled steak taco was so-so — the little cubes of meat were well-seasoned and nicely grilled. But once we had our first bite of the fish taco, everything else we’d tried — the carne asada, the pork burrito — instantly faded into oblivion.
The batter was light and crispy and the fish was perfectly fried.
The pillowy fish puffs paired with the crunchy vegetables and soft
tortilla were a lovely combination.
We immediately craved another.
Instead, we decided to sample the pollo taco ($4), which was filled with chicken in an adobo marinade with chipotle. The little chunks of chicken were once again very well-seasoned and just a smidge spicy.
If I’d never tasted the fried fish taco, I’d say this was pretty good.
As the waiter appeared to bus our table, I effusively burbled that I’d liked the fish taco a great deal.
Looking a little embarrassed, he said, “We haven’t gotten it to the level that we’re proud of.”
It turns out that the fryer at their Flea stall is just a little more powerful and able to churn out even better fried fish. “But we’re working on it,” he said chipperly.
Now, if these fish tacos are only going to get better, we’re definitely going back.
Loading Dock, 170 Tillary Street (near Gold Street), Downtown Brooklyn, Tel. No.: 646.355.7518, http://www.chonchostacos.com/loadingdock.html