NEW YORK — Tiendas, tostones y la tierra — oh, my. Cafe Habana owner Sean Meenan has made a few noticeable changes to the new Brooklyn offshoot of his famed NoLIta eatery, which opened this past Saturday. Habana Outpost: Brooklyn, situated at the corner of Fulton and South Portland Streets in Fort Greene, is a bit of a recreation menagerie and includes the cafe’s trademark comida, but also features an outdoor market, movie screenings, live DJs, activities for kids and even a car wash.
“We started wanting to do a flea market,” Meenan says, “with good food and with something a little Fellini-esque about it.” To that end, independent designers such as Gaelyn and Cianfarani, Koketso and Tamara Pogosian sell their wares in a garden patio alongside a graffiti-covered Haitian tap-tap bus, out of which savory eats are served. In addition to the Latin fare, there are decidedly north-of-the-border hot dogs, not to mention the ice cream, lemonade and juice stands, all of which, Meenan says, he added to underscore the bazaar feel. But the allure of Habana Outpost is more than just shopping, face painting for the kids or the famous melt-in-your-mouth grilled corn sprinkled with lime and chili powder: Environmental considerations also make the Fort Greene spot worth visiting.
The establishment touts itself as the first New York restaurant to run solely on solar power. The earth-friendly buck, however, doesn’t stop there. Benches and picnic tables are made from a recycled plastic-wood blend, the bathroom soaps are environmentally safe and even the juice blender is human-powered by bicycle. In addition, Build It Green NYC, a warehouse that sells salvaged building materials, has furnished the space. Old theater pillars, for example, are reused as bar tables while bins from a Brooklyn sewing factory have been turned into planters.
The idea for a solar-powered Cafe Habana started when Meenan was introduced to David Buckner, president of Solar Energy Systems, through a mutual friend. But it wasn’t until the restaurateur talked to Atom Cianfarani of Gaelyn and Cianfarani, a label known for its use of recycled materials such as latex dresses made from bicycle inner tubes, that the rest fell into place. “I’ve been involved in [environmental efforts] all my life,” says Cianfarani, who informed Meenan of the restaurant’s other planet-safe measures. “You have to be socially responsible on a certain level.”
This story first appeared in the May 26, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Those interested in a little Earth-and-Latin loving should hurry; Habana Outpost will be a seasonal joint, open only during summers. And as for those Manhattanites wary of the trek, Meenan leaves no room for excuses. Two vintage Seventies Cadillacs, Meenan’s own, shuttle back and forth between his two Habana sites.