First Impressions: Gitano

To the doubters: Unless it rains the entire summer, the seasonal outpost of Tulum, Mexico’s Gitano that opened Friday in Hudson Square is going to be huge. You can easily forget that you’re wedged between Sixth Avenue, Varick, and Canal, one of the least pleasant locations downtown. As the drinks flow and the music picks up, the party shifts into gear. Dancing isn’t allowed, but people shimmy, and a few even smoke. Women are dressed to impress, as are some men; others have busted out their finest athleisure. It’s not just that a bit of Tulum has made its way to this area—a bit of the Meatpacking District has, too. And I mean that in the kindest way possible.

“Look, we’re not the oldest people here!” I said to Adam, pointing to a gentleman across the way.

“His two younger dates cancel his own age out,” Adam replied.

For all that, even after the margaritas kick in, you never really forget that you’re in a makeshift restaurant on a vacant lot. The illusion stalls halfway: The wooden floors and copious vegetation are nice, but beyond the lone disco ball and a scattering of throw pillows, the decor is surprisingly minimal. A staffer attempts to add ambience by meandering around with an urn full of coals that billow smoke—a trademark of the Tulum original, according to the couple next to us, intended to keep mosquitoes at bay. The smoke isn’t fragrant, however, so it simply annoys everyone it passed.

Service is capable and friendly, which is good, because there’s a lot of explaining to do. On opening night, the bar had no beer (it had all frozen), no tonic water (Adam ordered a gin and tonic and received a glass of gin), and no wine other than rosé. The food menu is also limited, until mid-July. We enjoyed the lettuce wraps but the rest was forgettable. The guacamole was bland, desperate for lime, onion, jalapeño—anything with zing—and we took one bite of the ceviche and decided to go home and eat a bagel instead.

Some of these issues will be fixed, if they haven’t already. But as I said up top, none of it is likely to matter.

Gitano is at 76 Varick (entrance on Grand);

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  1. I was there Friday evening, could not agree more with your comments on the food. Very boring – which is an area you would expect them to excel considering they have other locations. With that being said, the venue itself is incredible. I consider the city to be lucky to have such a venue for the next two summers, definitely raises the bar for outdoor eating/drinking.

  2. “Gitano […] racked up a total of 206 violation points in an inspection this week, leading the Health Department to close it down. Violations related to refrigeration, sewage disposal, bathroom issues, and more.”