LOWER EAST SIDE — A restaurant serving up vegan Mexican fare and cocktails will open Friday at the corner of East Broadway and Rutgers Street.
Mexican eatery Jajaja is gearing up to unfurl its bright, turquoise-accented space at 162 E. Broadway and its menu of plant-based cuisine, Mexican beers, tequila and mezcal.
The dinner menu is still being finalized, according to restaurant management, but will exclusively offer vegan fare such as cilantro scallion herb pesto with turmeric cauliflower rice, fermented black beans and roasted vegetables. Another dish features a hearts of palm ceviche with hijiki, bell peppers, tomato, avocado and plantain chips.
The bar will sling cocktails made from the spot's extensive tequila and mezcal menu — including a pomegranate cocktail with fresh pomegranate juice, Reposado Tequila, fresh lemon juice and agave — plus Mexican beers on tap.
The space will also include a takeout area slinging snacks and "street fare" on the go alongside fresh-pressed juices.
Jajaja is taking over a space formerly occupied by the Golden Carriage Bakery and a newsstand.
The eatery, previously called Gracias Mama, attracted some controversy in the community when operators Nima Garos and Koorosh Bakhtiar first appeared before Community Board 3 in March of last year requesting a license to serve booze, as several locals feared the business would draw loud crowds, though others vouched for the business.
The operators have since scrapped the idea of transforming the old newsstand into a takeout window, which community members had feared would draw long lines on the sidewalk — the existing takeout area will be inside the restaurant.
Some neighborhood activists then voiced their objections months later when operators opted to move the restaurant entrance around the corner to Rutgers Street in order to get a liquor license, as the East Broadway entrance stood within 200 feet of the nearest church, placing it in violation of a state liquor laws. Though activists feared the new entrance was too close to the East Broadway subway entrance and would clog pedestrian traffic, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said it was not problematic, and the State Liquor Authority granted the liquor license.
The restaurant is currently open only to friends and family as operators are gathering feedback on the food and finalizing a dinner menu.
Beginning Friday, Jajaja will be open for dinner 5 p.m. to midnight Sunday through Wednesday and 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. Lunch and brunch services will start in two weeks, according to management.