Green in Fort Greene

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It’s impossible to miss the sounds of salsa and loud chattering when coming out of the C train at Lafayette St in Fort Greene, and it will be like this every weekend for the rest of the summer. Earth Day marked the re-opening of Habana Outpost’s courtyard, which means every sunny Saturday and Sunday from here until September is a reason to celebrate at this one-of-a-kind, eco-friendly Brooklyn restaurant.

The courtyard kick-off played out like a mini street-fair: face painting para los chiquillos, eco-minded vendors with products like purses made out of used tires, and a DJ mixing Afro-Cuban rhythms. The outdoor extravaganza was also a chance for first-time customers to take a look at the earth-friendly construction and design.

As the first solar-powered restaurant in New York, owner Sean Meenan opened Habana Outpost three years ago after success with his previous endeavor, SoHo’s Café Habana. Both restaurants are influenced by Meenan’s travels to the Caribbean and Mexico, but Habana Outpost’s larger outdoor space in the middle of Fort Greene lends to a customer base as diverse as the city. Neighborhood residents, trendy lunchers, and the environmentally conscious gather to take in Meenan’s efforts to reduce waste and promote green practices. Most everything falls in line with his goal, from the red painted postal-truck-turned-kitchen where customers pick up chicken diablo sandwiches ($7.75), to the picnic tables made of recycled plastic bottles and sawdust. The outcome makes for a block party atmosphere where two elotes (grilled corn) con mayonesa, chile powder, y queso ($2.00 each), plus chips y guacamole ($6.00), is guilt-free knowing lunch was good for the environment.

“In a soft way, it’s making people have individual responsibility,” said Meenan about the recycling station and restaurant design. “At the same time, it’s a great spot to meet neighbors and hang out.” The visual space does make for good conversation, with Virgin de Guadalupe religious candles lining shelves,a fearful Donald Duck painted on a brick wall, and an ATM machine bearing the spray painted image of Benjamin Franklin.

The dishes are just as varied with Cuban mojitos ($8.00) and American plates on the menu, but most of the offerings hail from Central Mexico (the restaurant’s Habana name comes from a Cuban eatery in Mexico). Sandwiches garnished with chipotle mayonnaise and a catfish burrito make for other options, but beyond their trademark grilled corn, few dishes match the flavor of the restaurant’s decor.

This doesn’t bother most, though, as the ambiance and cause are reason enough to pay a visit. Aprill Osborne, a Fort Greene resident, is content knowing a place like Habana Outpost exists in her neighborhood. “It’s nice that someone has actually taken the time to do something eco-friendly like this instead of being so focused on making money,” she said while sipping lemonade from a biodegradable, corn starch cup.

Judging by the lines, it looks like money won’t be an issue for the Brooklyn eatery. Raven Burgos, a market PR assistant for the restaurant, doesn’t think the eclectic crowds will stop coming either. “The original Habana in Mexico is very community-oriented so we try to maintain that,” she said. “It brings people together who might not normally interact.”

Habana Outpost’s open-air market is open every weekend from 12-6 p.m. Every Sunday at 8 p.m. is movie night, and kids events are held throughout the summer. Check their website for more details This weekend is the official summer kick-off with a block party featuring live music, kid workshops, and a fashion show:

Habana Outpost
757 Fulton Street
Brooklyn, NY
C to Lafayette
G to Fulton
N R 5 6 to Atlantic/Pacific