If you’ve wandered by the San Damiano Mission (85 N 15th Street, formerly Holy Family Slovak Catholic Church) over the past two weekends, you’ve definitely seen some goings-on in their courtyard. That would be their summer outdoor taco pop-up, Holy Smoke NYC. Run by neighborhood restaurateur Josh Cohen and his Extra Fancy co-owner Mark Rancourt, Holy Smoke was created to raise money for the Greenpoint Community Organ Collective, the organ inside of San Damiano that is in desperate need of restoration. Every weekend this summer they’ll be hosting the pop-up with tacos, beer, rosé in a can, and even a little water feature to help keep you cool.
I stopped by this past Saturday and got to try out the three tacos on offer: hickory-smoked chopped pork, smoky-mole pulled chicken, and wood-smoked portabella ($4 each, or 3 for $10). Each comes topped with a nice sprinkling of cotija cheese and corn for that authentic Mexican feel, plus a nice amount of spicy sauce for the right amount of kick.
Everything comes right out of an on-site smoker allowing for that distinct wood- smokiness characteristic of Southern BBQ, not the chemically charcoal and gas aftertaste that can happen when people take shortcuts with grills. I really loved how the pork gets some nicely BBQ-charred pieces, the chicken comes out still a little juicy, and that the portabella will not make you miss meat at all. All three tacos had enough filling that you’ll leave completely satisfied, making this one of the better cheaper food options in the neighborhood. On the drinks side of the equation, they have cold beer, rosé, dark & stormy and Lime-A-Rita in a can, plus some soda and water ($1 – $8, rosé being the most expensive).
While the tacos are the stars of the show at Holy Smoke (despite what Lime-A-Rita loyalists may say), the relaxing, very old-school Brooklyn atmosphere, even though it’s only a few feet from the masses in McCarren Park, is definitely a reason to stay for a few rounds. There’s a good amount of room and shady spots available for a nice weekend hang-out session, without the summer-outdoor-weekend crowds. Any place that lets me eat some tacos while dipping my feet in a kiddie pool—I’m sure you or your little one could just get in if you’re so inclined—gets a recommend in my book.
Holy Smoke NYC: BBQ Taco Pop-Up is located in the San Damiano Mission’s courtyard at 85 North 15th Street. It will be open every Saturday and Sunday, 2pm to 9pm, all summer long. Be aware they are cash only!