Beloved Williamsburg bar, Maracuja has reemerged from the pandemic with new ownership and a brand new executive chef. Two longtime friends and Maracuja regulars, Erik Plambeck (a veteran of Keith McNally’s Schiller’s Liquor Bar and Ten Bells) and musician Kelly Winrich (Delta Spirit), bought the bar right when the pandemic hit last year. They are reopening with new Chef Roberto Jimenez, who has worked for Jose Andres, Jose Garces, Sue Torres and Marcus Samuelsson.
Erik and Kelly had been regulars at Maracuja since 2012. When the longtime previous owner announced he was selling it, they finalized the purchase a week into the shutdown March 2020, the only stipulation to the sale being that the new owners had to keep the bar operating as an affordable, neighborhood business. That is, they can’t tear down the building to put up condos.
Despite the difficult timing of the sale, owning Maracuja had been a dream for Erik and Kelly for several years, when they were shooting pool in the very space, considering owning a spot of their own one day. “This was our place to go on weekdays, and over the years Kelly grew close with owners Charlie Kaim and his wife Connie,” Erik says. Initially, the duo was going to run a bar in Bushwick, but once learning that Charlie wanted to sell the bar, but only to the right people, the ownership transfer made sense.
“For Charlie, Maracuja was a bar that belonged to everyone,” Erik says. “I’ll never forget the night I was behind the bar at The Ten Bells and got a text from Kelly that said ‘You want to buy Maracuja?’ My response was F’ yes. And that was it.” Twenty years of immaculate upkeep made the sale easy.
“We wanted to keep Maracuja the same great space that we had loved going to and at the same neighborhood prices that made the place accessible to everyone,” says Erik. “Same shoegaze music, same ceiling Connie painted, same neighborhood prices, and dollar coin op pool table.” A few improvements, like a proper pool light over the pool table and a new corner booth, open up the space.
And with the change comes a new menu. After six years of the kitchen being dark, when Connie retired from cooking Colombian food in the back, a full kitchen has returned to Maracuja. Chef Roberto’s menu units his Spanish culinary training and Dominican background with dishes including an affordable selection of tapas, pintxos, and shareable plates.
On the liquid side, Erik’s added a small, inexpensive list full of natural wine producers he loves. Beer and classic cocktails are on the menu, with the latter all just $11. A backyard full of rose vines is also opening, to extend the space and offer the al fresco drinking Brooklynites have become accustomed to.
The bar has a long history, predating its previous owners who took over in 1995. Originally, the space was a Lithuanian social club in the 1940s. “Kelly and I both feel that it’s important for us to know the history of the space, the neighborhood, and the people who have contributed to the identity of Maracuja in order to do our part to preserve it while still making it feel alive,” Erik sais. “One silver lining of Covid is that all the opening restrictions have allowed us to spend a lot of time getting to know the people who have been coming to Maracuja for years. I knew filling Charlie and Connie’s shoes was going to be really tough, but the support from longtime regulars has been overwhelming.”
More than anything, regulars are relieved that their longstanding local is has made it through the pandemic. “It’s the same relief I would have felt if you would have told me four years ago someone was buying Schiller’s Liquor Bar, where I had bartended for five years, met my fiancée and the majority of my close friends and it was going to be that bar forever.”
Maracuja is located at 279 Grand Street in Williamsburg, Open daily 4 p.m. -12 a.m. $1 oyster happy hour runs from 4pm-7pm daily with drink specials ($8 cocktails, $5 beers, $6/18 wine by the glass/carafe), as well for outdoor and indoor dining, no takeout or delivery.