Williamsburg’s hardest-to-get-into venue isn’t some nightlife hotspot. In fact, it’s a restaurant.
We’re talking about Kokomo, the perpetually packed dinner and brunch destination edged along N 10th street, where the West Indies menu and live DJ booth invite a crowd on a regular basis.
Still haven’t been? Fret not, you’re in the right place.
Welcome back to The One Who Keeps The Book, a regular series that aims to answer all the most important of questions about how to get into a restaurants. The first answer is Resy, of course. But every restaurant manages its tables differently and there are always tips, tricks, and shortcuts to be discovered. So here, we go straight to the source to get them for you.
At Kokomo, that person would be Diego Cuestas, the captain who’s been on the opening team since the buzzy Caribbean restaurant landed on the Williamsburg waterfront in June 2020. Here, he divulges all the insider intel.
Resy: How many seats are there at Kokomo?
Cuestas: We have have 68 seats indoors and 92 outdoors.
When do reservations drop on Resy?
30 days in advance.
And how quickly do these tend to get booked out?
It’s different between the dates. The beginning of the week, those [reservations] go a little slowly. But for the weekends, it’s fully booked one week in advance.
Are any of the seats in the restaurant held for walk-ins?
Yes, we have one section with 12 tables and 35 seats available for walk-ins outside on the sidewalk. The waiting time is about an hour most of the time. We also have the bar, but we only have seven seats and most of the time, they’re full.
How long is your Notify list on average?
Around 200 people for brunch and around 250 to 290 for dinner.
Is there any other way to snag a table?
No [laughs]. For walk-ins, we can take you, but the last walk-in we can put on the list is around 8:30 p.m. because the kitchen closes at 10:30 p.m.
What’s the move for a walk-in to wait until they get seated?
There are a couple of spots that are close to us that we recommend. Like Dolly’s Swing, a couple blocks over from us. Or we tell people to go to the Marsha P. Johnson park that’s in front of us, to see the water while they wait for our call.
In your opinion, what’s the best seat in the house?
It depends on the occasion. If it’s a date, we have some tables in the back room that are more intimate. But if you’re in a big group of six and more, we have more communal tables for 10 people.
It’s Friday night at 7 p.m. Can you set the scene?
Imagine it like a crazy party. You see everyone doing everything: All the tables are full, food is going around, people are dancing on the street or near their tables, taking photos of their food and drinks, and asking questions, “What’s this dish? What’s that drink?” People are enjoying the experience.
What is the ideal time to visit Kokomo?
For brunch. On Fridays, we have bottomless brunch — unlimited mimosas for an hour and a half — with a live DJ. It’s best with friends.
Friday brunch is fire right now — 800 covers.
What are the things I should absolutely order from the menu?
The first thing you need to order as soon as you arrive at Kokomo is a drink. We have really, really good rum punches. We have a mango and a tropical rum punch, which are both made fresh daily. We have a secret syrup recipe from the family of the owners — the syrup is made in their house and they bring it to us!
So, definitely start with a rum punch. For appetizers, order the fish tacos that come with mayo chipotle and guacamole on corn tortillas. If you’re a little more hungry and have three more friends, get a flatbread — we have a Rasta Pasta flatbread, which you can add chicken or shrimp to. It’s really enjoyable and shareable.
For entrées, it depends on your mood. If you’re hungry, my recommendation would be the red snapper, which comes with a tropical salad and rice and peas.
For dessert, the star of the restaurant is the rum raisin bread pudding with Bacardi and coconut whip cream.
What’s your personal favorite dish?
For me, it’s the Wah Gwaan flatbread. In Jamaica, they say that sentence “Wah Gwaan” like a “What’s up?” It’s made with ackee, which is the Jamaican national fruit, it’s similar in color and texture to scrambled eggs, and we make it with a cilantro scotch bonnet sauce, relish greens, and tomato confit.
Anything else you’d like to share or talk about?
I get to work every single day in a family business with love all around, everywhere. [There’s] love in the drinks, love in the food. People can feel the Caribbean, not just from the food, but from the music, the service. When you try the food, you may remember your grandmother doing that oxtail at home, and right now you’re here, really far away from your family, but you remember your childhood. The dish reaches you all the way from Brooklyn.