On one of those Bay Ridge streets that lies a few blocks from the shadow of the Verrazano is Ho’Brah, a young but embedded local Mexican spot.
Memorable for the colorful, surf-themed decorations on its front, including an orange surfboard bearing menu items and the turquoise front door and windows, the restaurant manages to keep the warm weather decor eccentric without being tacky.
This year is Ho’Brah’s fifth in the neighborhood, and a sister joint by the same name opened just across the water in Staten Island less than two years ago.
While Yelp reviewers are starkly polarized over the quality of food and pricing at Ho’Brah, after being recommended the spot from multiple locals, we had to find out for ourselves.
We came for weekday brunch, and were immediately seated at a two-person booth. Classic 1950s and ’60s pop songs played on the speaker, and the surf theme was evident throughout the restaurant, bringing a warm, West Coast vibe and family-friendly atmosphere to the quaint seating area. The name, Ho’Brah, means hey brother in Hawaiian surfer slang.
To start, we ordered chips, salsa and guacamole. We were pleasantly surprised to find out the chips and salsa come complimentary. The guac, however, cost $8.95, quite the price for what was a standard serving of only better-than-average guacamole, most notable for its generous amounts of cilantro.
The salsa was mild with a spicy aftertaste. The multicolored tortilla chips were a nice touch.
We ordered a starter of Baja street corn which, at $7.50 for two full husks, proved to be the best priced item we chose.
The corn came with fresh lime and a generous amount of Parmesan. The cumin and paprika flavors stood out.
For the main course, I got a shrimp empanada and a Carnitas taco — most menu items are singular. My friend, a vegetarian, opted for two veggie tacos and a salad, the lunch special.
Our food came very quickly. The shrimp empanada came with a sour cream sauce and was delicious. Not too rich, the shell was perfectly crunchy, and the filling tasted less like seafood and more like a shepherd’s pie.
We sampled all of the hot sauces at our disposal — three Cholula flavors and a Ho’Brah house sauce. The latter, claiming a jalapeno pepper flavor, was indeed very peppery and of medium heat.
The veggie tacos were unique in that they used asparagus, an odd choice, according to my vegetarian friend, as she’s more used to potato or mushrooms for meat replacements. The sauce was tasty, however, she found, and the cheese well portioned. The cilantro added a nice, fresh bite.
For dessert, the menu — presented in an iPad — was limited, offering churro, a leche cake, and brownies ala mode. We passed.
We were sad to also pass on the extensive tequila selection, but alas, I had to be sober enough to write this review.
Ho’Brah a taco joint
Where: 8618 3rd Avenue
Hours: Sunday through Wednesday 11 a.m. to noon and Thursday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 1 a.m
Phone: (718) 680-8226
Kid Friendly? Yes