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This Gowanus Restaurant Offers a Taste of Mexico, Texas, and Iran

At Parklife, Chef Scott Koshnoodi is bringing his heritage to the table to create a whole new kind of taco.

A taco is an underrated, versatile vessel. Sure, the dish originated in Mexico, but the concept of the taco itself — a loaded tortilla — can easily be host to all sorts of flavors and cuisines. And there's no Brooklyn restaurant proving that better right now than Parklife, where the Mexican tortilla serves as a foundation to showcase Texan and Iranian flavors.

Parklife is a bar with ample indoor and outdoor space, and also happens to be the punky little sister to Littlefield, a popular performance space. Both businesses take their names from English rock bands — Littlefield is a reference to a Depeche Mode song, and Parklife is a reference to a song by Blur — and both operate out of opposite sides of a lot off of Fourth Avenue in Gowanus.

Chef Scott Koshnoodi co-owns Parklife and Littlefield with Julie Kim, whom he met while they were both studying engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. They’ve been operating Littlefield together since 2009. In 2017, they moved to the current lot and tacked on the taco enterprise; after that, El Atoradero, a hugely successful taco pop-up by chef Denisse Lina Chavez, operated out of Parklife's kitchen for a time.

The squash tlayuda at Parklife is a large tortilla that you can roll to eat. Photo: Hannah Berman for BK Reader

After Chavez stepped away, Koshnoodi, who previously worked in the Michelin-starred restaurants wd~50 and Aquavit, decided he wanted to continue serving tacos at the bar.

“I'm not Mexican, and I was trying to be sensitive to appropriation, and all those kinds of things, but this was a taco spot,” said Koshnoodi.

He felt like he was upturning the apple cart by taking over, but wanted to bring his own flair to the menu. He decided to meld Mexican recipes with the type of cooking he grew up with. 

Koshnoodi, born in Texas, is the son of immigrants — his father is Iranian, and his mother is first-generation Czechoslovakian-French, from south Texas. Shortly after his birth, his family relocated to Tehran for his father’s engineering career. 

Lamb beriyani taco made with a Persian yogurt circle and sumac at Parklife. Photo: Hannah Berman for BK Reader

Kashnoodi said his grandfather's military standing in the army required the family to leave Iran as the revolution started. As he, along with his mother and sister, escaped through Turkey, his father went north and everyone met up in France before returning to the Dallas area. 

“I had to make it about my background, so it was my story," said Koshnoodi. "I'm not taking from anybody else, I'm just using the vehicle with which [the food is] brought to your mouth.”

As a result of his family's migration, much of the food Koshnoodi remembers from his childhood is a pleasant marriage of Persian and Texan cuisine. 

“That's what I grew up eating," he said. "It was always delicious to me, you know? Everything was always mixed in the fridge, and I was pulling things out, making my own lunch. That's what I was eating. So, it works together — I mean, for me it does, at least.”

A reimagined Frito Pie at Parklife. Photo: Hannah Berman for BK Reader

As a result, the menu is an upscale fusion of three flavor profiles. Tacos are served on tortillas made from masa that is ground in-house. Some tacos lean more Iranian, like the Joojeh Kabob or the Lamb Beriyani; others are more clearly Texan, like the Smoky Potato Salad taco. 

The Frito Pie is updated and glamorous. While the Texan version is usually eaten out of a Frito bag, Koshnoodi's contains more solid meat, dressed up in a neat casing that approximates Frito flavors, adding a fabulous flourish with a lacy chip made from queso.

Each dish at Parklife is finished and plated with an attention to detail that you would not expect at a bar. 

Parklife is located at 636 Degraw Street and open Tuesday–Sunday. They are closed on Mondays. 

Hannah Berman

About the Author: Hannah Berman

Hannah Berman is a Brooklyn-born freelance writer. She writes about food, culture, and nonprofit news, and runs her own grumpy food newsletter called Hannah is Eating.
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