>> Michelle's Cocktail Lounge | Eat the World NYC

09 March 2018

Michelle's Cocktail Lounge

PANAMÁ 🇵🇦

When 55 year old Kelso Dining suddenly announced their closure in October of last year, an immediate vacuum and void ate away on Franklin Avenue and the community. The slowly creeping pressure of gentrification had finally caught up to this Brooklyn mainstay. The new residents of Crown Heights could barely be bothered to notice, as they passed the now shuttered storefront on their way to pick up organic kale and have a craft cocktail made by someone with a moustache.

Thankfully the Panamanian community has another location to call home, to retreat in the evenings and share laughs over drinks. And thankfully for the rest of us, this place called Michelle's has a bit of tasty food.

The place seems eternally filled with retired Panamanians who have lived in the United States forever. Men and women wear hats and shirts emblazoned with the flag of their home country like midwesterners wear their alma maters. One man politely inquired about my presence the first evening I showed up and was surprised it was not killing time before a show at Kings Theatre. Apparently the stragglers usually fall into this category.


On the most recent visit, a woman who looked to be a manager was wearing a Michelle's shirt that said 1972 on it, making the lounge almost as old as many of its patrons. These people are the place's true connection to Panamá, as the liquor selection and foods are more of a Brooklyn mashup of Caribbean tastes. But they do have Ron Abuelo and Seco Herrerano if you look hard enough.

Not much exists in the way of information online, so I really had no expectations when I came for the first time. Not wanting to be too forward with my excited curiosity, a couple beers and the atmosphere was good enough until I started to feel the rhythm of Michelle's. But halfway into that second beer, the chef emerged from the kitchen, came right up to me, and asked if I would like some food. Without hesitation, I said yes, not knowing what it would be or how much it would cost.

A few minutes later a modest plate of salt fish (cod I believe), dumplings, and plantains arrived in front of me with a quick friendly explanation. Later I would find out that the plate was free, on Mondays and Tuesdays there was complimentary food for those coming in to drink.


After devouring this plate and getting asked a couple times if I liked it, new secrets started to be unlocked. This is when I learned of the fish fry that takes place on the first Tuesday of every month and promised to see everyone again. They smiled and nodded, apparently hearing this before.

But when February turned to March and Tuesday rolled around, the entire day's calendar was put in place to be at Michelle's around happy hour for the fish fry, which does last all night. After settling in, we inquired about the offerings and were told two options: $10 for fish or shrimp and sides, or $15 for a mixed plate with sides. The latter was ordered.


The tasty fish that came out could be described as well done and was topped with three shrimp and accompanied by tostones and salad. The fish fry night was more popular than the Monday I had been here before, with some folks coming in and leaving with many portions of takeout.

I received a somewhat different answer every time, but it seems pretty likely that some sort of food will be available most nights here at Michelle's. Thursday may be complimentary as well, while there seems to be soups on Wednesday if I heard correctly. Friday and Saturday offers different options for purchase. If a less cloudy picture of this schedule is obtained, we will update it here.

Michelle's is really a treasure for a certain kind of adventurer.


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Michelle's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato