The inventive Caribbean flavors at acclaimed downtown Brooklyn taco joint 2 Girls & a Cookshop are the brainchild of mother-daughter duo Shelly and Jataun Flash. Shelly, a first-generation Jamerican (Jamaican American), grew up in a family of restaurateurs and small-business owners. “Food is the centerpiece of my life,” she says. Though she was also professionally trained, chef Shelly originally learned to cook in what she calls “the West Indian way, through osmosis and love.”
She went on to make this her way with food, too: family-centric, ever-evolving, and full of love. Like so many New York success stories, Shelly pushed hard to get where she is now. In 2016 and 2017 she was working as a volunteer chef assistant at Food Network’s New York City Wine & Food Festival’s “Tacos & Tequila After Dark” event. Fast-forward to 2022, and Shelly and Jataun took home the Best Taco award from the very same event. One taste of 2 Girls’ tacos, and you’ll understand the reason for their rise to success.
Shelly describes the 2 Girls concept as “culture in a taco,” adding that “tacos chose me.” She got the first spark of an idea for 2 Girls when she asked herself what a Jamaican taco would be. She sees tacos as the perfect street food — they can hold anything and everything, a “vehicle of comfort or nostalgia.” After testing the mashup concept at pop-ups at the Brooklyn open-air food market Smorgasburg and local bars and restaurants like Bunton’s World Famous in Bushwick, Shelly took her tacos to “Master Chef,” where they transported judges to the beaches of Negril, furthering her renown.
Sharing Caribbean culture through food is at 2 Girls’ core, and Shelly’s Jamerican spin on the taco is delicious and innovative. Inspired by Jamaican cookshops — makeshift stands serving local street food — 2 Girls offers both authentic spice and creative flavor combinations. The menu is reminiscent of the islands and fast casual, drawing inspiration equally from the streets of New York City and from Shelly’s Caribbean heritage, what she calls “culture blending.”
A favorite is the jerk chicken dinner taco, which Shelly describes as “an entire meal in a bite.” it's a hard-shell taco filled with coconut rice, sweet plantains, black beans, chipotle sauce, jerk sour cream, pickled slaw, and perfectly seasoned jerk chicken (with a commemorative Jamaican flag to take home!). It all comes together in a perfect balance of sweet, sour, spicy, crunchy, and creamy, to make a truly perfect taco experience. There’s even a vegan version. That culture blending is also evident in dishes like chop cheese tacos and mango-thyme lemonade. And, of course, there are classic Jamaican favorites like jerk chicken.
Shelly recommends the Box Lunch Special, which includes any two tacos, chips and salsa, and a drink for $22. On Taco Tuesdays, for $6 each you can mix and match tacos, like the Bodega Taco, a hard-shell chop cheese (ground beef and cheddar cheese) taco with sweet plantains, sauteed onions, and chipotle mayo. On Fridays, the escovitch fish taco is the way to go, with its crispy fried fish and pickled carrots and onions wrapped in a soft tortilla. All of the tacos pair beautifully with refreshing guava and mango-thyme lemonades, and don’t forget 2 Girls’ sauce and salsa options, including the spicy Walkerswood Scotch bonnet pepper sauce and a creamy housemade avocado salsa.
Those housemade sauces are all made by Jataun, Shelly’s teenage daughter and right hand, who got her food handler certification at the age of 10 and now heads customer service for 2 Girls. Shelly marvels at the synchronicity and balance with which the duo works together to run the place. “My daughter is my soulmate,” she says. Shelly sees 2 Girls as a legacy her daughter can carry forward.
Shelly and Jataun’s restaurant is located in the heart of downtown Brooklyn at DoorDash Kitchens, a food hall concept space, or what Shelly calls “click and mortar,” alongside a mix of national and local favorites like Domodomo and Milk Bar. There are options for takeout, delivery, or dine-in, so you have multiple ways to try what Shelly and Jataun have created at 2 Girls & a Cookshop, which is nothing short of magic.
FEATURE PHOTO CREDIT: Clay Williams