Northern Bell. It’s the time of year when setting can trump what you’re actually eating. Sometimes you just want to sit outdoors, preferably in a yard or on a patio (never on a sidewalk, never) with a drink in hand, and the food, if good, is an added bonus. Northern Bell isn’t breaking any new ground with its barbecue and burgers (maybe with the other B’s, bison and boar, in short rib and belly form?) but the backyard is nice as long as a violent downpour doesn’t erupt minutes after you’ve received your drinks. I forgot to ask for cheese, and despite the Pat Lafrieda custom blend, the burger felt a little naked. And who doesn’t want a cobb salad, southern-style with pimento cheese, pecans and deviled eggs?
Battery Harris. The $12 beer-and-a-burger happy hour deal can draw a crowd even when storms render a good portion of the fenced-off patio useless (has it rained every Friday in recent history?). When sunny, it’s not a half-bad place to share a plate of jerk wings or pork buns. Plus, it’s the only establishment in Williamsburg where I can recall ever seeing a crew of artsy adults clearly over 60, which counts for something.
Astoria Bier & Cheese. First, I was excited to find Berliner Weisse with the colorful red and green syrups, a summer quirk that I missed out on my one cold weather trip to Germany. Sure, the woodruff, despite sounding weedy and foraged, is more sweet than herbal, a softener for the beer’s sourness. It is pretty, though, (and happened to match my nails). Then my excitement continued with the sweet/savory/fatty grilled cheese of my dreams. The Cambozola and bacon, drizzled with honey and squished between toasted slices of fennel, raisin semolina is exactly the sandwich I would make myself if I made sandwiches at home.
Bacchanal. Ok, one of these things is not like the other. I may have tightened my purse-strings and burnt out on Brooklyn (I’m in the process of whim-buying a Jackson Heights co-op, it turns out) but beer and burgers must give way to aperitifs and small plates at some point. The Adonis (Noilly Prat Ambre, amontillado sherry, orange bitters) is like a summery, lightened-up Manhattan. The sparkling Chinon probably paired better with the sweet and sour–Italian-ish, not Chinese–sweetbreads, though.