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Posts from the ‘Brooklyn’ Category

Williamsburg’s Most Eaten a.k.a. Goodbye To All That (Food)

In some ways I marvel at the kinds of people who remain friends with their exes. Either they’re highly evolved and easygoing or in denial and out of touch with their emotions. I take the opposite stance on most things including former neighborhoods where neat, tidy breaks also feel preferable. Even if it’s not on purpose, once I move, I’m gone.

I loathed Carroll Gardens and environs, a.k.a. food writer central, irrationally for probably seven of the eight years I spent there. I have not returned even once in the past two years despite curiosity about Dover, Take Root and the revamped Long Island Bar. Hometown BBQ doesn’t count, right?

Sunset Park has also failed to draw me back, I did dabble a bit in Clinton Hill, I’ll admit, and it was only this year, 14 years after I left, that I began softening on Ridgewood. Williamsburg? We’ll have to see.

My past year and a half in Williamsburg was just a blip, always meant to be temporary, and for all its ills I don’t hate it (as long as I stay on my side–the right side–of Metropolitan Ave.). I’m not saying I will miss it when I move this week, but it’s doubtful I’ll turn my back on it altogether (especially considering that a majority of my friends still live in North Brooklyn–at least until I can convince them to migrate to Queens). It’s a pretty good eating neighborhood. Here are some of my favorites.

qi thai grill spicy beef tendon salad

If someone ever hacked into my Seamless account, they would incorrectly assume I was a Qi Thai Grill fanatic since the duck salad is my most common Times Square office lunch order and the Brooklyn branch is occasionally responsible for my dinner. I never eat in; the glitz is weird. The food, if chosen carefully, is real, though: tendon salads, crazy spicy pork stir-fries, khao soi, and even those non-traditional Ovaltine ribs.

pasar malam nasi lemak

Pasar Malam also filled a void. I never thought I’d live to see the day when I could get laksa and rojak brought to my door. Good Malaysian food in this neighborhood makes no sense at all, but why question it?

Zizi limona chicken liver

I don’t go to Zizi Limona as often as I should even though I often have the urge for the pita stuffed full of kofta, charred vegetables and equally charcoal-ly black babaganoush. The food is creative, kind of Israeli, and Macedonian house wines are only $5 a glass. When someone asks for a restaurant recommendation in the neighborhood, this is often my suggestion but people see hummus on the menu and blow it off as run of the mill Middle Eastern. Don’t do that.

maison premiere oysters

Cheap oysters are a dime (or should I say a dollar?) a dozen in these parts–St. Mazie, Miller’s Tavern, Extra Fancy and Desnuda are all within 3 blocks of my apt. It’s Maison Premiere that wins, though, despite the rigmarole. The selection (roughly 18 varieties) and cocktails are incomparable.

saltie balmy

Because I tend to avoid overt bread (yet absorb carbs in a zillion other forms) I rarely eat sandwiches. You just can’t follow that thoughtless rule for life as long as Saltie exists, though. Whether the hearty, meatless Scuttlebutt or pate-rich Balmy, these are the focaccia-bound sandwiches to make allowances for even if it makes you want to take a nap when you still have work to get done.

peter luger cheeseburger

For burgers, Peter Luger is the master. Everyone must go at least once for lunch.

blue collar burger

Blue Collar, on the other hand, is a fine In-n-Out approximation but the mildly hostile counter service (even after using Seamless pickup to minimize interaction) is always off-putting. No matter how I articulate that I ordered online, I’m looked at like I’m simple-minded and met with an exasperated “What?” All I wanted was a double cheeseburger one evening, and ended up with someone else’s order of a single, fries, plus two hot dogs, which threw me into a rage. I hate hot dogs, which I realize makes me an un-American monster and was reinforced by social media reactions. I haven’t been back since.

pies n thighs fried chicken

Yes, the fried chicken at Pies ‘n’ Thighs is really that good. The pies aren’t so shabby either.

Then again, the fried chicken at The Commodore is pretty amazing too. Same pedigree. The nachos are also textbook awesome nachos. It fills me with deep shame to say that I’ve never had the cheeseburger.

motorino lunch special

I was on a Forcella bender, but then Motorino bounced back–and with a $12 pizza and a salad lunch special. Both have merits. Hmm, did everyone know there was a Motorino in the Philippines? Hong Kong, sure, but this is news to me. The menu looks exactly the same, with the addition of San Miguel beer.

best pizza

For slices, Best Pizza is kind of, yes, the best. The lemon zesty, sesame seeded white pizza covered in caramelized onions rules. This Seamless review always makes me laugh.

mable's ribs

BBQ-wise, BrisketTown probably gets the most attention, and rightly so. Mable’s (pictured) doesn’t elicit as much chatter, but it’s also respectable, refreshingly unpretentious and never painfully crowded.

First ever rajas hash

First ever rajas hash

Possibly the last ever rajas hash.

Possibly the last ever rajas hash. (First iPhone 6 food photo, however.)

Sometimes–often, in fact–it’s not about the food. The chilly January afternoon I was solo apartment-hunting for the first time in 13 years, I ended up on the next block at Taco Chulo having a mid-week brunch of rajas thick with melted cheese and chorizo grease. Neither Tex-Mex exactly nor Mexican, this heftiness is the definition of comfort food. And then at the bequest of a non-food-lover friend, I’ve ended up at Taco Chulo nearly every weekend since for sometimes the rajas hash, sometimes the queso benedict, occasionally the smothered burrito and at least one $6 double mimosa. Sometimes the playlist is horrible dad music, sometimes the Pastels and Exploding Hearts make me believe my dead iPod has been revived. There are no lines, it’s never crowded and will no doubt eventually fade away and be quietly mourned as a member of Old Williamsburg when it’s staunchly second wave.

late night san loco

San Loco is truly bottom of the barrel, but if you’re drunk and lazy enough to consider delivery at 2:45am, they come through–and quickly. It’s good to know they are there with nachos and quesadillas in desperate times.


Notable, but not most eaten: Xixa, Onomea, The Elm, Bamonte’s, St. Anselm (I had a fantasy that I’d regularly dine at the bar but never got over my solo dining phobia). I feel like Diner belongs here too, but if I were being honest I’d have to admit that I haven’t been once during this stint. I’d go in a heartbeat, though, if anyone was game.

The ones that got away: Meadowsweet, Gwynett St turned Lachlan, non-brunch Hudson and Delaware, The Commodore’s burger, Meat Hook Sandwich, Reynard, Shalom Japan, Traif. I never once ate at Smorgasburg and regret it not a whit.

R.I.P. Dumont and White Castle.

Update: I completely forgot about newly Michelin-starred Luksus. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯



Eaten, Barely Blogged: Brunch & Burgers

delaware and hudson brunch

Delaware and Hudson Brunch is not dinner, obviously, so I can’t speak to the seemingly good-value tasting menu that will surely draw more attention post-New York Times review. Brunch is pretty chill considering the restaurant’s proximity to Bedford Ave. and its aimless shufflers and line-lovers. Walking in on Sunday was no problem, and where else can you get scrapple in all of its livery glory, edges perfectly crisped, eggs over easy, and paired with an inexpensive bottle of Provençal rosé? (Wine served in tumblers doesn’t bother me. My friend was less convinced. Coincidentally, wine not served in wine glasses appeared as a “grievance” on Eater the following day.) Mini sugar doughnuts with blueberry jam are also pretty civilized.

peter luger burger & martini

Peter Luger One neighborhood benefit bolstered by the occasional self-created summer Friday (don’t tell) is the Luger lunch burger, a treat I’ve somehow never mentioned before. I don’t think there’s a better NYC burger in the $12 range. Of course I get mine with cheese, despite the dry-aged beef having plenty of rich, minerally flavor on its own. Cheese isn’t a sacrilege, but adding bacon on top might be. Those charred strips are to be savored with nothing more than a few dabs of the sweet and tangy steak sauce. If you’re serious about summer Friday, make it a one-martini (ok, two) lunch and cap it off with a shared hot fudge sundae.

peter luger bacon & sundae

corner bistro burgerCorner Bistro This is a burger I’ve never mentioned because I’d never tried it. Even this occasion happened to be an unplanned accident. Unfortunately, I also had an unplanned, accidental cheeseburger at an Irish pub near my office for lunch, so I was burgered out by dinner. Or at least that’s the reason I’m attributing to this crumbly burger making little impression on me–I remember more about the Teamster who bought me a shot of Jameson–when normally I’m all for greasy bar burgers. The poorly lit photo makes the thing look even less attractive, which is kind of unfair. I get the late night appeal, but I wouldn’t call this a destination burger in 2014.

Shovel Time: The Gorbals

twoshovelI’ve lost all ability to gauge what others will find compelling. My call for birthday travel mates to the Aqueduct casino fell flat (I decided to just take myself out to Bâtard) yet an equally arduous journey to Forest Hills to sleuth out the Northeast’s only Sizzler has generated interest. The Gorbals on opening night was also not a strike out.

Who wouldn’t want to eat in the nation’s coolest Urban Outfitters that’s barely an Urban Outfitters. Space Ninety 8 could be described as a concept store. Or it could be described as “More Anthro. More Curated,” as a sales clerk was explaining to a customer. “We don’t have sales,” he added.

That means you’ll weave past the macramé dreamcatchers, white lug-soled sandals, one size fits most Eileen Fisher for millennials linen shifts, and Japanese lip balms in containers camouflaged as fruit. All of a sudden a bar appears on the horizon of the men’s section on the third flor. Take a left and you’re dining in-store next to an open kitchen.

the gorbals cocktails

On the early side, the restaurant was populated but not at capacity; there were enough free seats to cause arrivals to balk at sharing the communal table in the back. The crowd was also slightly older than one might imagine, and by older I just mean over 30 with a sprinkling of the truly middle aged. (I went for a beer afterward at Iona and there was not one person over 24–or wearing a bra–in the back garden.)

the gorbals banh mi poutine, thrice-cooked fries, hoisin

I was expecting small plates, and for the most part they were. Not so with the banh mi poutine, total blogger bait which appeared first, unbidden, and was appreciated all the more for it. I wouldn’t describe this as tasting like a banh mi, though. The rich hunks of pork adhered to the fries and pickles with melted cheese kind of translated as cubano. Regardless, I couldn’t stop picking at the delicious pile.

the gorbals falafel-crusted lamb sweetbreads, cool ranch hummus, green garlic

Falafel-crusted lamb sweetbreads completely made sense–even the subtle ranch-flavored hummus didn’t seem out of place. What is ranch anyway but buttermilk and a dill-heavy herb-blend?

the gorbals jewish lunchbox, fried barley, gefilte fish cake, poached egg, dill'd kimchi

I didn’t catch a photo before the “Jewish lunchbox” was shook up in front of us. This was the least successful dish, perhaps because the barley posing as rice was lukewarm. Timing was a little haphazard, but I won’t begrudge anyone on their first night. Gefilte fish holds no nostalgia for me, though I can appreciate a spongy fish cake, a nice runny egg yolk and kimchi (with more of that dill).

the gorbals chewy carrots, smoked brown butter, almond cake

You should order at least one vegetable. Carrots, shriveled  with a velvety texture, come with nearly candied brown tufts called almond cake that based on color and the dish’s vaguely Nordic vibe kept signaling rye to my brain. Not rye.

the gorbals bacon-wrapped matzoh balls, horseradish mayonnaise

The friend who had taken me out couldn’t decide if the bacon-wrapped matzoh balls were a “dick move” or not. A dick move that got slightly neglected because they came at the end of the meal and were a little heavy (I blame the poutine) even if the horseradish sauce livened them up. These might work better as bar snacks.

I guess this is L.A. food, though it feels just as much like Brooklyn food. The “Barn” section of the menu is where the fun is concentrated, and I would characterize this food as fun. In many ways, it’s less serious than the merchandise on the floor. Nothing is outrageously priced, nothing is overly precious. I guess fun is pretty subjective? (says the person who wants to spend a summer day playing Keno in a dark, smoke-filled space). The talons attached to the schnitzel were causing some commotion; one had to be sawed off at the table before the woman would accept the plate and another diner requested the gnarled chicken foot be removed before leaving the kitchen.

The Gorbals * 98 N. Sixth St., Brooklyn, NY


Eaten, Barely Blogged: Skewers, Shawarma, Sable

snack eos duoSnack EOS Ninth Avenue near Times Square can feel more exciting simply because it’s not Eighth Avenue. Even so, there are a few charmers like Larb Ubol that stand out, and now Snack EOS, which was new to me, and possibly new period. Peaceful and non-plasticky, it’s a nice respite from the humidity and suitcase-draggers–and the $14.95 snack box isn’t a bad deal for a sit-down lunch. The taramosalata (pictured) with lots of warm pita and a yellowfin tuna skewer a.k.a. kalamaki with olives and a farro salad, is just one combo from a choice of three starters and an equal number of mains.



la goulette delivery

La Goulette Can you accurately judge a restaurant based on delivery? Probably not. La Goulette already gets points, though, for being one of the only Tunisian restaurants around (and by around, I mean that I can walk to). I appreciated that you could get chicken shawarma (there is merguez, but not much lamb in other forms, oddly) in a style not involving pita or rice. Who cares whether roasted cauliflower and artichokes are a traditional accompaniment  or a modern concession, it worked. There’s plenty of starch in the falafel and hummus-filled “veggie mix.” Don’t worry.

baz bagels nova & sableBaz Bagel It might also be wrong to choose a nouveau Jewish cafe based on the wallpaper. I’ve been researching palm tree and fern wall coverings for the past month and wanted to see some in the wild. (I was also obsessed with the Alloro’s green interior when it first opened, but never enough to prompt an in-person visit.) The food? That’s more difficult to parse. I wasn’t at Baz under pure food-enjoying circumstances to start with (beyond the wallpaper-scoping) yet even if I was paying more attention, the price to proportion might’ve seemed slightly out of whack.. One would think  something described as a tasting plate (nova and sable) and costing $18 would be shareable. Not so. A bagel sandwich might make more sense–or moving on to Black Seed or Russ & Daughters Cafe next time.


Pasar Malam

threeshovelOver. Malaysian food in a burgers-and-oysters neighborhood always seemed to good to be true. (5/18/2016)

Sometimes I think Instagram is good for nothing (unless you consider foodie weddings/group vacation rental parties/storm clouds over skyscrapers as something), and other days it’s great for letting me know that there’s a new Malaysian restaurant down the street hosting a media event where apparently everyone’s eating nasi lemak. What’s this? Pasar Masam on Grand Street? I was there the next day.

I wasn’t so sure about Malaysian food in Williamsburg, but I will give the restaurant credit for opening on one of the soupiest weeks of the year. It might not be a real open air night market–the no nonsense back-lit signage advertising multiple permutations of roti is spot-on, though–but they couldn’t have orchestrated the humid monsoon effect any more authentically. I can’t think of a single outdoor meal eaten in Malaysia where I wasn’t sweating to the point of distraction.

Pasar Malam is from the same owners as Laut near Union Square, the mishmash Thai-Malaysian restaurant you rarely hear much about. Here, there is pad thai, papaya salad and tom yum on the menu, but that’s it. I don’t think they even need it. We’re over saturated with Thai restaurants already and suffering a dearth of Malaysian, especially in Brooklyn.

pasar malam roti prata

I managed to rope in two others on short notice so I could  try more dishes (I’m always amazed at the diversity of food quirks: one doesn’t like hard-boiled eggs, the other eggs scrambled with seafood, i.e. char kway teow and chili crab). I will be back for the meatier things like murtabak. And maybe brunch, which is supposed to happen?  The roti station is prominently featured at the top of the menu and in the back of the restaurant, so you can’t really pass on the flaky, grilled pancakes  (plus your server–all super invested in your trying and liking the food–probably won’t let you). Roti prata is a slightly thicker, chewier version of the more-common-in-NYC roti canai, and served with a thin lightly spiced curry, no chicken or potato chunks. One person could easily eat a serving themselves, and might want to, but only make that rookie mistake if you don’t plan to order much else.

pasar malam rojak

Rojak isn’t a superstar with the name recognition of satay, or even laksa, but the salad exemplifies Malaysian flavors with its sweet-savory balance that teeters on weird. Ostensibly, it’s a crunchy fruit salad, made up here with pineapple, green mango and apples, but also cucumber and jicama, plus chopped up fried cruellers for a little chew (I like the versions that also include squid for even more chew). The whole thing gets dressed in a thick, burnt umber shrimp paste dressing (I could’ve used more) that’s like a fishy molasses and garnished with sesame seeds and crushed peanuts. Mexican fruit preparations with salt, chile and lime get at this odd combo, Thai papaya salads with dried shrimp, a little palm sugar and fish sauce get pretty close, but nothing really reaches the fruity-fishy intensity like rojak.

pasar malam chicken satay

Satay always seems boring to me, but the classic grilled chicken with peanut sauce was sweet, smoky and in appropriately demure-sized chunks to retain moisture. While the flavors aren’t watered down and I wouldn’t really call this nouveau anything, there are some creative liberties taken–the Hainan chicken rice being fried rather than steamed may give some pause–for instance, our server really wanted us to try the tandoori satay. Who knows? It’s probably good?

bk malaysia crunch frank

If you want serious liberties taken, look no further than the new Burger King Malaysia tie-in with the latest Transformers movie. This potato chip-topped hot dog could give a Colombian perro caliente a run for its money, if not for the chicken wiener.

pasar malam garlic shrimp

And as if to be proven wrong in my know-it-all self-sufficiency, we were brought a butter garlic prawn each after ignoring the glowing recommendation. Yes, they were good, really good, and like a spicier, curry leaf-fragrant version of salt-and-pepper shrimp.

pasar malam mantou & chili crab

To be honest, after you’ve had chili crab twice in your life, the novelty wears off and you might just move on to less messy dishes that don’t require extracting precious morsels from goopy shells. That was why I was not bothered by the use of soft-shell crab in the Singaporean classic. The sauce leaned more sweet and sour than spicy, as tradition dictates, and really the egg just gives it body a la egg drop soup minus the massive amounts of corn starch. Thankfully, no one messed with the accompaniment: fluffy mantou, available steamed or fried. Don’t think that I didn’t notice that orange chile ring artfully placed on the tip of the battered leg.

pasar malam nasi lemak

The other thought I had when first seeing photos online of the conical mounds of coconut rice was that Pasar Malam was really going to mess with my plan to not eat (I said nothing about drinking) any carbs until my birthday, 23 days into the future. Clearly, I caved before I barely began. More than just some curry, rice and a few fried anchovies and peanuts tucked into a banana leaf package to go, this was serious sit-down dinner-style nasi lemak. The chicken curry also comes with multiple shrimpy, fishy sambals, pickled achar–and that requisite hard-boiled egg half.

pasar malam fish head curry

I’m not convinced that Williamsburg is full of the educated eaters the owner thinks there is, but I do appreciate the presence of a fish head curry. And yes, I was warned it was a fish head. And yet I was dismayed by the lack of an actual head, eyes intact, cheeks for the picking. It comes pre-hacked, which actually makes it fussier to eat, necessitating a lot of sucking gelatinous bits from nooks and crannies rather than being able to dig in yourself with chopsticks from a more stable mass of flesh. Served with okra and green beans, this is a creamy, coconut milk-based version, not the hotter, orange-tinged broth style.

pasar malam michael jackson

There is no liquor license yet. There is a Michael Jackson, though, my favorite un-PC name for the popular black-and-white soy milk and grass jelly drink.

Pasar Malam has made me a little excited about Brooklyn dining, something I had been feeling jaded about recently. I’m only sad that I finally got an interesting, non-meatball/bbq/fried chicken restaurant so near to my apartment, mere months before I move to Queens. Nice knowing ya.

Pasar Malam * 208 Grand St., Brooklyn, NY

Eaten, Barely Blogged: The Great Outdoors

northern bell duo

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 berliner weisse

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 duo

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.

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Three Continents, Three Boroughs

onomea kalua pig

Onomea Despite New York Times attention and practically being across the street from my apt, I have always been resistant to Onomea. Maybe it’s all the starch. Maybe it’s the small menu. There are really only five entrees and drinks-wise, three beers and two rums that you can mix with fruit juices like strawberry-guava. The mom-and-pop vibe works, though. Being NYC, the portions are reasonable and there’s a salad taking up one quadrant of the dish, a green anomaly you wouldn’t see sullying a plate lunch in Hawaii. The kalua pig, pulled roast pork shoulder that’s not wildly dissimilar to North Carolina bbq, feels like mixed-up picnic fare when taken with bites of rice and macaroni salad. The appetizers will have to wait–my dining companion doesn’t eat pork or raw fish, squelching any shared poke or spam musubi.

donostia quad

Donostia With Huertas just a few avenues over, the East Village is turning into a pintxos destination. I’ve yet to see anyone capture the San Sebastian spirit fully, but at least we’re getting closer. Txakoli is on tap and montaditos are the showpiece, displayed on the counter yet prepared to order. Grilled halloumi and mackerel breaks the cheese with fish rule deliciously while thick aioli topped with curling octopus legs, and razor clams anchored by a white bean puree both present seafood on bread in a more traditional manner. Of course, you can also just have Spanish charcuterie and cheese.

uma plov

Uma’s I’ve never been down with the whole still burgeoning Rockaways scene, but sometimes you acquiesce. Uzbeki food seemed like an odd choice for the neighborhood, odd enough to try. The service and food were a little wonky, which wasn’t unexpected considering the lackadaisical energy heavy in the air. The beef in the plov was tender, not too lean and almost lamb-like (the meat I really wanted) in flavor. The rice, though, was just shy of fully cooked, creating a chew that nearly reminded me of the grit that kept turning up in my mouth after sitting on the windy beach near a crumbling dune. That said, I would still go back. It’s a popular place and nearly nothing on the menu is over $10.

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Frites, Fried Artichokes, General Tso Fried Chicken

antoniono's 6

Antonioni’s Gato was nuts, so too Le Philopsophe. I just wanted to sit at a bar and have some drinks and snacks. Antonioni’s, a short walk away, was suggested–and don’t kill me, but I had no idea what it was because if I ever see anything written about a new restaurant with an Italian-ish name, I skim past it because it’s just not my thing. We all have our biases. I might compare Antonioni’s kitschy mid-century Italian-American theme to Parm, but I’ve never eaten there and am only interested in the pastel, layered ice cream cake.

The restaurant turned out to be fun, bustling yet just chill enough to grab seats at the bar with no maneuvering or hovering. The much-Instagrammed orange jungle animal wallpaper set the right tone. You can start with a stiff brown drink like the Ace High (Laird’s Applejack Brandy, Cocchi di Torino, Luxardo Maraschino, Fernet Branca, Gran Classico, Scrappy’s orange bitters) and end with an intense amaro made from rhubarb that tastes not unpleasingly like burnt tires. The fried artichokes were all hearts, no leaves, making them more like the steak fries of the fried artichoke world. Just a warning. Some people love steak fries. Eggplant rolatini is something I would never order myself, but the eggplant had a smoky quality and crispy edges that kept it from being all about the tomato sauce and melted cheese. The pizza crust could be described as biscuit-y, which I don’t mind. Most people–a mix of older locals, industry types, and families with young children–were eating pasta anyway.

Chez Jef is the cutesy French pop-up that’s acting as a placeholder before the now-dead Bowery Diner turns into something else, presumably. The core menu is short. Just get the steak frites, even if you feel pressure to branch out and try something pseudo-healthy like the salmon with sunchokes so there aren’t two plates of the same thing on the table. The salmon’s boring; the steak isn’t. Plus, you get a metal gravy boat of béarnaise. And a whole jar of cornichons and a pair of tongs to play with if you order charcuterie. The oblong radishes and slices of crusty bread served with a thick slab of butter the size of a Kraft single topped with crunchy sea salt is also a nice freebie.

applebee's black & blue burgerApplebee’s Astoria may have created a new arts district, but there’s still a Pizzeria Uno and Applebee’s in its midst. Order some $1 happy hour oysters and a Mary Pickford (silver rum, maraschino, grenadine, pineapple juice) at the Astor Room, watch a non-blockbuster movie like Grand Budapest Hotel (now gone) at the Kaufman Astoria Cinemas because it will be nearly empty, and then cancel it all out with a Bourbon Black & Bleu burger and a Sam Adams at Applebee’s. The bar is the only thing bustling after 9pm in the immediate vicinity.

Martha Definitely go for the general tso fried chicken (this is also done at Sweet Chick on a waffle, by the way). I was also happy to see that in addition the now requisite brussels sprouts and fish sauce dish, there was a spin on Thai eggplant, spicy, and tossed with basil and bits of hard-boiled eggs that’s almost too much for two. I was less happy about my order being lost and seeing skillet after skillet being diverted elsewhere, but they were super transparent about the mix-up, apologetic and comped a round of drinks, which was all thoughtful. I’m not so paranoid or self-absorbed to think these sorts of snafus are personal (think how many times I order my food, get it, eat it, no biggie) but it seems to be a not uncommon Brooklyn restaurant thing.  Even more confusing was that I subtweeted this issue and Karloff, where I’ve never eaten in my life, responded.


Eaten, Barely Blogged: Schnitzel, Hot Pot, $1 Oysters

zum stamtisch trio

Zum Stamtisch might not serve the best German food in NYC, but you have to appreciate its longevity. (The first thing I ever wrote for money in NYC–and was paid 7 to 14 times more than what I’ve been offered for blog posts in modern day–was about German bars in Glendale. Zum Stamtisch is the only one of four still standing in its 2002 form.) And commitment to Bavarian kitsch. This is not a young person’s restaurant, especially not on an early Sunday evening. Everything could use a few shakes of salt (perhaps the clientele is watching their sodium intake). The schnitzel, available in pork only, is a stellar specimen, though, with a super crisp-and-craggy breading that’s not oily in the least. The mustardy vinegar-based potato salad is also well done; the starchy chunks have a few browned edges that add a little character. There is an impressive list of after dinner digestifs that does include Jaeger and Bailey’s but also gets a little more esoteric. Forget Fernet, this is Underberg and Escorial Grün.

little sheep

Little Lamb. I’ve said this before but I’m still not sure who’s ripping of whom. Little Lamb Happy Family, which has sat on Flushing’s Main Street for some time, is a blatant counterfeit.  But Little Sheep, which opened last year and Little Lamb, which recently appeared in the SkyView Center, are cut from the same cloth, complete with flat screen TVs showing videos of the Mongolia-based chain’s origin story. Little Sheep is bigger and has a liquor license (though Lamb serve what appears to be cola in wine carafes). Little Lamb has a view of the Applebee’s, its neighbor, and was still doing a 10% off promo when I visited (both pros, if you ask me). Bizarrely, the entire seafood section had an X through it on the order form (a con). The spicy side of the half-and-half broth contained an unusual amount of cumin–I’ve never had a hot pot where cumin seeds stick to everything, and the greens in the mixed vegetable platter were kind of strange and included lettuce (I find cooked lettuce grotesque) as well as weird frilly leaved weeds I’d never seen before. Everything was pleasant enough, though if this were a competition Little Sheep would win by a (wooly) hair.

extra fancy trio

Extra Fancy has always struck me as more of a drinking establishment even though both times I’ve eaten there in the past it has been fine (if not full of loud drunken people encroaching on my space). Apparently, they are trying to get fancier with the addition of a new chef. That seemed to translate to a $35 steak special, lobster pie and more charcuterie. I didn’t even realize they did a $1 oyster happy hour, practically a requirement in Williamsburg, but it was appreciated. A chicken pate topped with a layer of cider jelly and a big dose of toasted pistachios was one of the better I’ve had of late, bone marrow with barbecue-sauced brisket and Texas toast was also fun and now makes two restaurants in a six-block radius serving bone marrow with Texas toast (see Brooklyn Star). I stuck to the shared plates, but will most likely return in the very near future because I sometimes Lent dine to appease others and live down the street.



The Runner

twoshovelThe Runner is very much a neighborhood restaurant, and one that’s needed in this particular neighborhood. (I’m selfishly interested because it’s likely that I will move back to Myrtle Avenue in the fall.) It’s the kind of restaurant–mousses, bone marrow, oysters, brown spirits–that wouldn’t be groundbreaking in other parts of Brooklyn, but Myrtle Avenue has held out a little longer than other gentrifying drags Even in Clinton Hill, Fulton Street gets most of the newcomers.

I’m often torn between wanting to try a brand new restaurant and giving them some breathing room because, you know, kinks can cloud an experience. Then again, if a restaurant is obviously on a PR tear, they’re asking for customers. And on my first visit (I will come back) The Runner didn’t seem prepared for them.

the runner steak frites

It also seemed like I’d fallen into some vortex, arriving with reservations before the crush, yet getting lost in the subsequent shuffle. A table came in after I did, ordered steak frites, ate their steak frites and paid for their steak frites before my steak frites showed up. And the steak frites were my favorite thing (hence, the half-eaten iPhone pic because I dove in so quickly). The fries were perfect, neither too fat nor thin, and the hanger steak was spot-on medium-rare with pan juices blending with what seemed to be a scallion-based chimichurri. It’s a good deal for $18.

the runner tongue bread with pistachio honey butterThe pizza oven leftover from the previous tenant (Anima, which I walked past a zillion times but was never compelled to visit) is being put to all sorts of uses like the tongue bread that contains no offal (sadly). It’s cibatta vaguely shaped like a tongue, and really a warm, crusty vehicle for the amazing pistachio-honey butter. Even used sparingly, though, there wasn’t enough butter for the amount of bread.

the runner bone marrow

Ah, bone marrow a la M. Wells, topped with breaded escargot like a new classic. The snails and sweet onion-apple jam would be great with bone marrow, but the vessels didn’t contain enough wobbly fat to even spread on a piece of toast (in contrast to a version I’d encountered a few nights before at Extra Fancy where there was almost too much marrow for the bread).

the runner roasted cauliflower

There are two vegetable dishes. I received both; the roast cauliflower with raisins, fried shallots and parsley that I originally wanted, and agrodolce spaghetti squash with pine nuts and basil as a free buffer while waiting for entrees. They did make a good lunch the next day.

Efforts were made to smooth the logjams (initially, I attributed the issues to the oven but a cocktail also took nearly 30 minutes to arrive). I was also offered a free dessert, but declined because I’d already had more than enough food. Despite some glitches, I could see myself returning and having the steak frites (also that tarte flambé) and a glass or two of wine at the bar.

The Runner * 458 Myrtle Ave., Brooklyn, NY