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Posts from the ‘Red Hook’ Category

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Good Burger, Bad Burger, BBQ

elm brunch trio

At The Elm there were a lot of empty tables during the brunch Sunday (and I was still told preemptively  that I couldn’t be seated until my full party showed up, even though I didn’t ask to). What gives? I’ve generally considered myself as a member of the opposition in the war on brunch, but I wanted to try that burger. It’s two dollars cheaper during brunch ($16) than dinner , which I suppose is pricey (remember when $12 burgers used to spazz people out?) but more than ok because it’s one of those special, thick, aged like a steak patties, medium-rare without asking, juicy enough to soak through the bottom of the brioche bun if you chit chat too much while eating. The dinner menu says white cheddar while the brunch one says comte–whether different meals actually demand different cheeses or if the two menus are out of synch is a good question. Frankly, I don’t even remember the cheese because the meat blend was so dominant. The pickled onions and tomato confit were a nice touch, though. The fries were real fries (see below) which is the best one can hope for. You could also have an omelet or lobster benedict.

red robin western bbq burger

Red Robin I hate to say this as a chain apologist, but Red Robin is just sort of off. Both of my adult experiences, the latest being at the new Staten Island mall location to visit the recently opened Uniqlo and to take advantage of a housewarming gift card (thanks, by the way) for the house I no longer live in, have done nothing to persuade me. (Last time there was glitter in my ice.) In every way, it’s the anti-Elm burger. You can’t have it cooked less than medium and it doesn’t matter because the patty is too thin anyway. The bun and toppings are all you taste, and this particular burger comes with mayonnaise despite already being dressed with bbq sauce, which shouldn’t be allowed. The most distressing aspect of this restaurant’s M.O., though, is the bottomless fries premise because they’re steak fries and what kind of monster could or would want to serving after serving of soft, mealy potato slabs? When considering this offering, paying $6.50 more at The Elm feels like a true bargain. I did like the pretzel bites with cheese sauce even if they tasted inexplicably like peanut butter.

rookery scotch eggThe Rookery Even as New Nordic flourishes seep into all corners of the culinary world, gastropubs persist. I managed to eat two scotch egg renditions in a single week without even realizing it (more on Alder, which I’m not calling a gastropub, later).  More pub than gastro, The Rookery has a small menu with West Indian tweaks like curried goat in the shepherd’s pie and oxtail used for sloppy joes, however the egg is fairly straightforward with some bitter greens for balance. Order it and the sweet and sour brussels sprouts (with the rashers, of course) which are spicy more than sweet or sour.

Hometown Bar-B-Q It could’ve been the lateness (is 9:30pm late?) or the brutal chill (it was coat-wearing temperature even in the restaurant) but I was surprised by the lack of patrons on a weeknight. The brisket was very good, both crusty and just fatty enough to freak out the lean brisket-lovers (I know you exist, but why?). I wish I had ordered more of the beef than the pork ribs because a pound is a lot for two people, pink with a perfect smoke ring or not.  I’ve never been able to capture bbq adequately with a smartphone; the all-brown food is always set atop a brown piece of paper on a tray that’s on a brown wood table, creating a dark reddish mud-toned photo that only a Martha Stewart would be comfortable sharing online.



Eaten, Barely Blogged: Heroes and Never Ending Pasta

Defonte's duo

Defonte's With two weeks left in Carroll Gardens
(never mind that I'm only moving four miles away and have access to a car)
there are some oversights to be corrected. Though it seems farther because of
the BQE and Brooklyn Battery Tunnel entrance, Defonte's is technically only
three blocks from my apartment yet I haven't been once in eight years. Ridiculous.
So, I finally got the famous roast beef, mozzarella and fried eggplant hero, as
well as one, equally hefty with roast pork and pickled vegetables. Both seriously
filling workhorse sandwiches that I'm happy still exist in this ever rarefied
section of Brooklyn. I'm afraid I've been exposed to too many improved
versions, though, like Paesano's (scroll down) in Philadelphia (yes, weird to compare to
Philly, not NYC, but I don't eat a lot of Italian-American things on bread
here–I still haven't tried Parm either) and now I find the originals kind of
dull–or maybe just in need of a little salt or an extra condiment. 

Rocky Sullivan's I didn't realize the Friday night
6-9 lobster thing
they advertise starts at 6pm and means you need to be there
then, not any time in that three-hour slot. At 7:30pm, the 35 lobsters had been
spoken for. The cheeseburger and fries I consoled myself just didn't cut it.
And it must be said that if you're at Rocky Sullivan's, which is attached to
the Sixpoint Brewery, one should probably drink a Sweet Action or whatever may
be on tap, not a bottle of Bud, as suggested by possibly contrarian Sam Sifton
last week.

Never ending pasta bowl 2012

Olive Garden The Never Ending Pasta Bowl may not be
local or organic, but it's highly seasonal. Each August the ads appear, teasing
with the limited-time disclaimer. I'm not sure when it ends, but not much later
than Labor Day. I've written about the absurd secrecy of claiming this $9.95 promotion
in Manhattan
more than once, and this still hasn't changed. You have to ask because
it's not on the menu or any signs, then will be given one big bowl (plenty
for one meal) on the first round, then subsequently smaller ones. And if you
order a drink (no making fun of my malbec) at the bar while waiting for friends
to show up, you'll get an automatic 18% tip added in. Do I look like a tourist?
Who else but an American would be at an Olive Garden on a Friday night?


Eaten, Barely Blogged: Cuttlefish, Tripe & Chinese Crawfish

Celestino quad

Celestino. It's that time of year again when I play along with the boyfriend's Lent thing even though I don't get why it's a big deal to not eat meat one day a week (pizza’s not punishment, right?). You're not even restricted to vegetables. Sea creatures are totally fair game. So, Celestino, where the only meat is in the meatballs on the kids' selection of two items, was fitting. Super cute, whitewashed and hiply nautical (I still need to see Littleneck for comparison) with very good prices, it's the kind of restaurant that would be packed in Carroll Gardens, but was only a quarter full on a Friday night. A juice glass of a tart Italian white wine that wasn’t the Chardonnay or the Pinot Grigio was only $5 and bracing with oysters from Massachusetts and a kale salad, crunchy and oil-slicked with anchovies draped on top of the pile of greens. I wasn't expecting something so dense and stewy from the grilled cuttlefish with peas and polenta description–the peas played more of a prominent role than anticipated–though the damp, drizzly evening called for something savory and rib-sticking.

Rocky Sullivan's. After being traumatized by the sheer volume of under-26s at both places–Fulton Grand and Hot Bird–where we attempted to have a drink after Celestino (Hot Bird is a large space, and you literally couldn't get one foot in the door it was so packed) I sought solace in a no nonsense bar bar the next evening (this is not me being a grandma–in my 20s I didn't enjoy claustrophobic situations with 20-minute-waits for drinks either) and a Sixpoint Brownstone Ale and jalapeno poppers did the trick.

El bohemio duo

El Bohemio Jarocho. I have all but given up on house-hunting. After seeing a nicely designed, overpriced co op in Clinton Hill next to the projects that already had four all-cash bids (seriously who the fuck are all these Brooklynites will millions to spare? The crank in me says all of the 20-somethings now filling the neighborhood bars in ten more years) then a so-so whole house in Sunset Park, in hopes of less-trodden neighborhoods being less competitive, I just needed a taco…or two. I’ve never head a peep about El Bohemio Jarocho, but it happened to be on the block we parked on and had more customers than the empty alternative across the street. Sometimes you need some crispy tripe and pineapple-sweetened al pastor with Monkey Trouble playing on two TVs and no English interactions. The steak el huevo advertised on the chalkboard turned out to be a massive plate of everything (maybe a Mexican garbage plate?): steak and eggs, obviously, but also a slab of white cheese, grilled bulbous green onion, nopales, jalapeño, avocados, tomatoes, refried beans, chips, rice, and potatoes. Phew.

New world food court

New World Mall. This is the fanciest of the subterranean Flushing food courts. I didn’t encounter crawfish in New Orleans (we were about a month pre-season) but they were selling the ma la-style for $9.99 at Sliced Noodles. I was tempted, but tried the beef soup with hand-pulled noodles since it was the original craving that drew me there (though I was thinking of Hong Kong-style, which this super-greens-filled Henanese version is not).

Duck and pork buns

The dollar peking duck buns from across the street are a bargain, but pale in comparison to the not-much-more-expensive gua bao ($4.95 for two) from the Taiwanese stall. My favorite item of the afternoon: big fat soy-braised slabs of pork belly placed on fluffy buns and garnished with a pile of cilantro and pickled mustard greens, and given a crushed peanut finish. I saved one for breakfast the next day and wish this part of my daily first meal regimen instead of almonds and clementines.


I Guess It Beats Red Lobster

Rocky sullivan's lobster front view

There are so many dining events in NYC–pig roasts, cook-offs, food festivals–and generally I ignore them. Not because I think the food won’t be good but because I just can’t deal with crowds. And they’re never not crowded. I know my limits, lining up for food, waiting an hour for food, heck, running out of food you paid for, just aren’t enjoyable things, so I sit these out.

I feel kind of bad about it, maybe I’m missing out, but after reading this piece on World Hum about introverted travelers, I realized I’m just an introverted eater. I don’t enjoy striking up conversations with strangers and being surrounded by hundreds of hungry people certainly doesn’t make me feel more alive, just aggravated. One man’s convivial is another’s claustrophobic.

But I’ve been meaning to pick up lobsters at Red Hook Lobster Pound all summer and do like Rocky Sullivan’s. So, Lobstah Feast Fridays at Rocky Sullivan’s? Yeah, I’d give it a shot. Rocky Sullivan’s is where I go when I just want a beer and no hassle. Even on the weekends, even when a random ska or Irish hip hop band is playing and the only clientele are their friends, it’s not packed. Normally, it’s just us, our pints and the sprawling upstairs wooden deck in the back. No more than a few mosquitoes and a family of black-and-white cats who trick you into thinking you’re seeing the same one popping up on opposite ends of the roof.

Normally, I wouldn’t go on the first night of a new undertaking. But it’s always desolate Red Hook and I’d only read about the event on a few blogs—how busy could it be?

Pretty darned busy. Slammed. There are really only three rectangular tables that seat around eight. Part of the trouble is that you can reserve for parties or six or more, which meant families ordering pizzas and parking themselves while smaller groups waited…and waited. I expected a wait, though.

The bartenders were incredulous, wiped out and unable to keep up with the demand (I was told that a lot of staff had taken vacation this week). Pint glasses were soon replaced with plastic cups. An older regular remarked to his lady friend, “This is how it should be on a Friday!” I can see that. I’m all for good business, and didn’t mind the 45-minute-wait I was quoted to be seated for food because I’d finagled a spot at the bar. And they had me…until they skipped my name on the list.

This seems to be a recurring problem in my world. I don’t think I’m unattractive and offensive nor mousy and forgettable (not that either of those should cause being skipped over in line) but without fail I get screwed over in a just wait and see scenario. I joked about it right after I got my party of two on the list, “What do you bet that they never call us?” That’s why I’m a cynic who avoids these situations. And don’t bullshit me over anticipating negativity manifesting itself in reality. Thinking good thoughts is all it takes to sail through life, really?

No, I’ve arrived at the conclusion that I’m too polite. Yes, too polite. After 11 years here I still haven’t developed the art of pleasant aggression, yet on rare return visits to the NW I’m viewed as an impatient menace who stands too close to people in line.

By the time I realized walk-ins were being given tables after we’d waiting at the bar for an hour, it was too late. I should’ve said something sooner but I had hope since I'd heard the three groups written on the pad of paper before me being called loud and clear. I don’t want to have to get all Chinese on people's asses, blindly pushy looking out for number one, or even all New York about it, which is essentially the same as above but being more calculated and less obvious (and refraining from hawking loogies).

Rocky sullivan's lobster sides

We ended up ordering food at the bar because scoring a table started seeming hopeless and I was afraid the food was running out. I never saw a menu so I don’t know the exact deal. It appeared to be one lobster, corn on the cob and potato salad or coleslaw, I think for $23. It was fair but I think I will leave Rocky Sullivan’s as a drinking establishment and steam lobsters on my own time.

It wasn’t the wait that bothered me. It was Friday night, I didn’t mind sipping a couple beers. Everyone was being served at the same slow pace. Tables actually clapped when their food arrived and staff members were congenial despite being harried. What I didn’t appreciate was being ignored, plain and simple. Out of curiosity, we asked the hostess/waitress where we were on the list as we were leaving and she flipped back three pages to my name, not crossed off, with every name after it penciled through. We were then offered a table. Uh, I start to take these things, benign as they might be, personally.

 Pardon Me For Asking seemed to have a fine experience, though. Always Hungry also enjoyed their meal and got brownies from Baked, which I didn't even know was part of the menu. So, like I said, these things just seem to happen to me. You might be luckier. I’m sure they’ll streamline their process as the weeks go on. And I will continue to avoid foodie events. No hard feelings.


1/2 I knew the end was near when I recently started seeing ads tacked up on corners all over SW Carroll Gardens. (12/30/09)

I’m still very suspicious about all of this coal oven discovery in NYC. I was under the impression that they were rare beasts but it seems like they're common as twin strollers in Brooklyn. Maybe coal ovens have been unearthed during building renovations for decades yet only in recent history has there been an insatiable market for coal oven pizza.

And pizza in general. I haven't given in to burger or cupcake mania and it seems that in my hesitation I've also missed out on the new and semi-recent spate of pizzerias: Veloce, Co, Keste, Motorino…what else…ok, I’ve never eaten at Roberta’s or not-new-at-all Franny’s either. I’m just not a pizza fanatic. I do feel kind of blessed to live three blocks from the country’s second-best pizza according to GQ, not that I can ever actually get a table at Lucali. (I really wanted to work a fuhgeddaboudit in there but refrained because I'm not 100% cornball and this isn’t the New York Post, though now writing about what I omitted then typing it anyway is a worse crime.)

So, I figured I could handle trying Anslemo's, a recent addition in Red Hook. Definitely no mob scene there; on a Saturday night over Memorial Day weekend there was only two other tables occupied, one takeout order, two EMTs who wanted to see a menu, and a couple of neighborhood kids playing hide and seek under the tables until getting shooed away. First they were asked to leave nicely, then after getting no response, the kids were questioned, "Do you speak English?" The grade schoolers in Carroll Gardens could use a little such harassing. (Actually, I’ve recently noticed when I work from home that the shrieking hormonal pre-teens who hang out in front of my ground floor windows start getting yelled at by some authority figure around 3:40pm. A woman pops out of the school's door, where a policeman is currently standing, directly across the street from my living room window and starts screaming, “It’s time to go home! Let’s move along, people!” I like her.

Anselmo's pie

At this point, Anselmo’s strikes me as more of a fast food joint dressed up as a restaurant and that's fine. The lack of a liquor license (they do serve unsweetened black tea, which I greatly appreciate as a sweet drink loather) smallish pies and current absence of air conditioning (a blasting pizza oven coupled with 80+ degrees and high humidity was kind of brutal) don’t exactly encourage lingering.

They don’t do slices, which seems to have stymied locals, but the individual 10" pizzas are only $6 and that's what the single walk-ins are steered toward. I'm still not clear on the math of the 14", the larger size offered being $14. Wouldn't it be more economical to order two smaller pizzas? Toppings are $1.75 each regardless of size so if you were loading up, I supposed one pie makes more sense.

Anselmo's crust

We split a 14” pepperoni and artichoke heart, which we plowed through in no time. The pizza isn't filling. The crust has a nice char and so too the rims of sliced sausage. The mozzarella was generous and the strands of basil were well distributed. While the crust is fairly thin, it is still firm with no bubbling and sags a bit under the toppings.

I would be inclined to return and try more toppings (though maybe not the brie). If it were walking distance, I would stop by regularly. And that might end up being the trouble, it's not quite a destination, nothing in Red Hook really is despite how the media portrays the area. It’s a ghost town at night. But if you’re someone who breezes through the neighborhood to shop at Fairway or Ikea, it’s worth stopping by.

Anselmo’s * 354 Van Brunt St., Brooklyn, NY

Hope & Anchor

When passing through Red Hook James occasionally suggests stopping at Hope & Anchor. I never share his enthusiasm. This is based on little evidence since I’ve only eaten there once, and quite some time ago when it first opened. The place struck me as kind of fun with adequate food if you happened to be in the area but not worth a special trip. Its two main attractions being drag karaoke nights and prices befitting a real diner not a faux one. But it seemed like a fitting place for an early weeknight meal after looking at house for sale in Red Hook owned by the proprietors of Hook & Anchor, no less. (For the record, the home was lovely but just not me. I’m really more clean lines modern where this was a touch Cottage Living [R.I.P.] mixed with turn-of-the-century maritime. Those bearded Brooklyn foodie types would have a heyday wainscoting, wallpapering and tin ceiling-ing the hell out of the place. Moldings, chandeliers and dumbwaiter already in place [I really loved the dumbwaiter]. The unfinished basement would be perfect for crafting sassafras bitters and hanging homemade wild boar sausages to cure.)
If you’re in a diner, there’s no sense in ordering a salad. It’s grease or nothing, so it was cheesesteak and fries for me. The massive sandwich (which I made into a second dinner the following night) satisfied my unhealthy urge, but in a perfect world the meat would’ve been sliced instead of ground and oozing with Cheez Whiz instead of the indeterminate melted white cheese applied with a light hand. Red Hook might feel as far as a sixth borough but it is no Philadelphia. 
The pumpkin lager was no longer being served, but the suggested cherry was a fine enough substitute. Fruity beers do not give me pause. Generally, well-done ones like this Lakefront Brewery version aren’t cloying. I do draw the line at flavored coffee, though. (1/13/08)

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I feel like I can’t talk about places and things without photographic backup. People, including myself, don’t have time for words anymore. It’s all I can do to scroll through my work RSS feeds during the day while trying to squeeze in a few non-work feeds on the side. Particularly with food blogs, photos and headlines get the point across, and then you move onto the next.

I didn’t even start taking snapshots until 2006 and I’ve been writing on the web since ye olde 1998 so it’s creepy that photos have become so essential so quickly. Yeah, yeah, it’s all about video now…well, that’s never going to happen on my watch.

Maybe I’m regressing (some would say evolving) or maybe it’s just the lazy days of August when all NYC media tries to make you believe that the entire city is summering someplace full of fresh air that’s insanely fun (I’m indifferent to fresh air) but I haven’t been inclined to detail everything I eat and drink digitally.

I didn’t take as single shot at Grand Sichuan last week and only two or three at Boca Junior on Saturday. I did attempt a few pictures of my negroni at newly opened Botanica in Red Hook but flashless photography is futile while drinking outdoors at night.

Yes, there’s already a perfectly established bar with the same name on Houston Street, so that is weird. And yes, old-timer fave, Sunny’s is just down the street. I don’t see why the established and the new can’t coexist. No matter how much gentrification talk gets bandied about, the neighborhood is hardly bursting at the seams. The streets are still dead at night. Three cats prowling around the sidewalk at intervals was about the sum of the foot traffic I witnessed this weekend.

I’ve never felt more like I was in Beijing while ordering a drink at Botanica. Well, there weren’t any mute assistants with bowl haircuts working behind the bar when I was in China, but in both places I experienced pricy cocktails for the environs painstakingly made, i.e. slooowly from a binder of recipes. I’m all for perfection but the trick is making it appear seamless. I tend to be a bit twitchy and nervous as it is; I can’t spare the stress on my heart to be nervous for others too.

Now that I think about it, the awkwardness might’ve been compounded by a lack of bar seating and a big unfilled space between the bar and the row of tables against the wall. It feels strange to be standing eye to eye with a bartender when the room is nearly empty and you’re the only one at the counter. Or maybe it was the quirky African (or was it African-influenced? It was most definitely wasn’t Vampire Weekend, thank God) music playing that threw me off.

Normally, I’m violently opposed to sitting outside but Saturday the temperature was abnormally tolerable while the bar itself was hot and stuffy despite all doors being open and nary a crowd emitting body heat. My only fear was being targeted as a douche for drinking a double-digit-priced cocktail at a candlelit (make that glowing plastic votive thing) sidewalk table on Conover Street. And funny, because I overheard one table trading war stories with another table about the good ol’ days when the area was so scary it was safer to walk in the middle of the street.

The emphasis appears to be on freshly muddled fruit. A row of martini glasses filled with blackberries, cherries, and the like are prominently displayed on the bar (like this). I wasn’t up for a blueberry martini or anything sweet so I went completely bitter and dry with a negroni. Those herbal aperitifs like Campari have only recently begun to grow on me. Maybe it’s an aging thing; James mentioned that his father’s favorite drink is a negroni and the man is twice my age.

Botanica hasn’t hit its stride yet, and one drink was sufficient to get the gist. $10 lighter and seven mosquito bites later, we moved onto Brooklyn Ice House (formerly Pioneer Bar-B-Q). I do prefer beer and Van Halen chased by a free shot.

Botanica * 220 Conover St., Brooklyn, NY


It’s a shame that the only passable Mexican restaurant in South Brooklyn shuttered last year, but I must admit that I always turned to other neighborhoods when in need of a taco so I wasn’t exactly a El Huipil loyalist. (I also just noticed that I only gave them 1.5 shovel, which was kind of harsh. Maybe I've grown into a softie because now I tend to give even mediocre places 2 shovels.)

Now the space houses Viva, more in a Tex-Mex vein. I’m inclined to think that the new proprietors aren’t Mexican—black beans and yellow rice feel more Caribbean and the back page of the menu lists “Latin” food—but I’m hardly an ethnicity detective. And it’s not like the clientele, seemingly made up of non-Hispanic families with lots of kids and locals looking for cheap takeout, care who’s cooking their chimichanga. The fact that we had to ask for salsa, suspiciously absent from the table, was also telling.

I’ve been exploring western Carroll Gardens and Red Hook a lot lately. I like the area and I’m frequently too lazy to leave 11231. We wanted to drive by the Ikea (and peek at an overpriced house for sale on Van Brunt Street) and get the crap scared out of us. There’s no way I was setting foot on the property opening weekend, but we wanted to witness some mayhem. The parking lot had filled and cars were backed up in all directions despite traffic cops. On the short drive from our apartment to Ikea we witnessed I don’t know how many wrong turns down one-way streets, general scared confusion and pleas for directions.
I’m not anti-car, obviously, but people shouldn’t be allowed on the road if they have absolutely no idea where they are, where they’re going or how to follow signs. I thought everyone had GPSs and we were just too cheap to spring for modern navigation devices. And that was just outside. Poor drivers make even worse pedestrians so I can only imagine the trouble inside those blue and yellow walls.

I perked back up after seeing the handwritten “$1.99 margarita with entrée” scrawled on Viva’s brief paper menu. This turned out to be a strong drink (yes, I equate strong with good). I prefer my beverages on the rocks rather than blended, which wasn’t an option, but apparently frozen cocktails are now all the rage so they were ahead of the curve.


Chicken enchiladas were perfectly adequate, no complaints. However, I’m not sure why the waitress warned me that they come topped with melted cheese. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Clearly, there have been lactose-adverse complainers in the past. The one thing I’ve never understood about Tex-Mex restaurants–at least in the North because I’ve never been to Texas–is why filling choices are usually limited to chicken, ground beef and cheese. Where’s the pork?

Viva * 116 Sullivan St., Brooklyn, NY


Twelve hours after returning from one of the most spice-adverse cities I’ve ever visited, I was dying for Sichuan food. I always end up back in NYC wanting something I couldn’t get while on vacation no matter how great the local food was. But not everyone shares my enthusiasm for Chinese food and Bay Ridge dining, so instead I convinced a friend to check out Annabelle’s in the former Lillie’s space in Red Hook, almost directly across from the about-to-open-Ikea.

I’m not sure what I think about the restaurant and I’m not sure that it knows what it’s trying to be either. I would say that it’s more of a bar, despite not having their beer taps up and running yet. But they started closing up at midnight, which is no hour for a drinking establishment to shutter.

Around 10pm on a Saturday the dim room (so dark that my photos are next to useless—I’m only including one here, but there are a few others) was nearly empty, but we were committed to eating. The service is friendly and earnest, and while the handsome space has lost a lot of the kitsch, it retains a retro aesthetic. I didn’t see the reported garden because the heat lightening and drizzles kept me inside.

Annabelle's soft shell crab & shrimp The menu leans towards seafood dishes and po boys, which isn’t surprising since fish is the chef’s thing (I’ve never eaten at Petite Crevette, but I did try Bouillabaisse 126 once during a blizzard). The trouble is the pricing seems a bit skewed for the environs. This still isn’t an area for destination dining even though The Good Fork wins accolades and 360 was an upscale pioneer while it lasted. Entrees hovered around $20 and sandwiches were in the low teens. Perhaps they’re banking on a new crowd hungrier for more than Swedish meatball combos and willing to shell out for it. Degentrification clearly is not fazing them.

With that said, the food wasn’t bad. I would even say that it was good but it would’ve tasted better for a few bucks less (though to be fair, I recently spent more at Bonefish Grill, but I have different standards for chains and “real” restaurants). Lots of butter and lemon juice can work wonders on anything. At least it did for my soft-shell crab, shrimp with cubed pan-fried potatoes and shredded zucchini and peppers.

I don’t doubt that I’ll return for a drink at some point but I’m not fully sold on the restaurant concept. In a way Annabelle’s sums up Red Hook: high on quirk, pricier than it should be and full of potential.

p.s. Ok, now I'm utterly confused. I just stumbled on this bit about Annabelle's being the bar half and La Bouillabaisse as the attached restaurant. I swear to god I didn't see a proper restaurant anywhere. Was I completely jetlagged and blind? For what it's worth, I'm fairly certain we were eating off of a restaurant menu and not an abbreviated bar menu. I think I would've had different expectations if had I been eating in a dining room.

p.p.s. I was told that Bouillabaisse would be opening in two weeks, which probably means more like two months. (6/18/08)

Annabelle’s * 44 Beard St., Brooklyn, NY

The Good Fork

I didn't go in expecting my socks to get knocked off–I just wanted to try a new nearby restaurant, hype, be damned–and well, my socks are still on. Not to say there was anything amiss with my food. I wanted it to be more distinctive. I think a lot of the appeal of places like The Good Fork stems from the quirk and trek factor. The same attention probably wouldn't be paid to a similar eatery in say, the West Village.

Forksalad I started with a glass of Malbec and a salad of bitter greens, cubed beets and an apple-potato latke type wedge, topped with goat cheese. These are the types of salads I enjoy, yet never make at home because there are too many components for my weeknight patience. Then I moved on to the roast chicken, which I know is usually the most boring thing on the menu, but I'd been eating pork all week thanks to Easter leftovers, and it was so hot out I didn't feel I should eat go too meaty.

The mashed potatoes seemed awfully sweet, and now I realize they were pureed with parsnips. Very nice with the carmelized, braised leeks. The black bean sauce was a touch salty, but it did punch up a potentially bland dish. The chicken was chicken, despite being from Cloonshee Farms. I'm sure if you put a plainly prepared Tyson drumstick and a free range hormone-less leg in front of me, I'd be able to detect a difference in flavor, but frequently fresh, organic meat is lost on me.

Forkchicken Surprisingly, we were seated promptly at 8pm. I got a little nervous when asked if we had reservations. The thought had crossed my mind, but I didn't call ahead out of principle–um, which principle, I'm not sure. Maybe the neighborhood joint principle. The staff seemed a little frenzied, though everyone was pleasant and accommodating. There was a slight insidery vibe, which is only to say that the host (owner?) seemed to know everyone. Maybe I'm just jealous because I'm not a regular even at places I go regularly.

$74 was a touch more than I'd typically spend on a Thursday night dinner for two, and I don't mean that in a Brooklyn should be cheaper than Manhattan way. People get up in arms if you complain about prices in the outer boroughs. I'm just thrifty. I wouldn't say The Good Fork is a prime destination spot (at least not yet–hasn't Red Hook been on the verge for the last decade? Who knows Fairway and Ikea will bring to the mix) but it is a nice option if you live in the general environs and are sick of the Smith St. offerings.

The Good Fork 391 Van Brunt St., Brooklyn, NY