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Posts from the ‘Bedford-Stuyvesant’ Category

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Locals Only

I'll admit I kind of liked complaining about Carroll
Gardens (and I did so with gusto–there's a grocer/sandwichery that called me
out on citing them three times–Google alerts, clearly–in my blanket
overhype condemnation). But as they say, love it or leave it, and so I did. There's nothing worse than whiners who don't take action.

And I can be honest and say that there's not a lot going
on over here in my far northeastern corner of Clinton Hill (and technically none of what follows is in Clinton Hill–you don't really need to hear about the perfunctory sashimi and Caribbean snacks and melon cocktails I've encountered). But at least there are no
illusions. A majority of the restaurants on Court and Smith streets were/are mediocre,
and despite perfectly good meals at Buttermilk Channel and Frankies, I see no
need to wait over an hour for a bowl of pasta or fried chicken anywhere.

So that said, my standards aren't as stringent in
these parts. It's like in high school where there was a class called Reading
and the students did nothing but read books on couches amidst a bunch of potted plants because
they had bad grades and were underachievers. Ok, my standards aren't that low;
I'm just saying there are different measures of success.

Dictated by the
neighborhood made up of  Pratt students, old-timers, public housing
inhabitants, and yes, the errant brownstone dweller (I don't think the Hasids play any role)  the dining options tend to
be inexpensive and un-ambitious. The new busineseses all seem to be burger joints or wifi cafes, which don't mean much to me. The Wallace, which is more upscale, is already using Scoutmob and was recently on Blackboard Eats, which aren't typically good signs even though I've been known to use both. I assume Lulu & Po is still going strong (I need to revisit) and I haven't heard a peep about Prospect since it opened.

(I was going to say that the white bougie
family influx hasn't hit hard yet, but just a few hours ago a preschooler sat
down on the barstool next to me and then her Scandinavian-accented father asked
her if she wanted to have her birthday party at "the new house" or in
France. He then told her Bono was "a nice guy" after she failed to
pay proper attention to the song playing that I didn't recognize. "I like it," she said.
"You're not even listening!" he replied, but softly, not snappily
because he was foreign.)

Brooklyn bird trio

Brooklyn Bird Opened a few weeks ago to zero bloggy
fanfare, this diner-styled restaurant that feels more suited to takeout is nothing special (I do feel bad that no one ever seems to be in there) but it's a block away
and they serve food until 4am. They are advertising beer and wine coming soon. Plus, they've created a lesser-known-regional-fare trifecta with their upstate New York spiedie (nearby Speedy Romeo and
Brooklyn Koalache Co. round out the mini-trend with St. Louis pizza and Czech
by way of Texas, koalaches). I just tried a grilled cheese (cheddar and gruyere) sandwich with bacon and truffle oil. Of course, it didn't really need the truffle oil. I may be inclined to try the ghost pepper hot wings and that chicken spiedie some late night soon.

Dough doughnuts

Dough It's only a block from the nearest subway
station, but it's still a solid 12-minute walk from my apartment, so it's on
the fringes of what I'd consider "my neighborhood." It's not like
Dough is a secret; they made a name for themselves at the Brooklyn Flea. But
even for someone who rarely eats doughnuts,  I can say unequivocally that it's the best
$2.25 you'll spend for something of the raised yeast variety. (It took me three
months to finally walk over there, and the main reason I did was to break the
twenty dollar bill I had on me to tip the Fresh Direct driver who was arriving
in less than an hour. Mildly related and good to know: the 99-cent store on the
ground floor of my building–yes, I live in the same structure as a discount
store and it rules–advertises an atm that distributes $10s, but I only wanted
to tip $5.) Tart frostings are kind of their thing. I'd had a hibiscus doughnut
before, and the passionfruit is in a similar vein. What sets it apart are the
cocoa nibs that give it a bitter crunch. The dulce de leche with slivered
almonds is more full-on sweet and makes you want to go back to sleep after
eating it. That is not a criticism.

Scratchbread chai sticky bun

SCRATCHbread Another five minutes southeast from
Dough and unquestionably in Bed-Stuy (I'm a newcomer and I already know that
Classon is the cutoff despite brokers pushing Bedford as the dividing line). I didn't
fully get that Scratchbread is doing crazy things until I actually ate a few
baked goods. The sticky buns may look innocent, but there are a million things
happening. I'm still not completely sure what. The bread itself is
wheat-y and vaguely wholesome, and then the caramel isn't particularly sweet but
burnt and spicy–both hot spicy and cardamom-spiced–and there are more of those cocoa nibs. I kind of just wanted sweet
caramel and pecans. If you're going to go this direction, though, I bet you
could do a cool caramel with fish sauce.

Scratchbread bread custard

I also picked up a loaf of the bread custard,
but it wasn't the seasonal loaf I'd seen mentioned elsewhere. I do think the
guts were soft from roasted squash, but instead of rosemary there was sage and
there was no trace of prosciutto. Instead, two cheese-filled red peppers had
been stuffed into the bread like little Crater Lakes, almost treading into
foreign Pizza Hut territory. It was a Christmas Eve hit, of course.

Lola quad

Lola f.k.a. Chez Lola. I guess the former bistro and
Myrtle Ave. pioneer is now calling itself a gastropub? The revamp entails new
cocktails (too sweet, though it was my own fault for ordering the Brooklyn Beauregard,
essentially a whiskey sour with Jim Beam Honey Tea Bourbon and St. Germain) and
a move towards American cuisine, meaning Canada, US and Mexico. The menu sort of
reads like a Kitchen Nightmares overhaul: pared down, nearly foolproof to
prepare, a bit of repetition, but overall inoffensive. Canada is represented by
a duck poutine, which is a glorious drunk food (I wasn't drunk, though). The fries, cheese curds and confit
could've use a little more gravy it was decided. I love a thin crust tarte flambee and their goat cheese, onion and bacon version was ok. A salad of smoked chicken, apples and cashews wasn't really more than just that. They
do serve late for the area, until 2am, and nothing is over $20 (most is under
$15) so there is an appeal if you want something other than pizza or Chinese  in
the immediate vicinity. And I think they still do a $15 all-you-can-eat mussels
deal on Thursdays, so there's that. They're also on Scoutmob, by the way.

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Hello, Myrtle Avenue

I took so many photos at Sapolo that I decided to
give it its own post.

Chinantla. I'm excited to have what feels like a
secret taqueria (there is a full-on restaurant in the back of this bodega, not
just a counter with a seat or two) only six blocks away. Mini-chains Calexico
and Oaxaca have their fans, but they just weren't cutting it for me. The pork
enchilada (as in chile sauced, not the dish with the name) probably wasn't the
wisest pick. The meat was pounded to schnitzel thinness and sauteed till lifeless
and tough enough to start bending the flimsy metal knife I was given. With a big
scoop of refried beans, mountain range of Mexican rice and slices of avocado
and nopales, it was a lot of food for $9, though. I'll definitely return for
something simpler and more fool-proof because I want this place to be good.

Tepango trio

Tepango. is four blocks closer to me and courts a
broader audience with things like hard shell tacos and what they call a Super
Taco, a $5 fat rolled corn tortilla filled with meat and enrobed melted cheese
like a taco-burrito-quesadilla hybrid. These are just regular $2 tacos, the al
pastor sweet with lots of pineapple chunks and grilled onions. They deliver,
but it's worth stopping by in person to see the hand-drawn anime and fantasy
Aztec art that decorates the walls.

Zaytoons pitza

Zaytoons. The only Carroll Gardens/Clinton Hill
crossover, I think, and not the only neighborhood Middle Eastern choice (Damas
Falafel House still needs to assessed). It's byob, five mezzes are only $8.50
(I'm always impressed with how good the boring sounding lentils and rice,
moujadarra, is–it must be all the oily fried onions mixed in) and while maybe
melted cheese and lamb weren't meant to go together, I often end up with a shawarma

Maggie Brown. There's nothing really notable about
this solidly neighborhood restaurant/bar (there is nearly an equal amount of
small space devoted to eating as drinking). The burger is pretty solid
(medium-rare is honored) and there's a nice backyard. My only knowledge of
Maggie Brown up until now was when it got the Under $25 treatment eight years
, and I was surprised to see a Clinton Hill restaurant making The Times. It
still feels a little 2004, which is to say good enough for a transitional area
but not in line with the current crop of new nearish restaurants (Lulu &
Po, The Wallace, Prospect). And that's ok.

Clinton hill white castle

White Castle. For the second time in my NYC
existence, I live a block from a White Castle. This time it's directly across
the street and the view I'm treated to when peeking over the terrace. I don't
think I will ever be tempted by the sign advertising their new parfaits, but
the also-new jalapeno and cheese sliders (I have not been wild enough to try
the version with crispy fried onions yet) are not a bad 94-cent snack for those
who dig gooey processed cheese and chiles as much as I do. I hope this doesn't
become a habit.


Do or Dine

I’m more excited about Bed-Stuy’s burgeoning dining
scene now that’s more in my physical frame of reference. (I make fun of
Williamsburgers who’ll never explore beyond their defined borders, but it’s not like I’m
going to check out a new Upper West/East Side restaurant unless it sounds
extremely amazing.) Sure, I’ve been to Celestino, Peaches HotHouse and drink
at Black Swan, but I’m not a neighborhood know-it-all.

It took me a while to get to Do or Dine. Yes, they have a menu with both small plates and snacks—does anyone understand
the distinction? Because of this, I assumed the stream of food would be willy nilly, plates
appearing when ready, the bigger items arriving last maybe. Instead, each course came
progressively like a tasting menu, a new dish showing up as the former was
being finished.

Burt reynolds

A serious cocktail (rye, averna, bitters) with a less-than-serious name, The Burt Reynolds, sets the tone. You could just as well have a cheap Rolling Rock (I had just been wondering whatever happened to this ’90s staple) as a stiff $12 beverage.

Do or dine foie gras doughnut cut

How could a first-timer not order the doughnut?
Everyone knows that the warm powdered-sugared dough is stuffed with foie gras.
I didn’t know, however, that the rich liver was paired with fruity (strawberry, I’m
guessing, raspberry, maybe) jelly. Split between two, the fried savory is a
perfectly reasonable starter–unless you’re one of those types who only takes one
bite of everything and acts like you’re overeating (or throws perfectly good cupcakes in the trash and sprinkles Comet on them). 

Do or dine leap year special

The Leap Year Special is a snack for those who
consider frogs’ legs snackable. Sure, the flesh is mild and obviously white
meat, but I wouldn’t say that frog tastes like chicken, that’s just the nuggety
batter talking. The texture is most definitely different, wetter, less firm, I
guess, aquatic. The sauce was more peppery than sweet, despite the advertised
addition of Dr. Pepper. To me, that’s not so much a junk or stoner food touch,
but a Filipino bbq flourish.

Do or dine lamb breast

The lamb breast is also a snack. The word fatty was
thrown in with the ingredient list, and being a prominent feature, I suppose
you could consider fat to be seasoning on par with the cumin. If you do not like
fat, you would probably not be eating at Do or Dine.

Do or dine chicken and woffals

Chicken and Woffals is a liver-smeared crispy game
hen, atop a waffle. There is maple syrup, passionfruit something, cooked-down
spinach (the only greenery we ingested), all-in-all another fried, sweet-and-savory clash
that ends up delicious in spite of the rambunctiousness.

 Do or Dine * 1108 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn, NY

Eaten, Barely Blogged: From House to Haus

Peaches hothouse chickenPeaches HotHouse I suspected the hot hothouse chicken would be no lie, but the boyfriend thought they were bullshitting. And he paid the price. The cayenne-induced blast is possibly the hottest thing we've experienced after Sripraphai's Southern Curry. Taking them seriously (because I read up on things ahead of time) I picked the regular hothouse chicken, which weirdly wasn't hot enough, a little sweet and a lot peppery. A middle-ground fried chicken is desperately needed. Also, the restaurant is oddly Shazaam-resistant. It would not work for me or the young man I noticed holding up his phone to no avail. I was able to recognize Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" on my own.

Goat town mexican mondayGoat Town I thought I'd been to Butcher Bay during Lent last year, but after checking my blog (my only tie to reality, it seems) that visit was actually in April 2009. What the fuck? How did I lose two years? Now I've been freaked out all week and afraid I'll die in my sleep one night not realizing I'm completely elderly and decrepit. Butcher Bay is now Goat Town and on so-called Mexican Mondays you can order Tex-Mex things like the oozy Velveeta-ish enchiladas and puffy lengua tacos we had at non-Texan prices.

Schnitzel Haus The Bay Ridge German restaurant was so uncharacteristically bustling on a Friday that the only table was an awkward two-seater nearest to the Donald Trump photograph in front of the guy doing Neil Diamond covers and in line with the door blowing chilly gusts  (it was unusually cold Friday night) every time it opened. And the table we were given upstairs (who knew there was an upstairs?) after asking if we could move was even more awkward–dark and empty minus a staticky radio station filling the dead air and large group speaking a Slavic language–proving that whenever I try fighting my  tendency to never speak up, it doesn't  pay off.  I drank a Spaten Optimator and part of a schnitzel smothered in mushroom gravy and was out of there. Previously on Schnitzel Haus.


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.