02/26/17 7:20pm
Photo: Velo

The No. 3 combines whiskey, tomato and basil. Photo: Bar Velo

Sometimes you’re in the mood for a cocktail, but you’re not in the mood for a bar. It happens to the best of us, especially when you’ve been living in Brooklyn for a few years and the thrill of elbowing your way past a crowd of post-collegiate revelers with no fear of hangovers for a beer-and-shot-special has faded.

Fortunately for people like us, there is no shortage of grown-up restaurants that can easily double as watering holes. Bar Velo in Williamsburg is the perfect example of such an oasis. In the former Moto space under the elevated JMZ track, Bar Velo offers well-crafted cocktails in an aesthetically pleasing setting that hasn’t changed much at all since Moto closed in the fall of 2016.

Photo: Bar Velo

It’s an inviting bar. Photo: Bar Velo

The spirit of Moto lives on at Bar Velo because it’s under the same ownership, and really, it’s more of an update than a wholesale transformation. Owner John McCormick wanted to re-open the restaurant with a fully vegetarian menu, but the space itself is nearly indistinguishable, save some new cycling-themed design touches. The striking oblong bar that serves as the space’s centerpiece remains intact, and that’s where we recommend you settle in for some adult beverages in the company of adults. As a bonus, the round-edged bar means you can get away with a party of more than two and still include everyone in the conversation. (more…)

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02/23/17 9:14am

IMG_0448

The Lobster Shift is a monthly column by Kenneth R. Rosen that explores the city and its inhabitants in the hours between dusk and dawn.

Nothing had yet caught fire. After my late shift, I fell fast asleep.

I’d spent the night wandering in a haze, a low mist applied across the city invariably and without discretion. I stepped around patches and had nowhere to go but home, wondering whether there was somewhere for me to be and all I’d done was forgotten it. A strange tickle lapped at my neck and I felt like someone was behind me. I turned fast. No one was there, but every few steps along Queens Boulevard I took to turning back. Checking just in case.

Eventually I found my way home, careful as I crossed the streets, dodging headlights sponged in mist. I could see a police cruiser down the block, and counseled myself, No way, it’s not for you.

This state of paranoia never settles, and is often encouraged by the anonymity of nighttime. In my bones I feel an unshakable guilt, a teasing disruption in my liver and heart, a menace trapped inside my own menace. Sometimes I misplace it and then seeing a police officer sets it upon me. The paranoia stays and becomes second-nature. It is necessary to survival. I have lived with it always.

Someone once told me that if I were to look skyward more often, into the haze above Manhattan, I would come to see more, feel more grounded, become better situated and aware of these feelings inside this unnatural spree of concrete and metal. Hear something enough and it becomes your own philosophy. I heard those words—look up, dammit, look up!—and learned that my compass relied on the two towers that could be seen from almost anywhere–The Empire State and One World Trade. There are the pencil skyscrapers, light dribbling out the windows, but nothing like these. That’s where the collective hopeful ambitions come from. Excelsior!

My childhood in the city was spent looking down, navigating cracks in the sidewalks, bursting through crowds gathered at crosswalks. I had a fast pace, strode like I belonged, moved with a purpose and, for that reason, never gleaned much of the city. So I’m starting to look up these nights, pacing around on the streets, mindless and enthralled just the same. It’s when I am in this trance that I can peer up at these buildings and see inside them vignettes of lives I will never lead. (more…)

02/20/17 9:02am
Come by for a game of shuffleboard. Photo: Georgia Kral

Come by for a game of shuffleboard. Photo: Georgia Kral

Chef Dale Talde and the Three Kings Restaurant Group may have just closed two Brooklyn establishments–Pork Slope and Thistle Hill Tavern–but they haven’t turned their backs on the borough.

Instead, they have opened Atlantic Social, a massive restaurant (130 seats) and sports bar (50 stools) that they hope will appeal to Brooklynites and guests visiting the nearby Barclays Center.

“We want this place to be for the die hard sports fan but also the people who could give two shits,” said Three Kings partner David Massoni. But “at the end of the day, you can’t deny there’s a sports bar element. There are 16 TVs.”

Sixteen televisions, indeed. Atlantic Social also boasts a game room, which Massoni says they are calling “the parlor,” with a shuffleboard table and classic arcade games like Ms. Pan-Man and Big Buck Hunter. There are leather couches and an inviting gas fireplace in the room, too. A pool table is on its way. The game room is open to anyone but can also be rented out for parties.

“We want it to be feel like a friend’s parents’ basement,” Massoni said. (more…)

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02/13/17 10:33am
Jip Bap is a traditional Korean meal. Photo: Mokbar

Jip Bap is a traditional Korean meal. Photo: Mokbar

For Chef Esther Choi, her food is her life. Literally.

Choi, owner and chef at the Chelsea Market Korean ramen shop Mokbar opened a Brooklyn location of the restaurant last Wednesday. And she lives right upstairs.

“I wanted to babysit!” she said.

For a chef whose cooking is heavily inspired by her family and cultural heritage, it makes sense that her home and work life are so entwined.

More jip bap to love. Photo: Mokbar

More jip bap to love. Photo: Mokbar

At Mokbar Brooklyn, which is on Flatbush Avenue near Bergen Street, Choi wanted to show “how I eat at home and how I grew up eating. How my grandma cooked for me everyday.” To that end, the menu expands greatly on the Chelsea Market location with larger dishes and a focus on jipbap–“real, traditional Korean cooking,” she said.

A jipbap order consists of a main dish, usually a protein like short ribs or pork belly, accompanied by soup, rice and a variety of banchan–small, seasonal, vegetable dishes.

“We bring it out in a big tray,” said Choi, excitedly discussing the format of the meal, which she emphasized was created with non-Korean diners in mind. “On the tray we have soup, rice, mains and seasonal small plates that wrap it all together.” (more…)

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02/06/17 11:08am

I know it’s supposed to be 60 degrees on Wednesday, practically outdoor movie weather, but it’s only the beginning of February folks, we’ve got lots more winter to make it through. How do we get the chill out of our bones (and hearts)? Eat. And do it with friends and loved ones.

Here are seven of the the hottest dishes in Brooklyn–served piping hot, swimming in spice or just imbued with that magic so-hot-right-now-sauce. They’ll lift your spirits, stop your nose from running and maybe get your eyes and mouth watering at once.

Making uni and sweet potato pierogies at Olmsted is a labor of love. Photo: @olmstednyc

Making sweet potato and uni pierogies at Olmsted is a labor of love. Photo: @olmstednyc

Sweet potato and uni pierogies at Olmsted

Chef Greg Baxtrom and crew keep hitting the nail on the head with their stylized version of American classics at Olmsted. First came the crab rangoon, which were made with kale, served in a take-out Chinese style box and now the acclaimed Prospect Heights restaurant is making their version of pierogi, filled with the “it” ingredient that just won’t stop: sea urchin. These babies are another fine example of what can happen when high meets home-y.

Olmsted, 659 Vanderbilt Ave., Prospect Heights (more…)

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01/30/17 12:54pm

gotham market

Fort Greene has hit peak gentrification–there’s a food hall on the ground floor of one of those fancy new apartment buildings clustered near BAM.

Despite how you may feel about the numerous luxury towers dotting the landscape of Downtown Brooklyn (and there are more on the way, along with more food halls), there is little doubt Gotham Market at the Ashland will be a boon to eaters and drinkers.

Local outfit UrbanGlass designed fixtures for the space. Photo: Georgia Kral

Local outfit UrbanGlass designed fixtures for the space. Photo: Georgia Kral

The 16,000 square-foot space is impressively laid out, with different rooms that flow naturally into one another and consistent design elements throughout. It’s modern industrial chic, complemented by warm lighting and pretty glass light fixtures designed locally by UrbanGlass.

“We wanted to honor the neighborhood,” said Chris Jaskiewicz, President of Gotham Properties and Hospitality.

It wouldn't be a Brooklyn food hall without pizza. Photo: Georgia Kral

It wouldn’t be a Brooklyn food hall without brick oven pizza, like these slices from Apizza Regionale. Photo: Georgia Kral

And then there’s the food and drink.

The space is anchored by a central bar called Bar Granger, named for a group of local tradesmen from 1850s-era Fort Greene. It is the first of four concepts at the Ashland from John Stage, the founder of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. The others are Flip Bird, Apizza Regionale, which slings very good brick-oven pizza and charcuterie, and Egg at the Bird, a breakfast counter that will open in early spring. (more…)

01/23/17 1:08pm
Colonie serves an expectation-defying bowl of brussels sprouts. Photo: Colonie

Colonie serves an expectation-defying bowl of brussels sprouts. Photo: Colonie

When Colonie opened on Atlantic Avenue in the winter of 2011 it was the most Brooklyn a restaurant could be.

The spot was long and skinny, with exposed brick and rough hewn wood, rustic and elegant at the same time. It was lauded as the neighborhood restaurant that the area had long been wanting. Alex Sorenson, the opening chef, had spent time in the kitchen at Mas (Farmhouse), one of the the earliest, and best, contributors to the city’s farm-to-table fanaticism. Pork belly, foraged mushrooms and Greenmarket root vegetables all found prominent spots on the menu. The restaurant had been partially funded by a Kickstarter campaign.

It got a star from Sam Sifton in the New York Times, love from the food blogs and quickly became a go-to for anniversary dinners and special occasions.

Six years later, New York is obsessed with fancy pizza and fried chicken and farm-to-table principles have been co-opted by fast casual concerns like Sweet Green and Dig Inn. Does Colonie hold up? (more…)

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01/16/17 9:50am
fried rabbit

Why settle for pancakes when you could have fried rabbit and biscuits? Photo: Barano

If you’re anything like me, when you wake up hungry on the weekends you eat something at home fairly soon after rising and then start thinking about LUNCH. Not brunch.

I will always choose Chinese food for breakfast. Thank (insert whomever or whatever you worship here) for dim sum! Don’t get me wrong, I love a fried egg and toast slathered in butter and preserves with a fiery passion. But I can make that myself, at home, at 8 or 9 a.m. in about, 3 minutes?

Sadly for me and the others like me, New York City is a brunchers town. Everyone just loves brunch– though I suspect it’s only a certain group of 20 and 30-somethings who truly partake, and the rest of us are meant to wax nostalgic about the days when we were out until 3am, waking up at 10 or 11 a.m. and wanting food ASAP, preferably with a cocktail on the side.

Not all hope is lost, however. Some restaurants understand that simply putting an egg on top of an entree doesn’t necessarily make it better. And there are always spots that don’t traffic in brunch at all–typically sandwich shops and “ethnic” restaurants. Bless them.

Here are some of those places. And the next time it’s a Saturday or Sunday and you want to eat goddamn food at lunchtime that’s not eggs and bacon or pancakes, thank me. Actually, thank these spots! (more…)

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01/09/17 10:28am
From the outside, The Islands doesn't look like much, but don't make the mistake of passing it by. Photo: Georgia Kral

From the outside, The Islands doesn’t look like much, but don’t make the mistake of passing it by. Photo: Georgia Kral

In this series, we take you inside the restaurants we keep going back to–neighborhood spots that always deliver on their promise of good food and hospitality, even if they don’t necessarily look like much from the outside.

The facade is unassuming. Located next door to a Key Food and sharing the grocery store’s awning, you may miss it the first time you look for it. But The Islands (803 Washington Ave.) is a Prospect Heights gem: the food is phenomenal and the ambiance unparalleled.

Windowed doors open into a shoebox-sized room. Along one side is the kitchen, big enough for two people, tops. A counter with three stools abuts the prep area and there’s room for maybe five people to pick up food to go or wait to sit at one of the four tables upstairs. To get to the “dining room” guests must climb up a blue ladder and through a hole in the ceiling. No joke. Diners over six feet tall may have a hard time eating in, as the ceilings are quite low upstairs.

But that’s all part of the charm. The Islands is equally known for its unconventional space and its fiery Caribbean dishes.

I’ve visited The Islands many times and each time I tell myself to try something new. But I just can’t. That’s the true test of a dish. Can’t go without it? Crave it? There’s something happening that you can’t control. My order: jerk chicken, curry vegetables and a side of mac and cheese. If I’m dining with more than one person, curry goat or stew peas and dumplings get added to the mix. (more…)

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01/02/17 10:34am
Photo: Gentl & Hyers

Brooklyn will be home to even more exceptional pie in 2017. Photo: Gentl & Hyers

There’s plenty to be excited for in 2017, dear BB readers, at least as far as your tastebuds are concerned.

Here are some highlights, from the second official location of the best pie shop in the entire city to the reopening of a beloved–and formerly tiny–Vietnamese restaurant, to a new permutation of the fried chicken craze that has had its hold on New York for the past year or so.

Four & Twenty Blackbirds

The Elsen sisters are opening their official second location (not including pop-ups and the small sandwich and pie window at the Brooklyn Public Library) in February. Located on Dean Street between Vanderbilt and Carlton, in addition to pie the Prospect Heights 4&20 will also pair beer, wine and cider with its famous salty honey and salted caramel apple slices for diners. It will be open all day, serving coffee in the morning and harder drinks into the afternoon and evening.


(more…)

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