The closing of Nita Nita was mourned like few other bars in Williamsburg when it shuttered two years ago, after losing its lease to a greedy landlord. Beloved by its regulars, the trusted standby stayed true to its neighborhood bar DNA even after the neighborhood lost its identity.
But owner Samantha DiStefano wouldn’t stay down for long. This month she opened Mama Fox in a landmarked building in Bed-Stuy, home to the former McDonald’s Dining Room. Together with former Nita Nita employee turned Miami-based chef Francisco Anton, the new bar and restaurant offers what they describe as “global comfort food.”
While the space itself — filled with tables that were repurposed from the wooden bar at Nita Nita — is cozy and inviting, and already draws an eager nightly crowd, the menu is worthy of a far more upscale spot, and much higher prices than what Mama Fox is asking. Respectfully, the food is two steps up from Nita Nita fare, especially in the presentation. The starters, small in portion and long on flavor, demand to be ordered in multiples and shared. Don’t miss the yucca croquettes ($7), perfectly crispy, fluffy balls of goat cheese and gouda goodness, or the vegan beet tacos, flavored to perfection with shaved almonds and eggplant puree. In fact, skip the crispy oysters and order more tacos — the beet or the al pastor— for the table. At $3 apiece, folded in homemade tortillas, you can eat them in just a few bites.
The inventive menu plays with your expectations and delivers pleasant surprises. We couldn’t resist the polenta with parsnip pasta entree ($16) even though it sounded like it might be too far on the heavy side. While the dish is certainly rich, the “pasta” here is wisp-thin and serves more as a flavorful garnish over a polenta cake topped with manouri, a salty, delightfully spongy semi-soft Greek cheese. It’s presented in a such a way that each component can be tasted on its own, which is particularly welcome as the creamy mushroom sauce combined with everything else borders on overpoweringly salty. Still, do not leave Mama Fox without trying this dish.
The signature cocktails are perfectly executed. The chocolate old-fashioned ($12) is improved with mellow mole bitters and isn’t too sugary at all. On the sweeter side is the Stuyvesant swizzle ($11), essentially a dark and stormy for the colder months, with nutmeg and bitters. The bitter spritz ($11) is a sparkling choice to start off your meal: Campari, prosecco, and Cointreau with an orange twist. The wine and beer list is simple, solid, and well-priced. We were particularly taken with a biodynamic Tempranillo for $10.
With any luck, Mama Fox will become a neighborhood standby just like its predecessors. Based on the crowds on recent visits, it’s already well on its way— and plenty worth going out of your way for a visit.
327 Stuyvesant Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11233
b/t Halsey St & Macon St
Kitchen opens daily at 5pm; Bar open Monday-Friday for Happy Hour at 4pm. Specials include $4 Narraganset drafts, $4 Tecate can and a well shot, $6 well drinks and $6 sangrias till 7pm.