You could eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at Hunky Dory, though cocktail hour, whether that’s a weeknight or a Sunday brunch, seems like the most appropriate time to arrive at this Crown Heights cafe. Owner Claire Sprouse is a native Texan by way of San Francisco, where she worked at ABV, a cocktail lover’s destination in the Mission. A move to much less expensive Brooklyn meant the opportunity to open her own space, with a focus on sustainabilty, seasonal food and drinks, and a low-key vibe that encourages you to linger.
The large bar in front of this plant- and art-filled space beckons you to have a seat, though there is a cozy, wood-paneled dining room in back, with electric blue wainscotting and a strikingly arched skylight. The decor, menus and coasters all follow the kind of funky aesthetic you might find in the pages of a cult food journal like Lucky Peach (RIP), and the drink names are just as quirky. I would start with the Smoky Mountain Song Bird any time, the rare mezcal cocktail that manages to be mellow. The smoky spirit can often be overly assertive; here its rough edges are softened and sweetened with Madeira and a turmeric syrup sourced from Diaspora Co. (Sprouse shares the recipe, and the reasoning behind the sourcing, here.) The Saturn Returns melds cachaca and Spanish brandy with cinnamon, a smoldering and spicy drink that is just the right amount of fiery, while the Ooh-La-Long hides its tequila so well it’s hard to tell if you’re drinking anything more than its refreshing mix of oolong tea, whey and meyer lemon.
Over drinks, you can choose from a long list of snacks or main dishes. I’ve sampled both on the “at-night” menu, and the small plates format is where Hunky Dory really shines. There are lots of satisfying, carb-heavy nibbles, like the roasted Japanese sweet potato with za’atar, pomegranate seeds and yogurt, or the house-made chips and onion dip, which swirls together cippolini onions, small chunks of tangerine and sunflower seeds, a combo that somehow comes together, then disappears quickly.
Just when you think you have a handle on the eclectic menu, though, Chef Kirstyn Brewer weaves in Southeast Asian flavors into a few of her dishes, and this is when things get super weird and exciting. The chicken liver mousse, spiked with ginger, lime and fish sauce and sprinkled with mint and cilantro, is hard to share. If you are the kind of person who likes this classic spread on the sweeter, caramelized onion side of things, the Thai flavors just turn up the volume to an even more pleasurable level. The side salad with pomelo, coconut, crispy shallots, fish sauce and a lime vinaigrette has an irresistible tang, like a buttermilk dressing that took a detour through Bangkok. The cucumber salad is equally delicious: “Everything bagel” seasonings are doused on top, giving the already crisp cukes a delightful crunch.
The best thing is that after assembling four or five of these dishes to share with a friend over cocktails, your tab won’t come as a shock, but a pleasant surprise. The menu veers in a lot of directions, and it can be hard to decipher the through-line, but the reasonably priced small plates make it easy to take your chances.
Hunky Dory, 747 Franklin Ave., Crown Heights, Brooklyn, 11238, Open Monday, Wednesday – Friday, 8am – 2am; Saturday and Sunday, 9am-2am; closed Tuesdays.