North Williamsburg has become a place for tourists. It’s the meat packing of Brooklyn, I cringed overhearing someone say, but then have found myself saying too many times. so where do we find ourselves among the noise? We don’t hide from it, we need to find a way to embrace it. to get above it. to be part of it because if not, well… I guess we all move to Maspeth.
And the best way to get above it? From 22 stories up, where you’ll see all the chaos below in its best light. at Westlight, Chef Andrew Carmellini’s loungey love child atop the William Vale hotel.
let’s face it, we’re all seeking a heightened dining experience, whether it’s so local it’s from the farm you’re seated within, a secret supper club that encourages guests to strip down to fully appreciate the raw and vulnerable dishes being served, or a multi-sensory adventure that allows you to touch, smell, hear, and taste while completely blindfolded… Westlight brings you an equally heightened experience while avoiding gimmicks and staying grounded and true to what’s best about food in New York, even while being way way above it. The cuisine is inspired by street food, which makes me wonder what streets Andrew Carmellini has been eatin’ on, because these tapas-like plates have been reinvented with a fresh, edgy flavor combinations with a relentlessly seasonal appeal. it’s made for sharing, so go with friends, stay through sunset, pair with cocktails and experience the best thing to come up in North Williamsburg.
When the elevator door opens on the 22nd floor, it feels nearly like being transported in time. the interior of Westlight brings a nostalgic feeling of old New York cocktail bars. With a distinct art deco inspiration, you feel like you should be smoking and listening to some jazz-age seductress on a fuzzy microphone and making lustful promises and dangerous business deals in equal proportions. Outside, the stunning skyline views and uncompromised look into the heart and soul of Brooklyn create the ambience from the glass-walled terrace. Free binoculars allow you to finally see into the clear glass apartments of all the fancies who have moved into your ‘hood. oh and of course, Westlight offers absolutely impeccable views of the sunset, nightly.
what not to miss.
the dolores royale, which is how my night started and i think perhaps led to a bit of the demise. it was dangerous and smokey but felt like a conversation with a good friend. bright, familiar, and you wanted it to never end.
admittedly and unabashedly i had a few glasses of rose and a few (or mose) glasses of the cave. both were refreshing, crisp, and paired perfectly with sunset and absolutely everything we had. because should sharing foods be paired with bubbly, happy wines? yes, of course they should. and you can’t go wrong here.
this was my favorite dish out of the 4, and not just because i recognized immediately that tequila is of course the cure for everything so i was sure it does salmon oh-so-right. every single bite of this dish was perfectly balanced, avocado and caviar and raw salmon. it made me not want to share although, i’m never one to forget my manners. i painfully took my turns while yearning for more.
shrimp cocktail dumplings
Now I’m not a fan of shrimp cocktail. I find it tacky and painfully uninventive and I hate how people in the south react to it. “Oh, and they had shrimp cocktail!” as if to offer some vindication for mary-jo’s shameless stock-the-bar the backyard cookout. These rubbery little crustaceans all sit there, socializing smugly around a proverbial pool of glorified ketchup. ugh. However, the shrimp cocktail dumplings put skrimps in their proper place; folded into delicate bite sized dumplings and spiced to perfection and dipped into a fine little soy ginger sauce. They were a delight.
a new addition to the menu, this dish was light and fresh and perfectly mixed with locally seasonal vegetables. and it reminded me inevitably how great it is to be surrounded by water and by so so many coastal areas with absolutely impeccable seafood.
how not to miss it
Westlight is located at 111 N. 12th st. 22nd floor.
the westlight paints northern williamsburg in its best light, showing that the best way to combat gentrification is to be above it. elevate your dining experience and realize that change should be embraced and with food and views this sweet, it’s oh-so-easy to embrace it.
this catalan outpost on manhattan ave is a destination for authentic tapas, old world wines and new age cocktails, and is quite simply my favorite restaurant in brooklyn the entire city. the name el born references the edgy and colorful neighborhood in the south of Barcelona that relentlessly attracts artists, musicians, and dreamers to its narrow streets, quaint bars, and unsuspecting restaurants… not unlike our own burgeoning northern point of Brooklyn. is it a coincidence that the coordinates on my wrist point exactly to a park in the very barrio of el born in barcelona, and that this restaurant opened on my block the week I moved back from Spain? nope. I was (el) born to exist in this restaurant at least weekly while my heart resides daily across the pond.
the charming dueña elena, a barcelona transplant, has built an exemplary staff led by head chef alberto “talento” and a handful of dashing camareros with heavy hands, kind smiles and who are particularly easy on the eyes. her husband playing flamenco guitar makes the whole operation feel like a quaint family affair.
this restaurant embodies everything about food and culture of Barcelona that I can’t get enough of, plus has madrid‘s beer on tap, all day and all night. add to that a killer brunch deal on the weekends, live flamenco guitar on sundays and wednesdays, paella specials on mondays, two-for-one gin and tonics on thursdays, and every single day a friendly staff, perfect ambience, and patatas bravas that kick sergi arola’s out of the water, and i can personally attest to that.
getting off the 7th avenue stop in south park slope, i followed the directions to 7th and15th street. before entering camperdown elm, i looked around the block. this looks super familiar , i realized immediately. i saw the cross streets and texted my friend, “didn’t you used to live on this block?” i asked, sending her a picture of the new resturant, with the cross street signs in the background. “i think?” she said. “i mean that’s definitely it!” we both tried to figure out briefly what was there before, what the block had looked like, how the neighborhood had been. I had brief visions of us dancing in some bar, maybe across the street? and my farewell party on her rooftop, it was just there i think? she’d moved away 4 years ago, which of course in rapidly-gentrifying brooklyn neighborhoods is basically a lifetime. this is the reality of life in our borough. change is the only constant (that and the rats), and we’re left standing in front of a new juice stand/artisan butchery/bao bar/tapas spot wondering what the hell was there before.
camperdown elm, however, has slipped into the neighborhood seamlessly. staying true to the integrity of the space, both the interior and exterior of reinvented space has maintained the historic architecture of what must be a 200-year old building; original tiled floor and ceiling in nearly perfect condition, the evening sun alight and alive through stained glass above the door, a raw, a tangible and exposed brick wall behind the bar, and perceptively compelling minimalist decor… even its name pays homage to its neighborhood roots, named after the infamous and seemingly endless elm tree in neighboring prospect park.
the experience already felt nostalgic, a bit like somewhere that had been there all along…
until, that is, the food came.
camperdown elm is providing an explosion of flavors, textures, spices, and bold new dishes that create an experience that is anything but familiar. it’s intriguing, it’s ambitious, it’s bold and oh-so-good for the soul. like both your first and last lover.
head chef Brad Willits hails from indian river, florida and thus inevitably concentrates on a seafood-centric menu, and my distinctively-curated virginia palate recognized and celebrated so many below-the-mason-dixon-line flavors. my favorite among a standout crowd of appetizers was the country ham on corn gunny cakes with a blueberry jam adhesive. its taste was gave me the feeling of the one kid from a small town who goes to college and comes back for christmas break for the first time. recognizable, familiar, but in a different package and one that every one in town wants a piece of.
the mood and atmosphere felt celebratory and charged. “we open tomorrow,” the bartender told me, eyes alight as she poured me another glass of sparkling.
the next course were fresh, briney oysters with a muffled-tropical minionette of pickled kiwi; the seasonal and subdued sweetness perfectly washed down the salty bivalves. next, a crisp squid ink rice cracker floated by, topped with a light mackeral pate, neither of which was overbearing; suspiciously un-fishy. then, small grilled cucumber slices wearing fancy ikura hats came along… and top of the evening to you dear sir! i said, eating it before any response was to be heard. finally a bold ending to the appetizer parade, a bundle of fried muffins with house made butter that reminded me of hush puppies in the loudest of ways.
the wine list, curated by nacho monclus from Spain is spanish-centric which is oh so perfect for this little hispanophile. my glass stayed full of dry, expressive cava for the appetizers and switched to an endless, filterless, raw, biodynamic red from Andalusia, which was pasisonate and alive for the stellar main courses.
the grandmasters of the parade consisted of a seasonally festive interpretation paella that more than stood up to its spanish ancestor.. which is something i wouldn’t say lightly. the next course, a hearty d’artagnan rib eye steak served nearly rare with a secret signature camperdown sauce that was almost more of an aus jous (god i hate that word. ugh.) and was perfectly paired with broccoli rabe atop a light cauliflower mash, just to make momma proud.
at this point in the evening I was pleasantly full and admittedly tipsy, buzzing with energy and networking like a busy little blogger bee. I was joking lightly with the team from Bklyner when I saw dessert coming out… oh no, I thought. there was no way i had room for dessert, especially because i admittedly had seconds, thirds, fourths of any appetizer that came around as many times. come on! i’m a poor starving blogger. i was simply proud i didn’t slip any of it into my bag. (though i thought about it, trust me.)
i had no room for dessert, but I remembered that when i entered into this event, a bit nervous and slightly late, i introduced myself to Karly at the door and she told me to get some wine and then, earnestly, grabbed my arm and said, “save room for dessert.”
i hadn’t done it, karly. i had no more room. but i had promises to keep and so when the delicate little squares of (what else from a floridian!) key lime pie came around, i took one. i forced my mouth open. i slipped it in.
sweet jesus almighty.
what was this? made not from key limes but from sea buckthorn, which was some sort fo magical, imported berry. all of the tangy tartness expected from key lime pie was silenced into a beautiful symphony of sweet and sour and slightly salty, bold and seductive flavor.
i had 3 more.
i ate three more of these magical delicacies because a taste like that, you take as much as you can without hesitation. because you just don’t know when or if it will come to you again, just as the sweetest and most seductive of lovers so often tease and elude us.
and after another glass of wine or two, i found myself interviewing the talented and remarkably approachable chef brad willits and taking a few pseudo-portrait photos of him in the best light i could find, conversing about the magic that goes into every menu, every night, every plate.
i walked out into the beautifully moonlight night aloft and fulfilled, and to be honest, i was left rather dumbfounded, wondering how exactly i got here. obviously, i arrived by the finnicky little G train, but how did i start getting invited to restaurant openings, discussing flavour (<— yeah look at me, i’m using the fancy spelling of things now.) palates with food critics and influencers. did they know that i couldn’t exactly afford dinner tonight? but i knew, honestly, that this was exactly what i’d been working toward for the past 2.5 years since i started my blog. working, writing, networking, writing, planning, writing, outreaching, writing writing writing.
this. my perplexed elation matched that of every taste that i put into my mouth. ambitious and nostalgic, unexpected yet deeply appreciated. a food and life experience that felt elevated yet rooted, and one that no doubt will continue to grow.
oh camperdown elm, i have no doubt that these roots run deep and that you will bloom with every season, on every night, upon every plate with no hesitation. chance favors the bold and there’s no chance that these flavours won’t emerge into the stunning, metamorphic institution that the neighborhood has been seeking yet didn’t know it deserved.
what not to miss
oysters with seasonal mignonette, country ham and gunny cakes, grilled octopus, d’artagnan rib eye, and that damn pie.
making the case for french canadien cuisine, with a distinctly british influence, in Greenpoint.
now don’t you dare read that and start thinking about poutine. don’t go there, don’t do it. let’s all deliberately and culinarily reset our understanding of French Canadian cuisine, and I’ll tell you where to do it.
chez ma tante, greenpoint’s new hotness, will help stretch your understanding and cleanse your palate of what you understood as “french-canadien”.
the name itself serves as an alibi. literally translating to “my aunt’s house” it’s the flat response you give when someone asks you where you were, where you’ve been, and perhaps what you’ve been doing at a place that perhaps you don’t wish to divulge. “chez ma tante” you say with a smirk. “i was at my aunt’s house,” and trust me, once you try their food, it’s a little secret you just might want to keep to yourself.
i’ll let you in, though, despite my inclinations to keep this quiet. provided that you listen to me. I mean it, lean in and listen close. they are making the best steak tartare in north brooklyn. and I’m only setting geographical boundaries here because i haven’t tried all the steak tartare in all of brooklyn, but I can say with confidence, holy shit.
there is no raw egg to run amok upon the terrain of thinly chopped beef, but it doesn’t seem to require it. this dish is delicate and powerful with a perfect balance of brine. with some sort of whipped magic beneath that I kind of wanted to spread all over my face. I mean, I wasn’t goingto because this place is inoffensively refined, but I imagined putting it all over my face. twice.
what followed this preposterously well-balanced dish was a taste of the country pate, and 6 oysters with a light parsley mignonette, perfectly paired with a sparkling white bourdeaux. the entire experience felt indulgent, as if, perhaps, i did need an alibi.
just over 4 weeks old, chez ma tante has been generating plenty of hype in the hood and beyond our blurred little boundaries. they moved into the old jimmy’s, which, ok, did pull at my heart strings a bit, but any tinge of nostalgia quickly dissipated with my first sip of my Dorothy Parker negroni amid the delicate lighting and vintage minimalist decor, and I swear not a trace of the former occupants, with their syrupy stickiness and bottomless coffee remnants, were to be found… although this canadien natives affinity for maple has found it’s way subtley into a handful of the recipes.
no part of my time at chez ma tante didn’t charm the pants off of me (good thing I wear only jumpsuits) (I’m serious, i only wear jumpsuits). it felt both lavish and clandestine, as most good things in life are. i learned also thet chez ma tante is the name of a hot dog stand in Montreal that the owner is particularly fond of. And I like anyone who likes hot dogs shamelessly enough to open a restaurant named after a stand, and then peddle perfectly poised plates rather than weiners.
they’ve had a full house every night so trust me, so get in there quick. because the answer you want on your lips come Monday morning, when someone asks, where have you been?
chez ma tante.
inoffensive refinement, approachable luxury, dynamic flavors, and a particularly delightful bathroom.
what not to miss.
the steak tartare, the oysters, the country pate, the monkfish.
a dorothy collins negroni to start, a sparkling white bourdeaux to accompany the plates.
a lot of talk or activity showing that people are excited about something
isn’t that why you came here anyway? to hear my voice talking excitedly about places, events, movement, people, life, burrata.
for the fanfare.
and this restaurant embodies why we came here, to this city. le fanfare is a visceral experience that you’ll want to rave about. from the people who brought you Epistrophy in nolita, comes this charming italian spot in NoGreePo. the owners felt that greenpoint had the same cultural and artistic charm that nolita had 20 years ago, and after years of searching, they chose to open their only other restaurant right on manhattan ave, but far north enough that you aren’t bombarded by the new onslaught of edison bulbs and rustic chic small plates on slates.
they have live music wednesday to saturday, a charming backyard, inventive cocktails and progressive yet familiar italian cuisine. also, you can come have free apertifs in my backyard after your meal, because we’re neighbors.
what not to miss
my weapon of choice is the rosemary gin fizz, and the thyme margarita is equally refreshing and aromatic.
It’s the best I’ve had in brooklyn, and you know I don’t throw superlatives like that around casually. served with seasonal veggies, pine nuts, and a drizzle of pesto, it’s all you can do to not climb onto the plate with it and let it slowly and wholly envelope you into its magic.
perfectly cooked, simply seasoned, and accompanied by it’s unlikely land friends the potato and the olive, this dish feels like a hug from four people at once. and trust me, that is something you want.
asparagus a la plancha
might sound crazy, but damn do they understand exactly how to honor the integrity of a vegetebal. and this is the most pristine and taste-driven example. comes with a soft-boiled egg cooked so perfectly, it makes one wonder the method…
when there is a pasta with duck and oyster mushrooms on a menu, there is little that will distract me. add house made pappardelle and you have a nearly perfect pasta dish. also the spahetti neri falls under the old adage “anything with squid ink, everything with squid ink” and they pull it off here perfectly balanced with mussels, green chile, and bottarga.
the hanger steak and the chicken are each cooked to absolute perfection and rely on very little fanfare for their efficacy. stunningly simple and deliciously straightforward, they bring you back to the roots of italian cooking.
oh and the cannoli is made completely in house so save or find room. seriously.
oysters. those gnarly little gems of the sea, upholding and beholding such complexity and daring not to let us in. lest we shimmy a little wedge or wedge a little shimmy inside just right so it unveils all of the magic and beauty inside. a delicacy, however, that we cannot enjoy in months without the letter R.
where, though, did this theory come from?
do i know the biologicalreason for this? nope.
could i find it in a simple and shallow google search? sure.
will i draw my own unnecessarily imaginative conclusion? #rhetorical
and that’s why you’re here anyway, isn’t it? not to hear scientific facts of regurgitated google results, but to hear my take on things.
the oyster, you see, is a strategic and complex organism. what it lacks in valves it makes up for in layers of knowledge, in facets of complexity, in a true hustler nature.
Here’s the Story.
the oyster committee released a statement long ago that they would only be farmed and enjoyed during the R months. and given their delicate and volatile nature and the overall dimness of humanity, we complied. the truth? well, the truth of course is that the non-R months are when the oysters vacation. may-august they like to driftoff for a bit. to the southern shores of spain, to the rocky beaches of new england, to the meandering rivers of virginia. and while i’m all in favor of a work-life balance, that would leave us oysterless for 1/3 of the year (#math). and given what we now know of the fragility of this theory, journey with me then, if you dare, to the land of the bold bivalves paired with a delicately complex chablis, on the cheap, even as we are on the precipice of this R month drought.
the official brooklyn oyster happy hour guide has arrived for you. dive shallow and rake it in, because every month can be “R” month.
Greenpoint Fish + Lobster
oh there’s no denying my love for this place. with fish almost as fresh as my mouth and oysters that harp from the most interesting of estuaries (just ask them!), plus rose on tap. their happy hour is seven days a week, 3-6pm. $1.50 oysters and littlenecks, $5 beer, $6 wine. 114 nassau ave.
could you turn down the charm, st mazie? just a little? because you’re making every things else in the neighborhood look trite, cliche, murray-hill-esque. the most charming of interiors and refreshing lack of pretension. live music most nights (and sometimes it’s flamenco). plus $1 oysters 6-8pm daily. $5 glasses of house wine, $6 shot-and-beer specials. 345 grand st.
this place is such a gem. everything they do is oh-so-right from the abstract decor, amazing burger, impeccable service and.. yep, the oyster happy hour. these guys shuck $1 shells from 5-7pm 7 days a week. there’s almost always a seat at the bar and their backyard/greenhouse is enchanting. 131 greenpoint ave.
ah sauvage i love to hate you, but mostly love you. you fancy little french savage you. take me in, wine me, dine me, then let’s shuck. (or honestly whichever order you prefer.) happy hour… yep, it doesn’t exist. reason being “the neighborhood is different than it was when (sister restaurant) maison premiere opened in 2011,” citing that they can’t get away with happy hour deals with rent prices so steep… they know that we’re all broke as fuck but we’re going to come anyway… tres sauvage. 905 lorimer st.
a journey back in time to the land of suspendered men and suspicious lovers and dangerous intentions which all envelopes into a perfect little rendezvous. getting a spot here for happy hour is tough, but talking yourself in to not returning, often, is even tougher. fall into the magic and enjoy $1 oysters m-f 4-7pm, sat + sun 11am-1pm. 298 bedford ave.
oh hey their newbies. in the space that used to be the volatile stones tavern and then that crappy italian ice place and then beloved beleft us and now we have bar uni, a small and fancy seafood and cocktail spot. their menu is also small and fancy, and their happy hour? generous and cheap. $1 oysters from 5.30-8pm and 11.30-close. plus discounts on drinks and other snacks as well. go, quick. you don’t want to be the uni one missing out… (sorry, not sorry.) 674 manhattan ave.
maybe you don’t need fancy cocktails and chablis to woo you into a pseudo-prohibition era bar that y ou will instantly feel out of place in once those hours of happiness end. maybe you just want a laid-back neighborhood vibe with a sick backyard way in the north where the smorgasburg spillover won’t dare venture. lobster joint offers $1 oysters, plus SO many more food and drink deals from 4-7pm and 10-midnight. 1073 manhattan ave.
may all your hours be happy, brooklyn, and a little slimy.
The first job I had in New York, my boss told me, “you need to lose the y’all if you want to be taken seriously in this city.”
Three things have happened since then.
I quit that shit
I have never stopped saying y’all
I have been taken seriously.
To live in this city by definition is a melting pot. And the beauty of it is to never lose who you are, or deny where you are from. We often gravitate towards people who are from the same place or toward those things that speak to our soul. This is the beauty and necessity of holding on to our roots, of never denying where we came from. And you can find it in this city, if you know where to look.
Virginia might be considered only “diet southern” but up here, they think it’s the deep south. And I’ll take it. because if there’s anything I’ve learned, southern is warm. Southern is kind. Southern is pretty.
When pretty southern opened its like my heart settled. my soul exhaled. There is something so deeply rich about southern food that feels good and real and wholesome. Like a hug from your grandma, warm and real. Like Sunday’s in summertime, snapping beans on the front porch and sipping sweet tea. Like always, always saying y’all instead of yous guys because it feels good as it rolls off your tongue. Especially when it is preceded by, “fuck yall, bloomingdale’s buying team!” #suckit
When I put in my order at pretty southern I turned to my mate and said, I have a feeling that this is the beginning of a dangerous relationship. Just like one with girls from Virginia…
What not to miss
The fried chicken. Sweet Jesus in heaven, this is the answer to everything. The collard greens. The pimento cheese biscuit. It’s all quite unfair. Green bean casserole not on thanksgiving? Yes. Do it. Grits so thick you’ll marvel and envy their complexity. Get. Every.Thing.
How not to miss it
They may be soul food, but these folks have a time schedule like the Spanish.
before we start this review, let’s get a few things straight:
barbecue is a food – pulled pork. there are plenty of variations on this subject, however, it is and can only be pulled pork. you cannot attend pulled pork. you are not invited to pulled pork. you crave it, you seek it, you smother it, you eat it. and repeat.
a cookout is an event, with a grill. common foods found at a cookout include burgers and dogs. there can be barbecue at a cookout, but it must be accompanied by a smoker. the outdoor meat-making machine, not a nicotine-addicted or solely socially-inclined attendee. barbecue from the smoker, burgers and dogs from the grill. with the presence of a smoker makes this a fancy cookout.
please allow me to illustrate a scene for you where these mixed-up meanings led to plenty of confusion when the winds of my vagrant sails blew northward for the first time…
scene: waiting patiently at the grill for your burger to be done, at a cookout.
a northerner appears.
Northerner: “hey where is the barbecue?”
SouthernExpat: “ah i don’t think there’s any here! i didn’t see a smoker.”
Northerner: “”i’m a social smoker. what does that matter.”
SouthernExpat: “not at all man.”
Northerner: “so then what are you waiting online for?”
Northerner: “yeah what are you waiting online for?”
SouthernExpat: “i wasn’t even using my phone, just waiting for my burger to be finished.”
Northerner: “exactly, so you’re waiting online for the barbecue.”
SouthernExpat: “no i think i’ll be filled up enough with the burger, i’m not going to get pulled pork on seamless or whatever. what’s the point of a cookout then?”
Northerner: “i guess to have a cig.”
NOW that we have all of that cleared, let me say that i take my barbecue quite seriously. although carolina and tennessee tend to make their names pretty well-known in this realm, if you haven’t noticed, the old dominion is right in between the two. and it very proudly boasts some of the best smoked pork goodness you can find around. so to say that you can find such a southern delicacy this far north of the mason dixon line was surprising even to me.
we were all here for the city’s big brisket bonanza, when the cheap beef cut swept the city in a multitude of representations, from the delicate yet unbelievably satisfying brisket sandwiches that sold out weekend after weekend at mighty quinn’s stand at smorgasburg, to the no-frills mounds by the pound served with a side of white bread at BrisketTown. it’s still here and still smoking strong, but we’ve evolved as an urbanspecies to demand something more dynamic. we want the whole event. the fancy cookout, if you will. the barbecue.
and we find it, unsurprisingly, in the quaint little village of red hook. which more and more feels like an artist town by the river in VA than a part of south brooklyn.
you’ll smell hometown barbque before you see it, with at least 4 smokers (and a few smokers!) milling outside, preparing the day’s meats. inside is a perpetually smokey ambience settles to reveal simple picnic tables, brown paper menus adorning the wall, and a perpetual but swift-moving queue. snag a drink from their immaculately stocked bar to drink while waiting IN line, but drinkers beware, the moonshine is ONLY for the brave at heart. and even for those of us, it is fucking humbling.
get your food. choose your poison by way of a smattering of sauces. pay no mind to the napkins, let nothing get in between you and the unbelievable meaty experience that is about to take over your entire body. i dream about this place. it helps quelch? my hunger in between long bouts when i can’t head south. it’s an oasis, it’s my mecca, it’s hometown bbq in red hook and it’s where to eat this weekend. and all of those other weekends too.
what not to miss
the pulled pork sandwich. the brisket tacos. the fucking lamb belly banh mi my god. and the wings! what are these wings! pure perfection. yes get all of these things. get all of them.
I moved into a building on Manhattan ave in greenpoint six years ago, the space below my apartment was occupied by a furrier. he would sit outside in a folding lawn chair wearing a full indian head dress and discriminatorily peddle his pelts for astronomical prices. it was evident that more so than the quality of the goods, it was his pride mostly that called for the up-charge. I heard that the last few months of his lease (or his life?) he was paying his rent in furs. which makes me think that at least for one month, i should offer my cat as payment. (one alive in the bush is worth two on the hanger, as they say!) the manhattan furrier was the last business with integrity that i saw occupy this space. although his furs were pricey and fairly outdated, and his shop seemingly ridden with local pests that inevitably come with a shop piled high with dust and old animal hides and a relatively unattentive owner. he had something in him that despite the lack of business entering and exiting his shop with a new coat, you understood why his business lasted so long, why he was able to open his doors every (or most!) days. he had that relentless new york drive that translates into success. it wasn’t cheap or easy or necessarily sensible but it also wasn’t dubai’s famous candies or the laser hair removal place across the street. it was honest and it was good and it was what he knew and thus what he did.
and it was the last honest business i saw inhabit this space.
the furrier’s shop was eventually cleaned out and rennovated (sheeeesh.) and a few places have been in and back out again. even passing every day i hardly noticed them. and then, finally one day, i something stood out. i road my bike past as a family worked to renovate the former Vietnamese sandwich shop and make it their own.
and when finally the A+ Lollipop sign was taken down, it’s replacement shown brightly announcing the opening of Avila,
brooklyn’s new home for arepas y comida venezolano and as I learned, that was only the tip of the mountain. (as they say?)
brothers allan and frambel (a name that combines the first part of both his father and mothers names… why don’t we do that here? i’d be rostee. which is SO dope.) wanted to open a business in new york, and venezuelan food is undeniably what they do best. they chose greenpoint for the same reason i did- the neighborhood seemed fresh and diverse, the energy young and creative. and with a little bit of a bold competitive edge, they placed their shop on Manhattan ave, a street where they recognized the challenge of this location, with so many standout bars and restaurants. and theirs now stands out among them.
this is simply because their idea, along with their flavor, stands out. More than a restaurant, it’s also the only gallery space dedicated to venezuelan artists. the day i popped in they were hosting an event for directors and artists from the venezuelan film festival, in its 3rd year in new york. the walls were adorned with the work of Alberto reira, a series he did inspired by the new york subway. just stepping inside this space fills you with a rich pride for their country and also alive with neighborhood charm.
They host parties and events, gallery openings, discussions, mostly centered around the Venezuelan community, which is so vitally important given the current turmoil their country is in. they wanted to serve the Venezuelan community here while serving our community Venezuelan food. their passion and drive is palpable, and I haven’t even gotten to the arepas yet.
These are the house specialty, all family recipes, all made in house. The bread, ground and mixed and folded and grilled to perfection and filled with meats and veggies and beans and cheese and egg and…
todo como tu quieres.
In a neighborhood that seemingly has everything, in reality this is what greenpoint needed. we have been spoiled by newcomers cherry point and Baoburg. we have relied on and been relentlessly charmed by new classics sauvage and amami sushi and relied so many times on neighborhood mainstays five leaves and calexico. (all of those places are within 2 blocks of my house. goddamn i love greenpoint) but to have a quick in-and-out spot that serves honest fresh food and provides a incomparable glimpse into a land and a culture and a people so beautiful and pure, that is doing good and making good and folding it all up con cuidado in a handmade corn pillow is just the warm embrace we were searching for. and so let’s embrace it.
what not to miss
the pabellon or the llanera, all day, everyday. and the americana for breakfast.
they don’t serve alcohol, but if you live upstairs they’ll often slip you a cup of Venezuelan run con lima with a wink.
it’s rare that owning a restaurant feels like a labor of love, but emmy squared (and the full family of emily pizza joints) feels and tastes exactly like that. true love for the art of food, for the craft of pizza, and for each other. owners matt and emily’s first meal together was pizza, and after 13 years and 3 new york pizza restaurants, they landed at this- Emmy Squared, a detroit-style pizza oasis in south williamsburg.
it’s common in a city known for its pizza to get a bit of pizza fatigue. and when i know that there are so many exemplary by the slice joints, it’s rare that i venture to a formal sit-down restaurant to enjoy a slice. obvious notable exceptions being paulie gee’s, roberta’s, and lucali.
in a city that is self-proclaimed mecca of pizza’s, thick, square detroit style was heretofore unrepresented. Emily and Matt, neither from detroit, were confident that both their affinity for pies and their relentless drive to deliver would ensure that commanding this niche market would serve them and the neighborhood well, quite well, in fact. what the hell is detroit style pizza? think thick dough twice baked, in this case, in pans salvaged from old factories giving it a crunchy-and-chewy-and-disgruntled-steel-worker bite to it. the sauce is on top, the toppings are in between, and every bite tempts you to wonder, although not admit aloud, that maybe these square thick pies are the way we should have been doing it all along.
the duo has quickly become known for their burger (and in a town that is secondly a self=proclaimed burger medina) and emmy squared is opening a basement burger joint downstairs shortly. in short, emmy squared is everything brooklyn didn’t even realize it was missing. go, this weekend.
what not to miss
the menu varies seasonally, but when available, get the peppery mizuna salad, the restaurant’s namesake “Emmy” pizza, the and the feisty Hatchback.
and the burger, which they have on select nights but is soon to be a brooklyn burger institution once the basement burger bar opens later in the season.