WALTER FOODS Cold Food Hot Waiter • offManhattan

walter-foods-reubenWalter Foods 253 Grand St, Brooklyn, 718 387 8783 | offManhattan.com

LAST FALL, Barrio Chino owner Dylan Dodd and ex-Balthazar bartender, Danny Minch, caused quite the stir on the New York City food blogs with the unveiling of their Williamsburg bistro Walter Foods. While it’s been heralded as a throwback to the Rat Pack days, the buzz around this dapper young thing seems to have come too soon.

Whether or not the vintage-clad crowd loitering outside the double doors proves the efficacy of press bites, word-of-mouth, and old-fashioned curiosity, the no reservation policy does little to ease long waits, especially on weekends. Even so, South Side denizens seem undeterred, beckoning friends from across the river to join them in their efforts to graze on upscale renditions of classic American fare—with corresponding upmarket prices—in the leather-lined booths.

Inside, fresh-eyed gents serve dinner with white aprons and bow ties while overhead, Suzanne Vega quietly intones Tom’s Diner.

During one evening, the raw bar menu was well received by a young pair keen on the half shell as they engaged in conversation with the bartender, Reuben Zlomke. With one handWalter Foods window table pouring chilled tequila and the other prepping a Gold Rush, he said, “It’s a small place so it’s going to fill up quickly” about the restaurant’s 60 seats before elegantly dispensing the honeyed bourbon over cubes of ice. The back garden should help relieve waits (one hopes) when it opens in May.

While most arrive with the intent to dine, the beverage list, embracing classic cocktails to wine to beers on draft, vies evenly for attention with the dinner menu by former Clinton Street Baking Company chef Justin Ernsberger.

Offered until late, dinner covers $16 fried chicken to the $44 meant-for-one Surf and Turf platter. The latter boasts filet mignon and steamed lobster—a crustacean that incidentally also stars in the Lobster Club, a sandwich overwhelmed with vegetable components between two toasted squares of white bread.

On a recent Sunday, a bespectacled couple shucked Bluepoint oysters for brunch and flipped idly through a worn glossy magazine plucked from the rack. I went the more traditional route and had the Breakfast Sandwich—a brioche bun topped with fluffy scrambled eggs, bacon, and melted cheddar. While I nursed my coffee, I noticed an 8×10 of Walter—Danny’s bulldog, for whom the restaurant was named—taped to the mirror behind the bar.

Sitting snug in a red jacket, Walter’s image is a sweet touch to the bar’s masculine black frame. But beside the photo is the reflection of dark wood, stiff banquettes, pricey plates and the staffs’ starched get-up, revealing a new boys club that, considering its time and place, suddenly seems so out of date.

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April 24, 2009. Brooklyn, Brunch, offManhattan, Williamsburg. Leave a comment.

Walter Foods: Cold Food, Hot Waiter

walter-foods-reuben

Walter Foods 253 Grand St, Brooklyn, 718 387 8783 | offManhattan.com

LAST FALL, Barrio Chino owner Dylan Dodd and ex-Balthazar bartender, Danny Minch, caused quite the stir on the New York City food blogs with the unveiling of their Williamsburg bistro Walter Foods. While it’s been heralded as a throwback to the Rat Pack days, the buzz around this dapper young thing seems to have come too soon. (more…)

April 24, 2009. No Reservations, offManhattan, Williamsburg. Leave a comment.

CARACAS Williamsburg • offManhattan.com

caracas-bar

Caracas Arepa Bar 291 Grand St, Brooklyn, 718 218 6050 | offManhattan.com

o⋅ble⋅as : [noun] A sweet snack consisting of dulce de leche sandwiched between two round, paper thin wafers.

Ahh! Gimme my obleas now! : [exclamation] a phrase used by kids in Caracas, Venezuela when conversing with street vendors who set up obleas carts outside elementary schools.

STRIPS OF UNFINISHED LUMBER and rippled tin line the walls, lending the warm interior of Venezuelan eatery Caracas Arepa Bar the feel of a beachside canteen. Just four months old, this Williamsburg restaurant is the younger but arguably more mature sibling of the perpetually packed East Village original, which opened in 2003 to the thrill of those who like their arepas extra stuffed and on the cheap.

After six years of sharing their authentic home cooking at a clipped city pace, the husband-and-wife team, Maribel Araujo and Aristides Barrios, opened this outpost in December 2008 near their Brooklyn home.

In the kitchen, the savory cornbread pockets look like small flat moons bursting with grilled chicken, chorizo, and cheese from the plastic red baskets in which they are served. While arepas may seem simple in appearance, the pita-like bites are deceptively filling. Don’t be shy about pouring on their homemade sauce—the ingredients of which still elude us despite our winning disposition and craftily deployed inquiries (“Do the areperas in Venezuela serve a similar sauce? What’re the ingredients used in theirs?”) You can also bring a bottle home for $7.50 a piece.

“In Caracas, the only places still open after a night out are the areperas,” said regular bartender Miguel Angel Lacruz as he whipped up a cocada, a thick coconut shake sprinkled with cinnamon. “Even McDonald’s closes at ten, so if you want something to eat, you get an arepa. We have them all the time, even at three in the morning!”

Choose from fourteen arepas, opt to mix-and-match meats and veggies, or request an entree like the Pabellón Criollo, the Venezuelan national rice dish comprised of shredded beef, beans, and plantains topped with crumbled cheese. While aficionados still pack themselves into the Manhattan joint, the Williamsburg way seems less frenetic and more family friendly. Could be why even the little ones come in without complaint, while the rest of us look forward to the end of April when the spacious, bricked-in back patio opens for alfresco dining in South Side.

April 24, 2009. Brooklyn, offManhattan, Venezuelan, Williamsburg. Leave a comment.

“Ahh! Gimme My Obleas Now!”

caracas-bar

Caracas Arepa Bar 291 Grand St, Brooklyn, 718 218 6050 | offManhattan.com

o⋅ble⋅as : [noun] A sweet snack consisting of dulce de leche sandwiched between two round, paper thin wafers.

Ahh! Gimme my obleas now! : [exclamation] a phrase used by kids in Caracas, Venezuela when conversing with street vendors who set up obleas carts outside elementary schools.

STRIPS OF UNFINISHED LUMBER and rippled tin line the walls, lending the warm interior of Venezuelan eatery Caracas Arepa Bar the feel of a beachside canteen. Just four months old, this Williamsburg restaurant is the younger but arguably more mature sibling of the perpetually packed East Village original, which opened in 2003 to the thrill of those who like their arepas extra stuffed and on the cheap. (more…)

April 24, 2009. offManhattan, Venezuelan, Williamsburg. Leave a comment.

The Wrong Year at Corton

Corton

CORTON 239 West Broadway, New York, 212 219 2777

Mar 30 09 | TO COMPLEMENT OUR DINNER, Clare brought two bottles from the Tribeca Grill wine collection. To her disappointment, however, she had grabbed a white from ’97 when she meant to bring one from ’99. Across the table, Jason seemed to enjoy the supposedly subpar vintage and demonstrated the love by downing a glass. But for Clare even Cryovacked cod and mini macaroons, the latter which concluded our three hour meal, were too little too late.

I reminded Clare where we were and to consider the starving kids in Africa. Finally, she got a grip. But it was I who later lost mine when Momofuku Ko came up, which naturally led to discussion of the eatery’s extremely coveted reservations. That was when Jason mentioned he can score seats there. Anytime. (more…)

April 8, 2009. Manhattan, reservation required, TriBeCa, Wine. 1 comment.

SIDECAR • offManhattan.com

SidecarSidecar 560 Fifth Ave, Brooklyn, 718 369 0077 | Written for offManhattan.com

FOOD & DRINK CURES ALL PAIN declares the tongue-in-cheek motto stamped on Sidecar’s seal. Come sundown, this American bar-bistro sparks to life, attracting Park Slope locals and night owls who pass through its glass facade with the hope that the owners, brothers Bart and Johnny DeCoursy, will make good on their promise.

Bart (ex-O’Connor’s) directs the front-of-house where friends and singles meet at the long mahogany bar, sipping the lemony namesake cocktails. From above, bare bulbs wash the exposed brick walls in a Cointreau-colored rinse that invokes a sepia-toned nostalgia more often associated with bottled Coke served with bendy straws.

Johnny, a Blue Ribbon veteran, mans the stove to deliver posh pub grub that boasts fresh ingredients prepared on premise. A robust list of daily specials run the gamut from basmati rice-filled red pepper to jerk chicken, complementing ol’ reliables like the requisite Sidecar burger, which arrives with its top bun on the side to spotlight the cheese-smothered tender 8 oz. patty and a heap of homemade skinny fries. Another crowd pleaser is the bean dip starter followed by the Banh-D, a spicy pork-and-pate stuffed Vietnamese sandwich, accompanied by a shot of cucumber juice.

Sidecar boothOpposite the open kitchen a jukebox glows, calling attention to its novel existence, while Spy Hunter stands alone in the back. Shortly after midnight, the barkeeps break out the Wii to engage late night imbibers in bowling on the flat screen until the, well, wee hours of the morning. Open until 4 a.m., Sidecar is popular with sleepwalking bar and restaurant industry folk looking to chase their nightcap with some virtual smackdown.

On a recent Sunday during brunch, the brothers shared their plans to open the cozy back deck for table service by May 1st. “The whole area will be covered in white oak to contrast with the black walnut used inside, and there will be planters lining the edges,” said Johnny, who plans to grow herbs to be used in his dishes. While Johnny envisioned the trappings outside, his daughters Amelia, five, and Isabel, three, weaved stealthily between patrons inside, trotting up to the front windows to spy on passersby on Fifth Avenue.

Turning two in July, it’s still too soon to tell whether Sidecar will be the panacea as advertised. But judging by the constant stream of regulars and new enthusiasts filling the house, it seems that by mixing business with pleasure, the DeCoursy brothers are brewing a recession remedy that just might work.

April 8, 2009. Brooklyn, Brunch, offManhattan, Park Slope. Leave a comment.

Sidecar | offManhattan.com

Sidecar

Sidecar 560 Fifth Ave, Brooklyn, 718 369 0077 | Written for offManhattan.com

FOOD & DRINK CURES ALL PAIN declares the tongue-in-cheek motto stamped on Sidecar’s seal. Come sundown, this American bar-bistro sparks to life, attracting Park Slope locals and night owls who pass through its glass facade with the hope that the owners, brothers Bart and Johnny DeCoursy, will make good on their promise. (more…)

April 8, 2009. Bar, Brunch, offManhattan, Park Slope. Leave a comment.