Forgive my language, but there’s some serious shit happening these days in Gowanus and it only seems to be gaining momentum. First there was the bike shop. Then the killer pie store. Then the revisionist clam shack. Then came Brooklyn haute cuisine, and the amazing pastries. Now there’s a member’s only social club for the arts, and a 17,000 square foot shuffleboard parlor. A fancy-schmancy grocery store with a 20,000 square foot greenhouse, too. The latest opening is super-cue chain Dinosaur Bar-B-Cue, and despite there already being some great smoke options in the area, our family went last week to check it out for dinner.One unexpectedly positive side effect is that the formerly bleak stretch of Union Street between Third and Fourth Avenues is now consistently redolent of hickory and spice. The restaurant itself is cavernous, huge, and bustling– perfect if you have a big group to contend with, or just a noisy kid. And the food? Well, come on. It’s great. These guys haven’t been packing crowds in every night for years at the Harlem location by accident. Let it be said, I still think the burnt-ends from Fletchers rule and the brisket from Fort Reno a close second– but the Dinosaur ribs are pretty much the best around. Thick, meaty babybacks that fall off the bone, moist, sweet n’ spicy. Might be worth the trip for the ribs alone.But I don’t want to give short shrift to a must-order specialty they call Dino Poutine. Like college-era disco fries squared, I want you to imagine hot hand-cut french fries covered in brown gravy, pimiento cheese and a mountain of tender pulled pork, garnished with a heap of scallions. There it is, and it is good. If it’s a heart attack in the making, is there a better way to go?
Smith Canteen on Smith Street has the world’s greatest bread pudding. I’m not sure what kind of sorcery is involved with making a so-called pudding made of bread (apparently, something like this) but all I know is that this crusty hunk of thickness looks the cronut in the eye and gives a haughty laugh. “Bah! Sissy sweet cronut!” bellows this mighty bread pudding from Smith Canteen. And in appearance, you might very well say it is the Tommy Lee Jones of the baked set. It’s got this sort of craggy, crunchy muffintop that hides a soft, tender, delectable inside (just like Tommy Lee Jones) that is at once wonderfully savory, bizarrely dense in weight and completely delicious.Each week there’s a different variety available, with vegetable ingredients selected depending on what looks great at the Greenmarket that Sunday. By turns, I’ve enjoyed versions featuring fresh leeks, salty pancetta, fragrant scallions, earthy mushrooms, even white cheddar. Right this minute, they’re sporting a killer summer squash and shallot model. Look, I realize bread pudding is a weird thing to write a post about but this is more than a baked good. This is a bit of magic you’ll be smacking your lips about long after you’re done. Bread pudding, I say! Go to Smith Canteen and get one and be happy.
The family took me to Brooklyn Crab in Red Hook for Father’s Day, and much fun was had by all. If you haven’t been, here’s a few tips:
1) Although they are open year round, now is obviously when you want to go. They have an extremely enjoyable upper patio that offers stellar views of the wide part of Hudson and refreshingly cool breezes. It’s a sweet setup. They’ll offer you a variety of seating when you arrive, but trust us: what you want is the patio.2) Even if you don’t have kids, you may appreciate the miniature golf course they have in the back. It may depend on how much you’ve had to drink, so plan accordingly. There’s also a game there called “Cornhole,” but I don’t know from that. Maybe it’s a New England thing.3) Get the blue crabs. In fact, we think it’s sound policy to always get the dish the restaurant is named after. And at Brooklyn Crab, they are certainly kind of pricey but they know what they’re doing with the preparation. Steamed, smothered in Old Bay, corn on the cob, slaw, and a pint of cold Narragansett. Yum.4) Bring a helper along to assist you with smashing the claws. This is without a doubt a two person job.
We occasionally issue imperatives here about things we feel strongly about, but trust us when we say that you absolutely, positively do not want to miss New York City’s own annual rite of Spring: the flowering of the cherry blossoms at Brooklyn Botanic Garden.Located in the middle of the garden’s 52 acre spread, the gorgeous Cherry Esplanade was a gift to the United States from the Japanese government at the end of the War. And with over 200 trees and 40 different species, there is no other place showcasing this kind cherry tree variety in the world outside of Japan. Particularly spectacular is how downright Seussical a walk-through this pink canopy is, and how easy it enables one to check a jaded New York attitude at the front gate. Good luck attempting sarcasm or irony in the face of such a pure pink onslaught.Once in full bloom, these trees are vivid and gorgeous and according to the BBG real-time CherryWatch map, they’re in full bloom right now. However, their beauty is ephemeral and once flowered, the blossoms don’t last long. So, go. Play hooky, call it a prescription for mental health, do whatever you need to do– but do yourself a favor and go park under some cotton candy trees one morning this week and take a deep breath. It’s even free admission if you go between 10am-12pm.
For the nine months of her pregnancy, my wife was prohibited from eating things that are Bad For The Baby: cold cuts, sushi, vodka, lead paint chips, and so on. So now that she’s no longer sharing her body with the little rascal, I asked her what was the first thing off the forbidden menu she wanted to eat. No hesitation. Out of all the things in New York City she could have, she requested a Dana Special from Esposito’s. We’ve talked about G. Esposito & Sons before here. These guys are old school butchers who have a killer assortment of fine meats, Italian foods, and they are no joke with the Dagwood-style sandwiches, either. We haven’t come close to trying them all yet, but there can be no doubt that the Dana Special is one of the most eminently cravable sandwiches ever.Picture a fresh crusty sesame seed hero baked a block away at Caputo’s Bakery, stuffed to the brim with Italian ham, spicy soppressato, marinated sweet peppers, fresh Buffalo mozzarella, oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pep… and the colpo di grazia? Paper thin-sliced eggplant, lightly breaded and perfectly fried. Sweet and tart, salty and crunchy, its no wonder that this was the sandwich of all sandwiches my wife wished to eat after nine months. And being a good husband I ordered one for me, too. Solidarity! Can’t let her do this thing alone, am I right?
I’m a savory guy. Give me a hot meatball sub over cookies or candy any day. And without question, this time of year I’ll take a slice of Escarole Pie over chocolate covered Peeps or a Cadbury Egg. Have you had Escarole Pie? Up until I moved to the neighborhood of Carroll Gardens, I hadn’t even heard of it. Served for lunch at Christmas or Easter, this traditional Neapolitan dish is particularly outrageous this time of year when the winter escarole is at its peak. It’s baked like a traditional pastry topped pie, but filled with fresh green escarole, garlic, olives, capers, onions, pine nuts, raisins and occasionally anchovy. It is a salty, sweet, crusty and faintly bitter baked delight. It’s unlike anything else I’ve ever tasted and on paper it probably shouldn’t be so delicious but who am I to challenge several hundred years of Italian culinary wizardry? You can try to bake your own (good luck with that) or if you act quickly there is absolutely still time for you to hop the F train to Carroll Street and pick up this seasonal treat from local butcher-deli geniuses, G. Esposito & Sons Pork Store. And hell, if you’re already at the counter there you should probably ask them to make you a Dana’s Special Hero to go. That’s the sub to get, and we wouldn’t steer you wrong because we’re all about feeding your face at On the Real. Enjoy your weekend and happy holidays!
New Yorkers think they are in “the know” about most things. Aunt Shirley’s got her place to pick up the best pastrami. Uncle Larry’s got a joint for the most incredible bagels. Cousin Carla will hook you up with concert tix at MSG and her brother Jimmy…well, let’s just say Jimmy still prefers you call his beeper when in need of his particular expertise. But here’s a secret not everyone knows: Acme Smoked Fish is the only place to grab the most incredible smoky fantastic ridiculous smoked wholesale fish. Monday through Thursday, unless you’re the fish buyer for Russ & Daughter’s, Zabar’s and other fine food retailers in the know, forget about access to Acme. But for us mere mortals, Continue reading
Drinking at the bar? A movie? Dinner? Meh. How about something really different this weekend when the sun goes down… Consider a trip over to the Gowanus Nite Market. The most recent iteration in the pop-up market phenomenon, the GNM is a 5,000 square foot eclectic indoor bazaar featuring local artists and vendors, cold beer, tasty foodstuffs, and a live DJ spinning. One other pretty intriguing detail: this market happens to be located inside the lower level of a gigantic industrial warehouse chock full of boutique movie props called “Film Biz Recycling.” Why not, right? The party starts at 7pm and goes to midnight. It’s a truly unique nighttime experience, only in Brooklyn (natch.) Eat your heart out, Brian Williams.
I grew up on Long Island and as an 80′s era pre-teen, a cool thing to do was go to the roller rink on the weekend. It was called “Laces,” and I spent many a Saturday with my buddies there. In those halcyon days, skates had four wheels, chicks wore Jordache unironically and the cool kids always huddled in the middle of the rink. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys low hanging fruit, go ahead and make your wisecracks, but dammit, it was ridiculously fun. If you’ve ever known the joys of speeding through the glittering sequined lights around dark rounded corners to the amplified sounds of Rick James, only pausing to rest for a spirited round of Galaga… then I have some great news for your weekend.This Saturday at the Brooklyn Lyceum you can relive all your childhood roller-disco memories, because they are hosting a Roller Skate and Disco Dance party. If you’ve never been to the Brooklyn Lyceum, the backstory is that it originally opened in 1910 as an indoor bathing facility, but today is an arts and cultural center on the edge of Gowanus playing host to a range of theatre, music, dance, markets and community activities. And apparently, roller disco parties. Bring your own skates and the kids to roll from noon til six, and then from six to midnight it’s just for the adults to get their rollerfreak on. I can only assume/hope there will be this song, and this song, and maybe this song, and that there will be bland square pizza and Dr. Peppers to go around.