Tag Archives: red hook

Red Hook Tavern

Red Hook Tavern is the recently opened endeavor of famed BBQ pit master Billy Durney, of Hometown BBQ. After mastering regional BBQ, he decided to take on the iconic old school NYC tavern style joint – typically featuring dimly lit wood grain interiors, a great selection of beer, wine and cocktails, a champion burger and a beefy chop or two. Think Minetta Tavern, Chumley’s or even McSorley’s. The outside even kinda pays tribute to Minetta Tavern. Similar font, coloring and shades drawn:

So did Durney achieve that iconic goal? In short, yes. There are some BIG hits here, but there are also some misses as well. Let me get into it so you know what to get and what to avoid.

We shared four starters among four people. We ordered the corn and nduja salad with radicchio cups, the wedge salad with bacon, the chicken liver pate, and the charcuterie board.

The corn and nduja was good, but it wasn’t as spicy as I had expected. In addition, the radicchio cups added a little too much bitterness into the dish. Maybe swapping out for some Bibb would be better.

The big hit for me among the starters was the wedge salad. It comes with a nicely cooked slab of Nueske’s bacon, and a surprisingly fresh pop of dill throughout. This is definitely big enough to share, so get this and share with another.

The charcuterie board was delicious, featuring lomo (my favorite – dry cured pork loin), salami and venison salami, along with a nice fresh slaw to cut the fat. I just wish there was more of everything.

The chicken liver pate was smooth, creamy and delicious. I could have easily crushed this by myself, which is what I recommend that you do. The only issue with that was that the toast was very dry and brittle. That bread needs an upgrade.

We shared four different entrees. We did the pan roasted half chicken, the 45-day dry aged strip steak, the grilled head-on spot prawns and, of course, the burger (we did two of those).

The prawns were overcooked, unfortunately, and that delicious chili, lemon and garlic sauce didn’t really get into the flesh, rendering them kind of bland unless you really dragged them through the sauce. The heads were delicious though. They come three to an order, but the waiter Ryan was awesome and asked if we wanted four pieces so that we could all get one. That’s the kind of service people will remember. Bravo, Ryan.

The Pat LaFrieda steak was very tender, nicely cooked, and had a great crust on it.

The addition of that finishing salt was essential, because it was otherwise just kind of bland in flavor. It didn’t have much punch or character to it, and certainly not much dry-aged flavor. 7/10.

One good thing about the steak is that for $49 it also comes with creamed spinach. I really liked this spinach. Finely chopped, not too creamy.

The chicken was better than both of the above entree items. It came with mashed potatoes and gravy, which was a nice touch, for just $28. The meat was juicy and tender, and the skin was crisp and well-seasoned. Get this!

But the star of the meal was this incredible burger.

Look at how perfectly cooked it is inside:

It comes with three perfectly crisped and seasoned potato wedges, and a half-sour pickle spear.

If you’re not into onions, you can remove yours from the bottom (the burger comes out sitting on top of an onion core slice). I generally don’t love raw onion on my burger, but this onion is somewhat steamed and softened, that way you don’t get that insane vaporous bite that destroys your mouth for two days. It also catches any juices that come out of the burger, making it a perfect flavor sponge that protects the bottom bun from sogging up.

It may look simple and pedestrian, but the bun is brought in fresh from a special bakery; the patty is a great mix of lean and fatty beef cuts that sport a really nice dry-aged flavor; the cheese is perfectly melted down the sides of the burger to create a lovely drape of full coverage – you never want for that melty American goodness; and the maillard sear on the outside even has a nice crunch to it for some texture. What a masterpiece. This might be a new favorite, especially at $22. While I generally prefer fries, the wedges were definitely good. I kinda wanted a couple more though.

The prices here aren’t too bad either.

I highly recommend this place. It’s tough to get a reservation, but if you get there early (or late, for that matter) you can probably score a seat at the bar pretty quickly.

RED HOOK TAVERN
329 Van Brunt St
Brooklyn, NY 11231

Widow Jane Spirits & Distillery

I’ve been a fan of Widow Jane for a few years now, but I recently had the chance to taste a bunch more of their offerings at their distillery in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

DSC05425

It also doubles as the Cacao Prieto chocolate factory, so don’t go assuming that I popped the wrong photo into this post by mistake.

DSC05436

Anyway, we tasted ten different bottles of booze. Five (left) were heirloom whiskies, which I liked a LOT, so I will talk about them first.

IMG_0366

The Wapsie Valley bottle had a corn-forward flavor profile that was smooth yet strong. If you like a pure corn bourbon whiskey, then this should be your go-to selection, if not the blue corn version that I will get to later…

DSC05426

Bloody Butcher is a corn varietal that is red in color, and that is the namesake of the next bottle. This had a bit more character in the flavor to me, slightly peppery in fact.

DSC05427

The corn, as you can see below, is a nice vibrant blood red color:

20160702_133421

20160702_133413

20160702_133929

The next two whiskies are “High Rye,” which means that they have a bit more rye in the mash than the previous two. This first one is the rye’d version of the Wapsie Valley from above. I liked this one better, because I think the addition of rye adds more interesting flavors and spices to the booze.

DSC05428_2

Same goes for the High Rye version of the Bloody Butcher: a much nicer drink. In fact this was one of my favorites of the day.

DSC05430

The last one we tried, and my other favorite, was the Hopi blue corn whiskey, of which I forgot to take a stand-alone photo. While this (and the other heirloom bottles) are pricey for only 375ml ($135-$145), the flavors are intense and rich, and worth the money in my opinion. This blue corn bottle offers some smoke that you might get from an islay single malt scotch, but rounded out nicely with the sweetness of corn. Absolutely amazing.

DSC05429

As it turns out, my wife had a shot of the Hopi bottle so I’m including that here:

IMG_0365

For the regular tasting flight, we first started with a pair of rye mash, American oak aged whiskies. This first one was crisp and clean.

DSC05431

The second one here gets hit with some apple wood slats during the last stage of aging, which give it a nice sweetness and refreshing quality in the final taste. You can even smell the apple a bit.

DSC05432

This next bottle is the one you probably see most commonly in liquor stores and bars in the area, and it is the one that I was familiar with before this tasting. The water comes from a limestone mine in New York, and it is aged for ten years in new American oak barrels.

DSC05433

For some additional info on this bottle, I pulled the following from Caskers.com:

“To build a great city, you start with the toughest foundation known. The greatest structures in New York City, from the gargantuan caissons of the Brooklyn Bridge to the 27,000 ton pedestal of the Statue of Liberty to the Empire State Building itself, are held fast and strong by natural cement made from limestone from quarries located in Rosendale, New York.

The last Rosendale limestone mine closed down in 1970 and its owner, A.J. Snyder, who was as tough as the limestone he quarried, passed away shortly thereafter. His widow, Jane, was beloved in the community for her kindness and pure spirit, and so when Snyder passed, the Rosendale Limestone Mine became known as the Widow Jane Mine.

To make a great whiskey, you start with the finest water available. Following on the heels of the tremendously successful Widow Jane 5 , 7 and 8 Year Old Kentucky Bourbons, Widow Jane 10 Year Old Single Barrel Kentucky Bourbon uses water from the same limestone quarries in Rosendale that were mined tocreate New York’s greatest architectural achievements. The sweet water, along with hand-selected ten-year old Kentucky bourbon, is imported to Brooklyn where Daniel Prieto Preston, inventor, aerospace engineer and founder of Cacao Prieto (a chocolate maker and distillery!), creates Widow Jane Bourbon. Preston brings Widow Jane 10 Year Old Bourbon to proof by hand using water from the Widow Jane Mine and then fills and labels each single-barrel bottle by hand. Bold and complex, the whiskey benefits from its Kentucky heritage, but it’s the smooth, mineral-rich New York water that gives the whiskey its unique flavor profile.

Widow Jane Whiskey is a true New York City whiskey, evocative both of one of mankind’s greatest achievements — New York City’s skyline — and Brooklyn’s artisanal, craft spirits movement. Both urban and urbane, Widow Jane Whiskey is New York’s very own — a signature whiskey of the world’s most magnificent and maddening metropolis.

Each bottle is hand-numbered — pick up one of these rare treasures today.”

Okay, so this next bottle is actually a chocolate flavored rum. This shit was so tasty. I would drink this on the rocks or direct from the freezer, or even mixed / blended with some vanilla ice cream for a boozy dessert.

DSC05434

And for you coffee lovers, this Colombian coffee flavored liqueur was also included in the tasting. I’m not sure if it has any caffeine, but it tasted exactly like espresso, but with a boozy kick.

DSC05435

Get out here for a tasting. I definitely recommend all of the heirloom whiskies. They were all really great.

WIDOW JANE DISTILLERY
CACAO PRIETO
214 Conover St
Brooklyn, NY 11231

Brooklyn Crab

My wife and I came here with some friends for the first time the other day, and I have to say, this place is a shitload of fun.

DSC05421

There’s a great curbside bar in the shade up front, with bean bag toss games and big umbrella’d picnic benches beside it.

DSC05449

DSC05447

It really looks like something out of Fire Island or the Hamptons, with a relaxed beach hut vibe. There’s even mini-golf in the back, and soft serve ice cream behind the bar downstairs.

DSC05422

20160702_155831

DSC05444

This is easily the kind of place into which you can sink an entire day, just hanging out at a good spot at the bar, ordering up summer drinks and browsing the fresh seafood menu in between competitive bean bag toss tourneys.

DSC05448

DSC05439

My wife and I split some Jonah crab claws and a king crab leg. Everything was fresh, tasty and ice cold. There was a nice salty brine to the meat from both crabs. I was a happy man.

DSC05443

DSC05442

We will definitely be back here again soon, and it’s a pretty easy trip to make on the free Ikea ferry, downtown.

BROOKLYN CRAB
24 Reed St
Brooklyn, NY 11231

Hometown BBQ

My first run-in with Hometown BBQ came when I attended Meatopia, a meat lover’s paradise that takes place on the piers over in Hell’s Kitchen. There, I met some of the people and pit masters behind Hometown, and I was thoroughly impressed with everything they presented that day, especially the beef rib.

Needless to say, I made it a priority to get over there and try more.

Hometown is a mix of Texas and Carolina styles – serving up a healthy smattering of both beef and pork, dry and sauced – but it has a heavy NYC influence to the flavor profiles, and the pit masters take lots of free license concerning BBQ fusion ideas.

DSC05397

As I mentioned in my Guide to Regional BBQ Styles, I believe that NYC is emerging as its own distinctly amazing BBQ style, especially given the varied immigrant communities that touch on the lives of all in this great city.

Hometown takes advantage of that diverse cuisine-culture, as all of the ownership, management and pit masters come from either New York, Brooklyn or elsewhere in the five boroughs. As a result you have menu items like (1) Jamaican jerk baby back ribs, (2) Italian sausage, (3) Chinese sticky ribs, (4) Vietnamese lamb belly banh mi sandwiches and chicken wings, (5) Jewish pastrami-spiced bacon (sinful!), and (6) Oaxacan marinated wood fired chicken and tacos.

DSC01843

As you can see, the menu is quite varied. And the pit masters will grab anything that comes their way and spin it into a great BBQ fusion dish, whether it’s beef tongue, duck, or whatever, on any given day. Turkey and chicken make a solid presence here. My only regret is that I was too full to try the turkey, wood fired chicken, and Vietnamese chicken wings.

So here’s what we had:

(1) Lamb Belly: This was actually our least favorite of all the meats, but that is by no means an indictment of quality. Think of it this way: You can choose five pounds of gold, or ten pounds of gold. Which do you choose? Ten, of course, but five is still awesome. This meat had all the great soft, yet sticky-crisp flavors that you associate with belly meat, but with the fat flavor of lamb. I can definitely see how this might go well on a banh mi sandwich, as per the menu offering.

DSC01819WM

(2) Pulled Pork: This was delicious, especially when adding a little bit of the spicy (bright red) BBQ sauce to it. The meat itself wasn’t over sauced at the outset, of which I was highly appreciative, and it had both a nice sweetness and pickle-pop to it that didn’t overpower.

DSC01822WM

(3) Brisket: This was probably my favorite. It was very juicy and had tons of smokey flavor. If you’re a smoke fiend, then add a touch of the smokey BBQ sauce (darker colored container), and you’re instantly transported to wood-fired heaven.

DSC01815WM

(4) Italian Sausage: I loved this Brooklyn spin on the classic BBQ joint sausage link. While I do love me some Texas hot links and classic Bavarian sausage, this was a welcome change of pace. It was cleverly served with a light tomato sauce, though it didn’t taste exactly like a traditional parsley and cheese Italian link. The pungent smoke, fire roasted peppers and aged provolone added a whole different dynamic to the meat that truly made it Italian BBQ fusion.

DSC01834WM

(5) Jamaican Jerk Baby Back Ribs: Wow. These were really interesting. The jerk spice and sauce create a nice thin bark on the outside, but the smoke causes the flavors to permeate through the entirety of the meat. This was a unique execution of baby back ribs.

DSC01831WM

(6) Pastrami Bacon: Pastrami and bacon are two words that perhaps don’t belong together in the NYC Jewish community, as it is straight up not Kosher for Passover, but this was pure heaven as far as sinful eating goes. Crispy, fatty, meaty and all around perfectly cooked, this grill-kissed slab bacon came with a velvety honey mustard sauce that actually paired great with all of the meats we tried.

DSC01837WM

We didn’t get down on any sides. Next time. We were so focused on the meat that we lost sight of the other goodies on the menu. I wish we ordered some whiskey sour pickles. My eyes were so dazzled by the meat selections that I completely missed them when I was reading the menu. BBQ + Pickles = Heaven. I am ashamed…

The bars here are great, too, by the way: one in the front, one in the back. They have a Texas vibe, and the drinks are somewhat reasonably priced for the city. My Tecate and neat Jameson came to $13: $4 for the beer and $9 for the whisky.

DSC01847

DSC01811WM

The atmosphere here is awesome. It feels like you’re in a warehouse barn that has several fires burning. The smells are invigorating, warm and inviting. This was a perfect refuge from the downpour and cold weather that was happening the day I came here.

DSC01812

That’s the back room. In the front (through the door to the right of the bar), there’s another big bar room with more tables and a small stage for live music performances. This is the counter where you order your food:

DSC01844

In short, Hometown is my favorite BBQ joint in the area. It seriously fucking blows away the competition.

UPDATE 7/2/16

My wife and I hit this fucking place like champs today. Here’s a rundown of what we ordered:

Lamb Belly Banh Mi: This shit was legit. The sandwich was packed with good lamb belly meat, and the flavors of the pickled items were just right. The bread was perfect – a buttery French baguette. This baby got the seal of approval from my wife, so you can trust that it is really fucking good. Only downside: there is still some connective tissue in the lamb belly servings. I noticed this last time but didn’t mention it above, because I thought it was maybe a one-off thing.

DSC05401

Chinese Sticky Ribs: I liked these a lot but the wife thought they were too sweet. The flavors were really layered. Spice, sweetness, and the meat was perfectly cooked to the point where you can bite it and see your teeth marks in the meat.

DSC05419

Vietnamese Crispy Wings: Another win here. These full wings were nicely crisped and coated with a really delicious tangy and spicy Vietnamese-inspired sauce. Very easy to eat all day.

DSC05411

Beef Rib: This was a monster. The meat was absolutely perfect. The bark on the outside gives it a textural crunch as well as a shot of electrifying flavor. Fucking awesome. It may be pricey, but if you come here and you don’t get one of these, then you’re a dick.

DSC05407

DSC05415

IMG_0354 edits

Whisky Sour Pickles: This time I remembered to get a side. Since we were having some bread with the banh mi sandwich, I figured I’d steer clear of carbs. The pickles were a wise choice, as they went perfectly with the meats.

DSC05399

I can’t wait to go back for round three, during which I will try the wood fired chicken and smoked turkey.

HOMETOWN BBQ
454 Van Brunt St
Brooklyn, NY 11231

Red Hook Lobster Pound

By far the more superior lobster roll when compared to Luke’s. This is only rivaled by Burger & Lobster.

20151210_185628

Even after a walk home in the bag from the new outpost at Urban Space, Vanderbilt, this was still buttery and delicious. One side of the bun was a little soggy, but that was only due to the transport. Robust lobster flavors, excellent, perfectly cooked knuckle and claw meat, and great dressing. Well played!

Fresh from the Brooklyn flagship was pretty great too, though I still find lobster rolls to be too expensive, in general.

DSC01848

DSC01850

DSC01857WM

RED HOOK LOBSTER POUND
Urban Space Vanderbilt
230 Park Ave.
New York, NY 10169

RED HOOK LOBSTER POUND
284 Van Brunt St
Brooklyn, NY 11231