Fancy bars and restaurants with all sorts of sexy food and drink (Tørst, Beloved, Nights and Weekends) are all over Greenpoint these days, but let’s face it – sometimes you just want get hammered on a budget, pay homage to the neighborhood’s longtime establishments, or just check out something different and new (or old). Greenpoint definitely has no shortage of dive bars, but where to begin?
This weekend I hung out in some of these dives (a.k.a. “old man” bars) in the neighborhood and got to know them and their clientele a little better. I scoped out the drink specials, watched Jeopardy with the regulars, and relaxed in some sweet backyards. And now I present to you, along with my little rating system, some of the neighborhood’s best kept secrets:
Irene’s Pub (623 Manhattan Ave)
Despite being so centrally located, Irene’s is somewhat of a mystery. Perhaps most Greenpointers are unfamiliar with the bar’s philosophy:”it’s happy hour all the time,” which I verified as TRUTH. Irene’s prices are actually equivalent to happy hour deals, all the time – we’re talking $2 drafts and dirt-cheap mixed drinks. I repeat: all day and night long. Continue reading →
In honor or Valentine’s Day, Calyer has come up with a special menu. We are not abandoning our small plate style, but spreading our wings in order to show you a different side of our skills, sacrificing none of our creativity. Gabriel and the rest of the guys behind the food are dressing it up for the night and look forward to making it special for you.
Dinner is a 4 Course Prix Fix for $60 per person. Calyer
92 Calyer St
Calyer, one of Greenpoint’s newest and most exciting restaurants, invited Greenpointers over for dinner.
It was a cold and rainy evening, which meant taxi service, which meant I could wear my impracticably high heeled “date night” boots. (The only hobbling I can do in them is from a car to a chair.) Boots on, date on!
When we arrived I immediately began confusing the wait staff, “We have reservations. A table for 8, please.” (I meant 8pm.) The place was pretty full and the hostess looked worried but was a doll.
After sorting that out, Virginia, the lovely manager gave us a corner table from which we could see the whole restaurant and sit beside each other, which I call “french style.”
The interiors are done in that Brooklyn, this-place-has-been-here-forever but not contrived style. The low ceilings give the place a cozy, sailboat cabin feel. Cocktails please!
We ordered a Siren Song (Pisco, St. Germain, Cava, Bergamot) & La Bebida De Los Dioses (Herradura Antiguo Tequila, Lime, Maple, Syrup, Chili & Xocolatl Mole Bitters). Both were mixed and balanced beautifully.
If the cocktails sound inventive, with a spicy spanish twist, wait for the plates, which are served tapas style, perfect for my over-ordering tendencies.
It’s fun to dine at a place like Calyer with a taste hound like Jon, because there is always a hint of a surprising flavor that is hard to put your tongue on. Was it tarragon in the amuse bouche of Squash Jelly with Sunflower Seeds? It’s even better when the wait staff is patient and knowledgeable and eager to run back into the kitchen to find out from the chef: allepo pepper, cinnamon and star anise. Ah!
Aside from delicious plates, it was great chatting with our waitress Cara, who is part-Sicilian (which means she is admittedly half crazy like me) and has an awesome blog called Write By Hand dedicated to hand fonts. What makes Calyer a Greenpoint restaurant is that it embodies what Greenpoint is, a great place filled with great and creative people.
Calyer has the kind of menu from which you want to order every plate, and since they are meant for sharing, you can. What follows is a description of some of those delightful, unexpected and exceptional dishes.
Scallop Ceviche (Corn Nuts, Aji Amarillo, Crispy Corn)
Yeah we said corn nuts! Don’t even get us started on these salty-brain massages. The scallops were fresh and sweet and the dish was well-balanced with heat from the aji pepper, and tang from the red onions and lime. This dish went perfectly with our cocktails.
Duck Confit Terrine (Quail Egg, Yellow Plantains, Dandelion Greens)
“Why is this duck square?” Layers of juicy duck leg between layers of plantains was topped with a perfectly runny quail egg that made up for the dryness of the plantain. Jon talked about this dish all weekend. I think he might be falling in love with duck. Home run duck!
Chicharones (White Bean Puree, Brussels Sprouts Leaves, Anchovy Vinaigrette)
When this dish arrived I wanted to ask for a side of antacid. Giant pieces of deep fried pork skin in what reminded me of a citrusy rock shrimp batter. I didn’t get any of the anchovy flavor. Deep fried anything is my motto, but maybe better for a late night bar snack and not smack in the middle of dinner.
Grilled Mackerel (Sunchoke Puree, Sunchokes, Citrus Salad)
Perfectly cooked fish with subtle char flavor. Sunchokes plus sunchokes equals earthy crunchy awesomeness. The citrus salad gave the dish a fresh kick. We killed it.
Brussels Sprouts (Chicken Sausage, Garlic, Culantro)
My favorite dish of the night, hands down. I have a thing for cruciferous veggies but it was the chicken sausage that stole my heart. Chicken sausage is an idea I don’t normally like, but this sweet and spicy, softly caramelized chorizo flavored chicken with pimentón, or Spanish Paprika, made me rabid (in a good way). It reminded me of the chicken and rice my Puerto Rican Godmother makes, and what do you know? The chef, Gabriel Moya, is Puerto Rican. The culantro here is not the same as cilantro and it was an unexpectedly fragrant garnish for this dish.
During the meal we enjoyed deliciously recommended white wine, the Javier Sanz Rueda and a red, the Primitivo Quines “Cono 4.” Then desserts cocktails (of course!)
‘Little Fox’ Toddy (Old Overholt Rye, Snap Liquer, Cinnamon, Whisky Barrel Ages Bitters & Butter – ding, ding, ding! – A winning cocktail. It’s warm, it’s buttery, it’s spicy and it’s whiskey-ey. Did I mention the pat of butter that melts into the glass?
Northside (Whipper Snapper Whisky, Aperol, Antica Formula, Old Time Aromatic Biiters) – We don’t remember this being memorable, probably because the toddy stole the show. I had to swat Jon hands from grabbing my butter cocktail. Mine!
We had two choices for dessert, so we went with both obviously.
Deconstructed Apple Pie
Self-explanatory: apples, pie crust, spiced walnuts. This would make a perfect apple pie but I wasn’t thrilled about eating the doughy pie chunks on their own. There wasn’t a crumb left.
Lemon Curd (Almond Crust, Pickled Kiwi & Kumquats, Kefir)
Lemon desserts are not what I normally order but this has become a new addition to my crave list. The sweet smooth of the lemon curd was well matched with the sour fruits and creamy kefir, all on a chunky almond crust. Outstanding.
We loved Calyer and talked about all the fun flavors we discovered well after our meal. The food, aside from delicious and inventive, was gorgeously plated and fun to photograph. The atmosphere was friendly and cozy. A perfect date place with great cocktails. I hope to return for brunch when that dreamy chicken sausage takes sandwich form!
Before my inevitable retreat into cold weather hibernation, I’ve been running around like a squirrel trying to sample as many of the new hangouts that have popped up in Greenpoint over the summer. Here are a few places you might want to check out before Autumn’s arrival–which is sadly Friday.
Calyer – 92 Calyer St.
Hidden away on the corner of Franklin and the street of its namesake, Calyer was opened a few weeks ago by the owners of Anella, with little fanfare and no sign. The interior is lovely as you might expect, combining a touch of “noir” with some the space’s original rustic beauty. The food was described by the waiter as Spanish influenced and should be ordered tapas-style. This makes the menu a bit more spendy than it appears at first glance, as a typical plate runs around $10 to $12. Avoid the salads as they tend to be paltry, but do try the seafood plates or any of the more substantial entrees. I hear the Chicharrones are addictive as well. They also have a cozy bar and a decent selection of Spanish wines.
El Toro Taqueria – 254 Driggs Ave.
Greenpoint may be the Polish capital of New York, but those who live north of Greenpoint Ave. know of the many delicious Latino inspired restaurants/laundromats/in-the-back-of-a-bodegas tucked away here. El Toro is a new take-out style taqueria that recently opened on Driggs. The vibe is causal and welcoming. I was impressed with the flavor and thoughtfulness of the parings. The kimchi and marinated steak taco is fusion heaven. The fish and shrimp are served cold, which may put off purists, but the savory sauces more than make up for it. Those familiar with Snack Dragon on the LES might reconsider their fourth meal until after the cab ride back to Greenpoint.
The Lobster Joint – 1073 Manhattan Ave.
I finally hit The Lobster Joint last Friday on what was a particularly cool September evening. As a native New Englander this made me feel right at home. So did the perfectly seasoned chowder, reminding me more of a lighter Rhode Island style broth than the creamy Massachusetts style you may be used to. The Lobster roll was also surprisingly authentic, with warm buttered bread making it all melty and sweet in your mouth. The mussels and fries are a plate large enough to share and the Lobster Ale makes it all go down smooth. Needless to say I will be returning a few more times this fall.