Esme, the newest restaurant to open on Manhattan Avenue, is named after the female protagonist in J.D. Salinger’s ‘For Esmé – with Love and Squalor’. Happily, the new bistro reflects all of the love but none of the squalor of the touching short story about an encounter between an American soldier and an enchanting young British girl during WW2. “My dad gave the book to me and my brother when we were 14 and that story was one of the reasons we ended up going to college” says Esme co-owner Matthew Ricke.
In opening the restaurant, Matthew and his younger brother Nathan teamed up with Brandon Chamberlain (previously of Sam Mason’s Tailor) who is now the General Manager of Esme. The trio all hail from The Exley in Williamsburg and wanted to move onto a larger-scale project together.
Following months of renovations, Esme opened softly last Tuesday on the former site of Papacitos (999 Manhattan Avenue). The venue has been totally transformed and now offers a bright sunny welcome by day and a cozy low-lit intimacy by night. Long wooden pews accompany individual tables along one side of the restaurant, whilst tables on a raised platform at the front of the space look out onto Manhattan Avenue through two huge picture windows.
The mouth-watering modern American menu is devised by executive chef Paul Myers, whose impressive career includes time under Wylie Dufresne at wd~50 and a James Beard nomination for his Montana restaurant 515. In creating the dishes, Myers collaborated with Adam Volk of Williamsburg’s Gwynnett Street (now Lachlan), who will run the kitchen on a daily basis.
Plates range from an excellent $13 burger with house-cut fries, through to a $25 flat iron steak with buttermilk mash. In between are up-market comfort food options such as roast chicken with buckwheat waffles, a top notch veg pot pie, and hearty chunks of crispy pork belly with red cabbage. A special mention goes to a dessert of grapefruit curd, toasted meringue and sea salt caramel, not only for resembling a miniature Miró painting, but for knocking our tastebuds senseless with delight.
Carefully crafted cocktails ($12) are another highlight, and whilst awaiting a table I strongly recommend sipping an Aged and Infused (hop-infused gin, carpano, campari, grilled grapefruit) or the milder and highly unusual Good Soldier (Becherovka, corn-infused bourbon, lemon, cinnamon) which is a little like a lighter, boozier version of horchata.
It’s the owners’ intention that everyone will find something they love at Esme, and that you can just as easily drop in for a pint and a burger as you could come here for a date night or bring your parents for weekend brunch. The restaurant is already proving a huge hit (there was an hour wait for a table on Friday night) and is a welcome addition to the existing array of great contemporary eateries currently flourishing at the north end of Greenpoint.
Get your stomach prepared by checking out our pics of some their signature dishes below:
Roasted Chicken with Buckwheat Waffles, Brussels Sprouts and Shallot Confit
Crispy Pork Belly with Apple, Red Cabbage and Mustard
Burger with Bacon and Blue Cheese on a Focaccia Roll with Green Tomato and Fries
‘Borscht Salad’ with Brussels Sprouts, Potato, Pickled Beets, Horseradish and Dill (paired with a Good Soldier cocktail)
Grapefruit Curd, Toasted Meringue and Sea Salt Caramel
Esme is at 999 Manhattan Avenue, Greenpoint.
Dinner is currently served 5pm-11pm Tuesday-Sunday.
In coming weeks they will extend opening hours to encompass a weekend brunch and a post-11pm bar menu.