Eclectic, Expensive-ish, Comfort Food at Hail Mary
If you’re going to Hail Mary (68 Greenpoint Ave), a new diner-like restaurant with an open and homey air befitting of Greenpoint, it’s best to take a crowd and some extra money.
The ambience is cozy, quaint and nostalgic—made for a group of friends or family. The busy, patterned wallpaper, upholstery and bits of Americana transport you back to an earlier era, while the dim lamp lighting, antique-style tables and open kitchen in the back room reflect more typical Brooklyn design trends. There’s some old school rap music playing lightly in the background. And you will meet the husband and wife co-owners and co-chefs, Sohla and Ham El- Waylly, who come out humbly and unannounced to serve you, offer menu recommendations and explain what’s on the plate.
The pair, who met at the CIA, say working together is “most of the times awesome, sometimes not so much . . . kind of like doing anything together as husband and wife.” In terms of their style and process they describe themselves as complete opposites. Sohla likes to “figure out all the details in my head and spend a lot of time conceptualizing” whereas Ham is more “spur of the moment . . . many times not knowing what the exact end result will be.”
The menu is nontraditional and eclectic. The “nibbles” section includes options such as grilled duck hearts in a green sauce, chicken fried waygu beef tongue and charred squid. For $9 per person you can get hors d’oeuvres plate, a daily chef’s selection of five little bites, which during our visit included stuffed radishes with French onion dip, shrimp toast, pork belly with plum, corn dogs and lamb with peppers. The breadth of the chefs’ imagination for taste and ingredient combinations is clearly evident, though the wide range can be overwhelming.
The entrees are also unusual. The two highlights are Porky’s Panchito, a Bolivian-style hot dog, and the Grilled Ribeye. The hot dog comes with all the fixins, including corn salsa, frizzled onions and avocado. The ribeye, a chef’s recommendation, is served with tasty gravy, spring vegetables, perfectly plump fresh peas, and whipped potatoes so cheesy they are served tableside from the pot and layered on the plate like thick custard. The dessert options include many different ice cream flavors or the homemade mile high funfetti cake – a monstrous slice that tastes so much richer and smoother than your typical Pillsbury’s bake mix. The icing is not too sweet and the right amount of creamy and dreamy.
The overall cost is a little more than your typical diner fare with entrées for $9–$25, salads and appetizers at $12–$19 and desserts at $5–$13.
As the co-owners chef will tell you, this place is a long shot. They selected Greenpoint because it is “the last true neighborhood left in New York,” but note that their restaurant is “the opposite of what’s happening in the current restaurant scene . . . . [and] we’re doing this on our own, without investors, so we have everything to lose. It’s our Hail Mary pass.”
Hail Mary is located at 68 Greenpoint Avenue, between Franklin and West.