Buttery Bar (152 Driggs Ave.) opened last October and quickly became a neighborhood favorite.
The name is a nod to the large cellars under monasteries where monks stored food and drink for passersby, and Buttery Bar is happy to carry on this tradition for hungry and thirsty Greenpointers.
With Executive Chef Tahiz Gonzalez at the helm, Buttery Bar continues to improve the food offered. When the eatery opened, the menu was very small, but Gonzalez is working with Buttery Bar owner, Katie Bruce, to create a more varied selection of elevated comfort food, peppered with Mexican influences.
Gonzalez spoke with Greenpointers about Buttery Bar’s new menu, plus her upbringing, how she achieved her dream of becoming a chef, and what she can tell other young women who share the same goal.
Greenpointers: Tell us a little bit about your upbringing in Mexico, and if you have always wanted to be a chef.
Chef Tahiz Gonzalez: I’ve always liked the kitchen, and I liked to be in there with my dad. When I was seven, I started helping him with the cooking. He was the one who loved to cook in my family. My dad was an engineer but was an excellent cook. He loved to make fried rice, and other things that were not even Mexican.
Years later, when I was in college in Mexico City, I was following my father’s path and studying engineering, but in the same building where I was studying, there was a Le Cordon Bleu. My university has a partnership with them, so in the same building with engineering labs, on a different floor, there were kitchens. I saw the chefs and smelled the food, and knew that was really what I wanted to do.
Greenpointers: After graduating from Le Cordon Blue, how did you make the dream of becoming a chef a reality?
Gonzalez: I started by working at Sud 777 in Mexico City, a restaurant that was named one of Latin America’s top 50 restaurants. Working there gave me a lot of experience.
Later, I worked at Quintonil, which is known as the second best restaurant in Mexico City, behind Pujol. Unfortunately, Pujol didn’t have openings.
There were no openings at Quintonil either, but the chef asked if I wanted to stay and work for the night there. And, after I worked that night, he offered me a job. He knew I really wanted it. The next year, Quintonil also made it to the same top 50 restaurant list.
Greenpointers: You were quickly able to work at not one, but two, top restaurants in Mexico City. What happened next?
Gonzalez: I had the chance to move to Florida, but not as a chef. I moved to a very small town with mostly chain restaurants. My college degree has a business component, so I was able to work as an administrator. But I was not doing what I love.
I decided that I really wanted to move to New York, and I made it happen. Upon arriving in New York, I had dinner at Eleven Madison Park. When I was having dinner there, I said to myself: I really want to work here.
I was working at The Nomad, and one of the chefs there wanted to go back to Eleven Madison Park and asked me to go with him. So I achieved my dream of working at Eleven Madison Park, but it was draining. I was working 70 hour weeks. When the pandemic came, I decided not to go back.
Greenpointers: Were you able to work during the pandemic?
Gonzalez: At the beginning of the pandemic, my fiancé and I made tacos. He’s a chef also and loves Mexican food. Every week we created a different taco. We rented a car and delivered tacos to people who ordered on Instagram and through friends.
Then, a friend reached out to me and said they are looking for an Executive Chef at a restaurant in Mamaroneck, New York. I brought my fiancé and three other guys who worked with me. We had a great team. But it was too much for Mamaroneck. It was difficult to get people to eat the food I wanted to make.
Luckily, I met Katie Bruce, the owner of Buttery Bar, and she told me about her vision.
Greenpointers: You and Katie have been working on a new menu for Buttery Bar. Tell us about it.
Gonzalez: Katie and I thought about the menu a lot. Buttery Bar has a cozy bar vibe. Because of this, we decided on a tapas-style menu, not in the Spanish sense, but with mostly small plates. This is the first time I am not doing fine dining, but it’s my food, and I get to decide what I want to make.
The menu is Mexican-inspired, but not necessarily Mexican. For example, if I create a hummus, there might be peppers in it.
I’ve been trying to do vegetarian dishes that do not leave people asking where the meat is. One example is a vegetarian take on a wedge salad called the Big Wedge. I want people to think of a Big Mac. When they opened the first McDonald’s in Mexico City, I was three and so excited. I always wanted to go, mostly for the Happy Meal. To me, these flavors are nostalgic.
I’m testing another new menu item, one of the few larger plates on the menu, based on Chinese orange chicken. But it will be monkfish instead of chicken. I want to introduce people to monkfish. It’s also about being sustainable and local.
Everything on the menu can be made gluten-free. It is currently mostly gluten-free already. I also do everything I can to get things locally and use produce that is in season.
Greenpointers: What is your favorite thing on the menu right now?
Gonzalez: I love the Gordita. My favorite street food in Mexico are gorditas. There, they are usually made with chicharrón. Here, I make them with shrimp or mushroom. In Mexico, the chicharrón is made in a pressed form, kind of like a terrine. So I press the shrimp in the same way. It’s the most Mexican thing on the menu.
I also love the Duck Fideo. In Spanish, fideo is another word for thin spaghetti. Here, I top it with duck confit and use mint-infused sour cream.
Greenpointers: When you are not making magic at Buttery Bar, what are your other favorite places to eat in Greenpoint?
I love going out to eat. It’s my favorite thing to do. Yesterday, I went to Roberta’s in Domino Park and had the Bee Sting. It matches everything I look for in flavor. Everything I had was good. As a chef, I love being able to say that they did everything perfectly.
Greenpointers: Do you have any tips for young women who want to break into the food industry?
Gonzalez: The most important thing is to believe in yourself. Believe that nothing is impossible. I can use the way that I went to Eleven Madison Park as an example. There was a moment when I said I wanted to work there, and I set my mind to it and did it.
It is also important to talk to other women in your preferred industry. There are a lot of places that don’t want women in the kitchen. I hate those kitchens where people are screaming. There was a place where the chef told me I couldn’t even smile. I want my kitchen to be different. I would love to mentor young women who want to be chefs.