Postcard from Brooklyn
In the 1970s, Brooklyn meant one thing and one thing only to this nascent foodie: a trip to Peter Luger’s Steakhouse with the family.
We would pile into the car and venture out, 25 miles away, to a far away world. We traveled Route 3 (cue The Sopranos’ opening credits) to the Lincoln Tunnel, until exiting at Bowery (at that time SROs, not hipsters, filled the Bowery Hotel, I might add….) through to Williamsburg at 178 Broadway. Dad would navigate the car into a dark space behind the restaurant (valet, ha!), and we would collectively set aside our fear of our surroundings, trading them in for our dreams the BEST Porterhouse Steak that I’ve ever had to this day.
Back then, Peter Luger’s signature Steak Sauce was the holy grail for some, however, in my family, we’re purists about our steak. NO CONDIMENTS at our table. Just the steak. Ok, that and a little potato.
Fast forward to Brooklyn 2012. A whole new Brooklyn awaited me as I visited my daughter, Anna, last weekend. A new generation made the pilgrimage from the Island of Manhattan to this gritty borough about a decade ago, and ever since then, an “indie” nest of neighborhood coffee shops and charming boutiques are set amongst old industrial buildings. It’s invigorating. Wind your way through these slowly gentrifying streets and make your first stop: Pies N’ Thighs, a homey little storefront, owned by a couple of Southern hipsters, where lunch is enjoyed set beside a cornucopia of donuts and pies. Yes, there’s tea, but only Sweet Tea. Brooklyn style.
Words that come to mind about today’s Brooklyn: local, handmade, mashup of old and new, highly urban, industrial, gritty, creative, neighborhood-y, authentic, local, and niche.
Not only food offerings but drink menus have too been “Brooklynized”. The Clover Club in Cobble Hill for instance, offers a cocktail called the Hocus Pocus which is a riff on a Manhattan featuring local Brooklyn Brine Co. Whiskey Sour Pickle Brine. Local Brooklyn craft beer also has its day.
The urban grit and independent defiance of having-it-your-own-Brooklyn- way is pretty much summed up by the current note on Peter Luger’s website: “The restaurant features a fully stocked bar. Don’t expect any microbrews or trendy drinks”. Some things never change, I still love Brooklyn, but like a great marriage…that love has changed. It’s deepened. But one thing is for sure now…this love is forever.
Here are some of my favorite haunts:
yummy collards, biscuits, hush puppies and thighs, of course. Hot sauce, yes!
The Meatball Shop
Simple and delicious, you guessed it, meatballs. My fave are classic beef and pork “naked” balls with tomato sauce. For those not making it to NY anytime soon, The Meatball Shop Meatball Cookbook will get you there, culinarily speaking.
Peter Luger’s Steak House
The Porterhouse still reigns supreme. NY’s favorite steakhouse (mine too) and a glorious star from the Michelin people!