We had dinner at Vinegar Hill House in Dumbo after the deinstallation of my exhibition at A.I.R. Gallery. I was thrilled to find this restaurant last year short after it opened when we were tooling around on our bicycles in the neighborhood. The decor is archly ramshackle hipster (mismatched tables and chairs, weird cabin like decorations, old ship parts, etc.), the noise level deafening and the wait sometimes very long, but the atmosphere is always relaxed and they also have two of my current restaurant meals in New York: Cast Iron Chicken and Red Wattle Country Chop. Wait staff here also adds to the ambience of the place, off handedly charming if a bit slow during busy hours. The garden in the backyard is a great place if you can snag a table early enough.
We always begin our meal there with an excellent cocktail (Rob Roy being Ben’s favorite, although a caveat is that sometimes it takes forever to get your drinks since there is only one bartender and there are often people three deep around the bar waiting for tables) and Shaved Market Salad. The salad changes seasonally and it is always a very interesting and fresh combination of vegetables and greens. Our version on Sunday’s dinner was Watermelon radish, sugar snap peas and pea shoots and feta cheese. The sweet crunch of radish mixed well with salty feta and almost grassy chewy pea shoots. As a main course, we debated between the chicken and the chop; Cast Iron Chicken is a half chicken roasted in individual cast iron skillet with some shallots and thyme, and it is one of the juiciest, the most flavorful chicken in any restaurants. In the end, we ordered the chop, a loin charred to crispiness outside and almost bloody rare inside, an unusual combination for pork, but almost addictively rich and clean tasting. We split the chop between the two of us since it is really way too big for one person. To round off the meal, we had a side order of homemade pickles (part of the current trend in Brooklyn of making the everyday humble food special by going artisanal), which was good, if somewhat over-priced. For desert, we had upside down rhubarb tart with ginger vanilla ice cream, which turned out to be more like an upside down cake. I am not a big fan of desert at Vinegar Hill House, but we enjoyed the flavor combination of rhubarb and ginger. We pushed our stomachs carrying some of my art works toward the subway entirely satisfied after an exhausting day.
VINEGAR HILL HOUSE, 72 Hudson Ave., Brooklyn, NY, 718.522.1018