Soul Food Arrives on Bedford Avenue: A Review of Sweet Chick

BY BETH KAISERMAN

Sweet Chick
164 Bedford Ave.
Williamsburg, Brooklyn
(347) 725-4793 / sweetchicknyc.com/

 

Fried Chicken at Sweet Chick

Fried Chicken at Sweet Chick

Collard Greens and Fried Chicken at Sweet Chick

Collard Greens and Fried Chicken at Sweet Chick

I was thirsty, nauseous and I wanted gum immediately after.

I foraged through a bucket of chicken at Sweet Chick, the new soul food hotspot on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg. An actual bucket, not in my living room in front of the TV, but in an actual restaurant.

When in Williamsburg, I’d rather trek to the smaller streets than hang on big bad Bedford Avenue. Sweet Chick is literally steps from the L train, not enough distance for me to enjoy being in Williamsburg.

The restaurant has been busy since it opened February 19. They’re even adding a late-night (12am-2am) menu, beginning this weekend, to accommodate the demand.

Not to sound like an old lady (which happens often), but the place was so dark I could barely see the food I was eating. I asked our server afterward what was in the slaw. It was collard greens, but it was so overly dressed I could barely taste anything. I would have loved some braised collard greens, and that’s something they could easily have cooked or partially cooked in advance, versus slopping some slaw into a bowl. It was overwhelming.

If you want fried chicken, you can get two pieces of chicken with your choice of waffle for $16, or opt for a bucket with the slaw and a biscuit for $17. That’s a pretty pricy bucket of chicken. I wish they had served a plate alongside to make eating it easier, but I was excited to dig in. The highlight of the meal was the chicken wing. They braise the chicken in sweet tea to give it moisture. That wing was insane! The white meat was fine, but not as moist as others (Pies ‘n’ Thighs is still a showstopper.) Also, some bites had more of a spicy kick than others. Hopefully, the chefs will work out a consistent flavor profile.

The cornbread was not crispy on the outside, and not warm. It tasted like what you grab in plastic wrap from the grocery store or deli.

The biscuit was bland, not anything close to the decadent softness I wish it had. It was hard to finish. Also it’s not served with condiments, but I used some of my friend’s butter (three different butters, actually) that came with her waffle. Still not enthused.

Some of their specials included general tso’s fried chicken with a rice broccoli waffle. A nice touch for the veg crowd, they have fried seitan as well. It wasn’t bad, though a bit soggy, the skin not as crisp as on the fried chicken.

The cocktail I had was tasty: the Sweet Chick, with house-infused watermelon vodka and a spicy brown sugar rim. They use Bootlegger vodka, produced in Roscoe, New York, for this one. Still, all of the cocktails were at least $11, a bit much to charge just because local artisan ingredients are used. (Another one has Jack Daniel’s Honey and soda from Brooklyn Soda Works.) Also, fruit-infused vodka is not hard to make.

The place is cute, with waffle pans on the walls in some spots. I think I’d be more into it if it had a more Southern feel; it still looks very Brooklyn. I hope the food gets better and cheaper; the late-night menu might be the way to go.

Now enough chirping from me, go try Sweet Chick for yourselves.

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Serving Locally Sourced World Cuisine with a Side of Neighborhood Vintage – Review of Trix

BY ELENA MANCINI

147 Bedford Avenue
Williamsburg, Brooklyn
http://www.trixnyc.com/

A stone’s toss away from the bustle and human bottle-necking of the Bedford and North 7th L train subway stop stands Trix, an original restaurant that pays  tribute to the vestigial industrial character of Williamsburg’s Northside.

Trix - Art

With original artwork that melds garage with lyrical, encompassing portraiture, industrial scultptures and craftsmanship by Minneapolis-based artist, James Johnson, Trix exudes unforced bohemian appeal. The aesthetic concept behind Trix is the result of  restaurateur, Veso Buntic (also owner of Anabale Basin in Long Island City) and Johnson’s close collaboration. A venture that began in 2011, both artist and entrepreneur wanted to incorporate visual artifacts that would evoke the restaurant’s previous occupant and a nod the the Williamsburg of a grittier era. Belinda’s Go-Go Lounge inhabited the site until 1987.  Belinda’s occupied the space until 1987, and is memorialized with stained-glass lettering on Trix’s storefront and tasteful portraiture in the restaurant’s interior.  

Trix -Bar Detail

 

Trix-Onyx Bar

Trix

As to the interior, sheets of gray metal span the length and breadth of the ceiling. Flamingo mosaics adorn the base of a sumptuously sculptured bar. A wave like structure in pewter forms the base and 100 year old lit alabaster spans the bar top. With arachnid sculptures hanging from the walls, the expansive bar weds Goth with Miami deco. If the visual effects of the bar will draw you in, Trix’s winning speakeasy-style cocktail list designed by  Dusan Zaric of Manhattan’s Employee’s Only and an eclectic wine list definitely want to make you stay a while.  The Amelia cocktail prepared with fresh blackberry juice, elderflower and vodka is a wonderfully smooth way to downshift after a long day at work or to spark a night out. For a more warming pick-up, opt for the Peach Smash, made with Makers Mark and Creme de Peche with lemon juice. Most cocktails are under $15 and closer to $10. They can be had at a discounted price in addition to $3 beers and $5 select wines during Trix’s  Monday – Friday (4-8) happy hour. $1 oysters with a complexly fiery harissa sauce complete this happy hour bonanza.

Pescetarians and seafood lovers will find themselves cheerfully rewarded with a locally-sourced French-inspired menu with global influences executed by Chef Ian Pasquer. However, the offerings hold ample selections for the meat-and-poultry-oriented as well. A great deal of Trix’s  fish and seafood is sourced by D’Artagnan in Manhattan. Small plates range from $6-$12. Entrees range from the low 20s to $25. Desserts are under $10.

Trix-3

Honey-tenderized grilled octopus salad was an enjoyable small plate. Optimally-charred and supremely tender, the octopus rested atop a bed of aged  balsamic dressed watercress making it a highly recommendable starter-choice. Mushroom polenta is a grounding and tasty vegetarian alternative. Perfectly crisp and delicate wedges of polenta are perched atop a bed of cremini mushrooms in a white wine reduction. Shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano tie the flavors and textures together.

Trix2

A felicitous adaptation of escargot was Chef Pasquer’s appetizer, Stuffed Icy-Blue  Mussels with Almond Escargot Butter. The fulsome and yielding mussels were deliciously stuffed with breadcrumbs and Mediterranean herbs in a piping hot Almond Butter sauce making a dish worthy of standing on its own and not in the shadow of its conch-housed cousin.

Scallops and foie gras delivered their own distinct flavor rewards. The scallops, soft as clouds furnished the unmediated flavors of the sea. The foie gras was predictably rich, but had an added dimension of tang that deepened its earthy flavors.

Seared yellowfin tuna came perfectly rare with a side of anchovy caper salad.

Chocolate suicide was a flourless decadently creamy triumph by Chef Pasquer, who is also Trix’s pastry chef.

Polite and knowledgeable service, expertly executed quality ingredients and moderate tabs make Trix a fun, low-key restaurant with flavor rewards, and a trip on the overly-congested L line well worthwhile.

 

Trix on Urbanspoon

Home of Manhattan’s Best Banh Mi Sandwich – Review of Sao Mai

BY ELENA MANCINI

203 First Ave.
East Village
(212) 358-8880 / Sao Mai 

East of the East Village bustle and trendiness, this family-run East Village Vietnamese restaurant serves traditional Vietnamese fare and the best Banh Mi Sandwiches on the Manhattan side of the East River.

Vegetarian Bahn Mi

Available in six varieties including pho, sliced pork, grilled chicken and vegetarian, these sandwiches make a quick, nutritious, flavor-packed meal that’s easy on the wallet (priced between $6-$7). The Bahn Mi are prepared on baguettes are consistently fresh and crusty with a soft and chewy middle. Independent of the filling you choose, the kitchen always strikes the right balance between bread and ingredients. Their vegetarian Bahn Mi is among my favorite comfort-food lunches. Prepared on two warm halves of choice baguette, they’re stuffed with toothsome strands of sauteed bok choy, straw mushrooms, seedless cucumbers, shredded carrot and abundant swaths of cilantro, the sandwiches and seasoned with lemongrass,  sriracha mayonnaise, that provides a subtle and reverberating pitch of complex heat. In sum, it’s a light, filling lunch that delivers high-flavor rewards.

Pho’ Sao Mai

Front: Summer Rolls; Far: Spring Rolls

Lest one think Sao Mi is just about Bahn Mi, flavor mavens and fans of traditional Vietnamese fare will find other  sections of its menu will prove well worth exploring. The Pho Sao Mai will not disappoint. A flavorful broth, rich in tender strips of brisket, sprouts, rice noodles and a medley of herbs will consistently hit the spot. Adding appeal to  Sao Mi’s attractions is its steal of a lunch menu, which includes the choice of an appetizer, entree and a soft drink, all for $10. Sweetening things further,  both the Bahn Mi and the Pho are included in this deal!

Ga Gary – Chicken Curry

With a wide variety of vegetarian options on its menu, Sao Mai is also a smart choice for a low-key dinner that guarantees value, quality and flavor. Pity that wait staff has not yet mastered the walk-in dinner crowd on weekends. During these times, the  friendly service  can turn into a source of frustration for those who do not suffer extended waits and uneven food delivery times lightly.

Sao Mai on Urbanspoon

A Sliver of Naples – Review of Forcella’s Pizza di Napoli

BY DARA POLLAK

Forcella
485 Lorimer St
Williamsburg, Brooklyn
718-388-8820 / http://forcellaeatery.com/

Manhattan Location: 334 Bowery, Nolita – NYC

Forcella Interior

After my visit to Italy some years ago, I fell in love with Neopolitan-style pizza: thin crust, slightly blackened on the bottom from the hot brick oven, and topped with fresh ingredients like mozzarella, pesto, tomatoes, basil, truffles…I could go on. So when I heard about Neapolitan pizza spot Forcella making a debut in Williamsburg, I had to drop in for a bite…or two…

The space is small and cozy, the waitstaff all have Italian accents, and you can watch the pizzas being flipped around in the big open kitchen. It reminded me of a place I would actually go to in Italy – and just as I was thinking that, a group of Italian men sat down next to us and were discussing the menu boisterously with the waiter in Italian. Our questions for the waiter were a little less loud and in English, but we found out that each pie is about 9-10 inches, and the crust is incredibly thin, so you can easily order one per person (which is what we did and finished every last bite).

Pizza Margherita @Forcella

The first pie we tried was the traditional Margherita (homemade mozzarella, tomato sauce, basil, $11) and the crust is so thin that the weight of half an olive would make it flop mercilessly in surrender. This is not to say that it doesn’t taste good, but I think the crust should have a little more resilience. Though for such a thin crust, the edges are surprisingly puffy and doughy, which is a fantastic contradiction and in my opinion, pretty tasty.

Pizza Montanara @Forcella

The Montanara pie is one of their specialties, and for $10 it might just be the best bet; deep-fried pizza dough is topped with tomato sauce, cheese, and basil. This pie doesn’t look all that different from the others, but upon your first bite, you can taste the difference. The dough has a slightly crunchier exterior, similar to that of a zeppole, and is a little bit greasier on the lips. It’s really good and it’s not as out-there as it sounds – we were envisioning an entire pie covered in batter and deep fried a la Chip Shop. Guess they don’t do that in Naples?

 

Pizza San Gregorio @Forcella

Our last pie was the San Gregorio, one of their white pizzas (or pizze bianche, $15), which was mozzarella, pesto, truffle, and tomato. I love pizza with truffles or truffle oil, so I was mildly disappointed with this one. The truffle was barely noticeable, and if you have had truffles before, you know them when you smell them or taste them. The pizza was also divided into two sides, which I thought was strange, one side had the pesto, the other had the tomatoes. Where was the truffle though? I only got a light hint of it on the tomato side – if you’re going to charge $15 for a pie, make sure there are truffles on it. The pesto side was better anyway, even with the absence of truffles – the balance of flavors was perfectly salty and nutty.

Pizza alla Nutella @Forcella

I am rarely able to turn down dessert, especially when that dessert involves Nutella, the ooey, gooey, chocolatey hazelnut spread. Naturally, they have a Nutella pie for dessert (Angioletti  Alla Nutella, $6), which is actually two deep fried pies sandwiched together with Nutella in the middle and powdered sugar on top, making it like a crunchy, doughy crepe. I have nothing technically “bad” to say about this one, mainly because you could put Nutella on cardboard and it would taste good, but the execution was kind of lazy. Maybe some will think they get points for simplicity, but it needed something else. Would I eat Forcella’s Nutella pie again? Sure. Would I be super excited about it? Probably not because it was boring.

If you’re in the mood for a lighter, thin crust pizza with really fresh ingredients, Forcella won’t let you down. If greasy, sloppy, New York style pizza is more your speed, I would take the train back to Manhattan and get to a Ray’s, asap.

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A Tribute to Bukowski: Review of Post Office

BY MICHELLE WAHLERS

Post Office
188 Havemeyer Street

Williamsburg
718-963-2574 / postofficebk.com/
Photo by Michelle Wahlers

The calendar boasts it is spring, but I would argue otherwise.  I decided to use the chilly weather as an excuse to try Post Office, a whiskey bar located under the Williamsburg Bridge. I met friends and got a table in the middle of the dimly lit, narrow bar. The bartender was willing to help an amateur (me) with the very extensive whiskey, Bourbon and rye list. I decided on the Buffalo Trace on the rocks, and my boyfriend got the Kentucky Vintage, neat. The Buffalo Trace was smooth and had “butterscotchy” tones. The Kentucky Vintage knocked me off my feet and put some hair on my chest with it’s musky, smoky flavor. I preferred the former. The other two guests with us both got Manhattans which were mahogany colored and garnished with a single cherry.


The Post Office’s decor is lovely, vintage and very personal. Above us hung a chandelier, each bulb burning soft. On the tables were candles, which had the habit of blowing out when we moved in to talk to each other. The music playing was a complete throwback, think Buddy Holly and Bobby Darin. The wallpaper was the Eagle Insignia, but I like to think that the true mascot for the place is Charles Bukowksi, whose portrait was hanging above the bar. As a fan girl, I was thrilled.

The menu was scarce, but we all knew what we were getting into. The place is a bar first and this becomes blatantly obvious when you realize the kitchen is about the size of a broom closet and that you can see right into it. I always marvel at kitchens that are so exposed to the public, confidence must run deep. We ordered oysters, deviled eggs, the pickle plate, a grilled cheese with bacon, the pulled pork sandwich and the last filet mignon. (Essentially the entire menu.) As soon as our waiter told me there was only one left I made it a point to reserve it. The food did not arrive promptly, but the service was always assuring us of its whereabouts and re-filling drinks. This is not a place to go for a quick bite, but it never presents itself as such. It promotes leisure and contemplation.

Of all the food we ordered, I have to say the deviled eggs were my favorite. That doesn’t even seem fair when steak is in the equation, but like I said this place is a bar that happens to serve food, not the other way around. Also I have an affinity to deviled eggs and these were made damn near perfectly.  The pickle plate was a fun way to begin the meal, with pickled peaches, beets, mushrooms, blackberries and peppers. (Trust me, somehow this all works together.) The filet mignon was rare but a bit too tough, but the bed of mashed potatoes it was lying on was delicious, swimming in bacon gravy. The grilled cheese was cooked perfectly; the bacon to cheese ration was 50:50 (which to me, is perfect!). The pulled pork sandwich was packed with freshly made coleslaw and thinly shredded pork on a dark toasted bun.

When our plates were cleared and we were warm and full, the place seemed to be gaining real momentum.  A small line formed (no doubt waiting for our table), and we started heading out, although I could have stayed for much longer. The mood was kind and calm, but with a healthy appreciation for the devious, as the portrait above the bar would suggest.

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Where the salty sea air is only a bite away – Review of Walter Foods

BY BETH KAISERMAN

Walter Foods
253 Grand St.
Williamsburg
(718) 387-8783 / walterfoods.com

There once was a  man selling lobster rolls through his door slot in Greenpoint. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it over to Dr. Claw’s place before the city shut down his operation in August.

Walter Foods

Lobster roll at Walter Foods

I finally got my paws on my very first lobster roll in a completely different way — a $24 lunch at Walter Foods in Williamsburg. In a nautical-themed setting, I enjoyed an indulgent seafood sandwich on a wintry Wednesday afternoon.

Servers clad in white shirts and bow ties serve up oysters, steak and other American fare at a place that feels very un-Williamsburg. Walter Foods is decorated like an old-school parlor, but it’s still laid-back enough to stand its ground in Williamsburg. The place also features classic cocktails crafted carefully behind a beautiful bar.

Since they specialize in seafood, I figured it was the perfect time to seize the day and indulge in a lobster roll — an obvious stepping stone in any seafood lover’s life.

The presentation was mouth-watering; I already felt closer to the sea just at the sight of it. But it took a few bites to adjust to this new experience. The Old Bay seasoning was a bit much for me; I’d rather taste the lobster more than the seasoning — especially if I’m shelling out $24 for it. The deliciously crunchy pickle served on the side definitely complemented the sandwich well. The just-salty-enough fries were like a classed-up version of McDonald’s. Though I liked them, there were way more than enough.

It was a nice breath of fresh air (or, salty sea air) having a savory summery sandwich on a cold February day. But I think I’ll be more impressed enjoying one by a beach somewhere this summer. A road trip to New England may need to happen, but in the meantime I’d like to sink my teeth into some chops next time I’m at Walter Foods. The place certainly seems promising.

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Clucking its way into hungry hearts: Review of Pies-n-Thighs

BY BETH KAISERMAN

Pies-n-Thighs
166 S. 4
th St. at Driggs Ave.
Southside Williamsburg
347-529-6090/
piesnthighs.com

As my knife sank in, I could hear the juice flowing inside. The meat was perfectly tender, moist and flavorful, and the coating had the ideal crispy, slightly salty bite. Yes, this is the fried chicken from Pies-n-Thighs, which opened its new 60-seat location this week in Williamsburg.

Fried Chicken and Creamy Mac and Cheese - Photo by Beth Kaiserman

Fried Chicken and Creamy Mac and Cheese - Photo by Beth Kaiserman

I paid $11.98 for a plate piled with three huge hunks of juicy fried chicken and a heap of creamy mac and cheese with a shot of hot sauce on top. Hard-earned dollars were well-spent on this truly amazing  Southern-style fare (so Southern that the operation was shut down in January 2008 for having a pork smoker that’s illegal in New York.)

This chicken is crispy fried heaven. [Read more...]

Blissful Sunday brunch: A Review of Bliss Cafe’

Blissful Sunday brunch: A Review of Bliss Cafe

BY BETH KAISERMAN

Bliss Café
191 Bedford Ave.
Williamsburg
718-599-2547

Lazy Williamsburg mornings are the best – especially because there are so many great little stops for a laid-back breakfast.

Bliss French Toast - Photo by Beth Kaiserman

French Toast at Bliss Cafe' - Photo by Beth Kaiserman

To accommodate my vegetarian houseguest, who had an irritating confrontation with bacon-laced French toast the previous evening, I suggested Bliss Café, 191 Bedford Ave., for brunch on Sunday. The café is all vegetarian and vegan. [Read more...]

Blissful Sunday brunch: A Review of Bliss Cafe'

Blissful Sunday brunch: A Review of Bliss Cafe

BY BETH KAISERMAN

Bliss Café
191 Bedford Ave.
Williamsburg
718-599-2547

Lazy Williamsburg mornings are the best – especially because there are so many great little stops for a laid-back breakfast.

Bliss French Toast - Photo by Beth Kaiserman

French Toast at Bliss Cafe' - Photo by Beth Kaiserman

To accommodate my vegetarian houseguest, who had an irritating confrontation with bacon-laced French toast the previous evening, I suggested Bliss Café, 191 Bedford Ave., for brunch on Sunday. The café is all vegetarian and vegan. [Read more...]

Still reelin’ ‘em in – A Review of Lazy Catfish

Still reelin’ ‘em in – A review of Lazy Catfish

BY CAROLYN ONOFREY

Lazy Catfish
593 Lorimer Street
718-599-9055
Williamsburg

I first went to the Lazy Catfish about two years ago when a friend of mine got a bartending gig there.  The first time I went he insisted that I try the food; always up for a new culinary adventure, I tried the food and was instantly hooked.

My friend no longer works at the Lazy Catfish, but every so often I make the trip.  In this instance, a friend of mine had just moved to the area and I thought that he might enjoy the free cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon that are offered on Tuesday nights between 8:30 and 10:00.  It was also a good excuse to order up my favorite chicken club in the city.

Chicken club sandwich at Lazy Catfish in Williamsburg

Chicken club sandwich at Lazy Catfish in Williamsburg

The Lazy Catfish is a rather non-descript bar in a pretty quiet neighborhood.  There is a sign hanging over the red awing with “Lazy Catfish” on it in a hard-to-read font and can be easy to pass if you’re not sure what you’re looking for.  The main bar area when you first walk in is decorated in worn red velvet.  [Read more...]