Parish Hall seems a little out of place in the hipster haven that is Williamsburg. With a really sleek, modern décor, it’s a departure from the cozy, rustic setting I’ve come to expect from similar restaurants. The stripped-down setting doesn’t seem to pair well with the food either, which has a warmth to it that the ambiance lacks. For this visit, I sampled the snacks and sandwiches, all of which were pretty affordable and really tasty. While there are a number of entrees to choose from, Parish Hall is a great place to go for some shared bites. Most specifically, the bread that is in a number of the snack options is really fresh and fantastic. I don’t know that I’d say anything super extraordinary is coming out of the kitchen here, but I sampled a solid, enjoyable selection of starters.
Beef Fat Beignet: These were delicious. They were warm and salty and just melted in your mouth – overall great texture and flavor.
Bread and Butters: This was toasted bread with three different Ronnybrook butters: country ham butter, goat butter and regular unsalted butter. I love the idea of making something as simple as bread and butter more interesting by offering up a selection of unique butter options. The goat butter was definitely the best with a rich, salty flavor. The regular Ronnybrook butter was great too. I didn’t really care for the country ham butter, which had an intense smoky flavor, but it was interesting to give it a try. I think I now know that I don’t want ham flavor in my butter though. Regardless, I think this is a nice shared starter.
Squash Toast: Two large pieces of toast covered in a squash spread with goat cheese and walnuts. The bread used here and with the bread and butters platter was really fresh and delicious. I liked the subtle sweet flavor of the squash with the salty goat cheese and the crunchy walnuts. It was a nice flavor and texture combination. Though I definitely could have been interested in a little more goat cheese on top.
Patty Melt: A grass-fed beef patty with lamb bacon, Landaff cheese and grilled onions on toasted rye bread with fries or a salad. I couldn’t find specific strips of bacon on the sandwich, so I think the lamb bacon may have been added to the beef patty, which would make sense because it had a strong smoky flavor. The bread again here was really fresh, and the cheese was a nice complement to the smoky patty. The side sauce, though, which was a form of Russian dressing, had a smokiness to it that was too similar in flavor to the patty itself. I would have liked for the sauce to act as a more cooling, contrasting element. Nevertheless this was a unique patty melt that I ultimately really enjoyed. The side salad too, though simple, had a great fresh, flavor.
Fingerling potatoes: The potatoes were great and I loved the radicchio and kale pesto that the potatoes were in. This was a great accompaniment to the petty melt.
Vegetables and dumplings: This was described as a dish with squash, carrot, rutabaga, cheese broth and dumplings. Before even trying the dish, it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. I was hoping for more of a broth with an actual cheese flavor, which was not the case at all. There was a small broth lining the bottom of the bowl and a cheese flavor was nowhere to be found. The dumplings themselves were interesting; they reminded me a lot in flavor of vegetable kugel. I didn’t totally hate them, but at the same time, the dish was barely touched by the end of the meal. It was also difficult to discern which vegetables were which – I didn’t taste the soft, sweet flavor of squash and carrot. The vegetables were just a crunchy, flavorless mess. Skip this and eat everything else!
Parish Hall: 109 N 3rd St Brooklyn, NY ($$-$$$)
The Food Freaks, created by food freaks Stephen Cusato, Dave Cusato and John Coppola, is a specialty grilled cheese truck located primarily in Fort Greene. They are working on being in Central Park full time, and they just recently opened at the Gourmet Guild in Williamsburg. But don’t let the distance, if you don’t live in Brooklyn, keep you from taking a trip to the truck. These grilled cheeses are worth it. Plus if you live or work downtown it is a very brief “hop, skip and a jump” on the 2/3 line to Fort Greene for lunch or dinner.
I generally have found that when I eat a specialty grilled cheese that contains meat or other heavier ingredients, I’m often concerned that the sandwich will lose its grilled cheese status and become simply a sandwich that just happens to have cheese on it. All three Food Freaks sandwiches that I tried successfully maintained a necessary level of cheesiness, and in fact my favorite of the three was the Short Rib. I think that says a lot about what they’re doing here. The bread they use comes from Orwasher’s Bakery located at E 78th Street, and this bread is top notch. When you use a lot of ingredients in a grilled cheese, you want the bread to be firm and crispy (which it is) so the sandwich doesn’t turn into a mess. Aside from the bread being great, I was watching Stephen Cusato make the sandwiches, and I thought it was rather key that he was spreading what I thought was a layer of butter on each flip to get it to a perfectly golden, crispy grilled outside (it was apparently mayo… now you know the trick). I think it’s hard to take something as simple as a grilled cheese, which someone can easily make at home, and elevate it in a way that people go out of their way to return. But I think The Food Freaks have really found a great formula for making inventive, artisanal grilled cheeses that really are memorable in terms of flavors and ingredients.
3 Cheese: I figured I had to try a more traditional sandwich. This three cheese came with fontinella, gruyere, and aged gouda on potato Pullman with a tomato soup dip on the side. What I liked most about this was the side of tomato soup. It really added a nice kick to an otherwise standard grilled cheese. I also added jalapenos to the mix because I like things spicy, which was definitely the way to go. The spiciness of the jalapenos, with the flavors from the tomato soup made for a perfect combination.
Short Rib: This sandwich consists of short rib, gruyere, pickled red onions, blackberry jam, and watercress on sourdough and is the grilled cheese that makes you go out of your way to go to Brooklyn. The combination of flavors here will absolutely make your taste buds “freak out” in a good way. I almost feel like this grilled cheese can best be described as a party in your mouth! There is a sweetness between the blackberry jam and the short rib braise that really complements the pickled red onions, and the salty, cheesiness of the gruyere brings it all together. The crispy sourdough in terms of texture and flavor was the perfect choice of bread for this sandwich. Make sure to order this one. So good!
Fort Greene: Another great grilled cheese choice, this one consists of fontinella, bacon, avocado and cilantro sauce on sourdough. Just look at that cheese oozing out. This sandwich really leaves you satisfied. The avocado chunks are large, the bacon is crispy and smokey and that cilantro sauce again brings it all together. It’s very clear that every ingredient in these grilled cheeses are really thought out, making for a truly thoughtful and full flavored grilled cheese experience.
Crispy Fried Brussels Sprouts: These are some of the best fried brussels sprouts around. They are simply fried and well salted, but the key here is the agave which adds a really nice, subtle sweetness.
Watermelon Juice: This was very tasty and refreshing and not too sweet. I think it was simply watermelon, mint and maybe one other flavor. It’s definitely worth getting one of these.
If you want to know more, check out their video, which further showcases the cart: http://www.foodfreaks.com/
The Food Freaks: Fort Greene Park at Dekalb Ave & South Portland Brooklyn, NY ($)
When I first walked into Mable’s Smokehouse I thought I was really going to like this place. Looking in from the entrance, you’ve got the bar to your left and the kitchen to your right and a spacious dining hall in between. The décor is both incredibly appropriate for a down-home barbecue locale, while also seeming like it completely fits right into Williamsburg. The menu is simple and offers up exactly what you would want and expect from a new local barbecue place; nevertheless, I have to say that that’s where the praise for this place ends. The food wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t memorable. I didn’t eat anything that made me want to return and keep on returning for more.
For $27.95 you get a choice of 3 meats, 3 sides, slaw, pickles, jalapenos, sliced onion and Wonder Bread. My friend and I split this platter between the two of us and we got the pulled pork, the beef brisket, and the St. Louis ribs with creamy mac n’ cheese, candied yams and borracho beans.
Call me a pig, but my first complaint is that I feel like the portion size on this deluxe platter is a bit small. I go to a place in Blauvelt, NY called Bailey’s Smokehouse that has a similar menu offering but double the food at the same price (I highly recommend Bailey’s by the way, but that’s a review for another day). I also really hate when barbecue is served dry with the sauce on the side. At Mable’s they give you a small cup of barbecue sauce that I thought had a nice tang to it, but when you don’t cook the meat in the sauce, you can still taste that the there is a textural and flavor disconnect. If you’re only going to offer up one barbecue flavor option anyway, you might as well own that flavor by cooking the meat in that sauce. On top of that, a small cup of barbecue sauce for two people is just not enough, at least leave bottles of the stuff on the table for full application.
With that said, the meat itself was fairly good. I thought the St. Louis ribs were the best. They came with the sauce rubbed on and had the right amount of sauce too. Some places over sauce the ribs, which prevents you from enjoying the meat. That doesn’t happen here. As for the brisket, I would have liked it to be doused in the barbeque sauce as mentioned above. It did, however, have a nice texture and flavor because the meat was on the fatty side, but without being cooked in the sauce it was just lacking something. The pulled pork was the weakest of the three and also lacked sauce. It was good, but I’ve just had so much better!
Of the sides, the mac ‘n’ cheese was my favorite. It was really simple and creamy and I wish there had been more. The borracho beans had a nice spicy flavoring, similar to a chili. Though I did like them, I really just wished there was more mac ‘n’ cheese. The same feeling went for the candied yams. There were four large pieces of yam, with a really sweet buttery flavor, and after eating one I just felt like I had had enough.
Mable’s Smokehouse and Banquet Hall: 44 Berry Street Brooklyn, NY (Williamsburg) ($$)
**Regular Go To**
The first time I ever went to The Lovin Cup was on a date, and while that didn’t lead to anything, it did mark the beginning of my serious love for this little Brooklyn hole-in-the-wall. Though the menu is limited to six brunch entrees, the options are exactly what you would want out of a breakfast menu, and you can’t beat the prices. Each dish is between $8-$10 on its own and comes with a fair amount of food. The Lovin Cup also has one of the best drunk brunch deals that I’ve come across. For $15 you can get any entrée and up to three drinks. I’ve only had the mimosas, but they’re good! With prices like this and consistently delicious breakfast food, The Lovin Cup has become one of my regular go to brunch places in Williamsburg.
Here is a photo of the menu so you can see all the options and because I’m also in love with the design.
Sweet Jane Scramble: This is the dish that I keep coming back for every time. They use organic eggs scrambled with sharp cheddar, caramelized onions, broccoli and sautéed red peppers (I break the critic rule here and usually ask for no red peppers… in my defense, I had a long day ahead of me in this most recent visit and peppers usually just give me some bad heart burn). The scramble comes with sourdough toast and tots. You can add guacamole for $2 and bacon for $3 and I of course get both. There is nothing that I like better than mixing Mexican food with breakfast and this guacamole has a great lime flavor with the perfect amount of chunk. It’s exactly the combination I’m looking for at brunch. The bacon is juicy and crispy, the sourdough is standard but delicious and the tots are some of the best around. I don’t normally like tots. I know some people will yell at me, but I hated them as a kid and I usually just feel like it’s the worst way to eat a fried potato, but these tots are different with a perfect crisp on the outside. As you can see, I’m clearly a fan of the Sweet Jane Scramble, so get it!
Hot Lovin Rancheros: This dish is composed of two organic eggs with melted jack cheese over black beans, avocado, jalapenos and ranchero sauce over a corn tortilla. A dish that really blends Mexican food with breakfast, I thought this was pretty standard. My only complaint here is I felt like it was lacking some heat. With a little hot sauce though, supplied on the table, this dish is a good huevos rancheros.
Pancakes: I haven’t tried them, but my friend ordered them and they looked pretty good. Here’s a visual.
Coffee: The coffee is good.
Next Time: I need to come at some point and try the night menu. I’m very intrigued by The Goddess Sandwich and The Big Terrific.
The Lovin Cup: 93 N 6th Street, Brooklyn, NY
Smorgasburg is a foodie’s dream. It takes place every Saturday at the Williamsburg waterfront and includes on average 20 farmers, packaged and prepared foods, purveyors from the area, and other food-related vendors. I was mainly there to check out the food and drink prepared on the premises, but I did a full circle and made sure to hit up every booth. My only complaint about Smorgasburg is that it is a bit overwhelming; I wasn’t sure where to start and I wasn’t sure who was there. I wanted to come up with a food attack plan! So my only request is that there be a board or maybe a piece of paper to provide a little direction and a run-down of the day’s participating vendors. With that said, I would say that Smorgasburg is perfect – perfect in theory and (practically) perfect in actuality. The products are inventive, fresh, varied and just all around delicious, and you’re not going to go broke trying to have a little of everything! As much as I sometimes hate to admit it, this is exactly why I love Williamsburg; it has the demographic and community to support something as great as this!
Everything we ordered was about $3-$6
Sparkling Jalapeño Lemonade and Sparkling Strawberry Lavender Mojito ($3 each): I’m obsessed with anything jalapeño right now and this lemonade did not disappoint. It was really refreshing with a nice bite to it! My friend (pictured above) had the strawberry lavender mojito, which she was a fan of too!
Grapefruit and Basil Soda from Brooklyn Soda Works: This might be one of the best (non-alcoholic) drinks I’ve ever had! Obviously you have to like grapefruit and basil, but if you do this is an amazing combination. If you get one drink while you’re at Smorgasburg, Brooklyn Soda Works is the place to stop!
Grilled Bacon Skewer from Landhaus ($2): So simple and yet so fucking delicious! Yes, an expletive is required for describing how awesome this piece of bacon is. Cooked in maple syrup and pimenton, this is the thickest, juiciest, most flavorful slab of bacon I’ve ever eaten. The fat just melted in your mouth. My friend and I both agreed it was the best thing we tried all day!
Papusa from Solber Papusas ($4): This is a Salvadorian snack consisting of a grilled corn patty stuffed with pork, cheese, and jalapeños (they come in a variety of meats and can be ordered vegetarian). They are topped with pickled onions, cabbage, sour cream, a tomato sauce/salsa and jalapeños. I anticipated that I was going to like this a lot more. Don’t get me wrong, it was good, but what made the papusa was the sour cream and jalapeños. The corn patty was sort of grainy and the cheese had coagulated because they pre-cook the papusas and keep them in containers until they are served. I imagine if we had gotten this hot off the grill it would have tasted better. Side note: They were filming Solber Papusas for the Spanish Food Network while we were in line. Make sure to keep an eye out! I imagine there will now be a great shot of my ass roaming the TV world.
Pork Cheek Slider from Hecho en Dumbo: This was standard and delicious. It had a moderately spicy, avocado based sauce on top. I’d eat it again.
Slider from Dumont Burger: Now I don’t really like sliders. I usually feel like there is too much bread for the proportion of burger that is present, but this slider is different! It came with fresh cheddar atop a perfectly medium cooked little burger that was more meat than bread. This was probably my second favorite dish of the day and definitely the best slider I’ve had in awhile or possibly ever.
Beef Jerky: Loved the different varieties of beef jerky from SlantShack Jerky. It is 100% grass-fed beef jerky made from all-natural ingredients. My favorite was the hot and smoky beef with maple syrup glaze and garlic powder – the garlic really made it pop!
Next Time: When we first got to Smorgasburg, I saw people walking around with what I thought looked like the best sandwich ever. Once I figured out where these sandwiches were coming from, my friend and I stood in line only to get to the front and find out they were out of Cemitas, a multi-layered Pueblan sandwich. Here is the drawn out picture of what this sandwich looks like. Tell me this doesn’t sound amazing! Next time this is a must. I also saw some awesome looking pork ribs that came from an unassuming vendor without a name. I will be returning on a search of that, as well!
Smorgasburg: 27 North 6 Street, Brooklyn, NY ($)