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Restaurants & Bars

brooklyn mini-roundup

bosshogg | Jun 8, 2003 11:41 PM

I've been slack in fulfilling my chow-triotic duties, that is, in posting chow impressions. I often lack motivation to start a new topic to say a few words about some unexceptional place. So here's a little about several Brooklyn places.

Downtown Atlantic (Atlantic Ave b/w Bond & Hoyt)
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Mostly solid, not inspired. Companions' roast chicken & steak were competently done, my pasta entree was a little nicer than that. But all our cakes - cup, cheese, and crab - were outstanding. In particular the crab cakes were the finest any of us could remember. They don't do anything obviously tricky, just fresh fresh fresh crab. Baaad brown-water coffee though.

Aside from those cakey bits - OK, and the fact that they were adequately staffed - I think we've usually fared better in the entree department at Brooklyn Grill, just down the street. BG's American menu also holds the creativity edge. But they've not fed me anything to compare with those crab cakes, the food has been a bit inconsistent (though never in my experience outright poor), and the service problems when they have had one harried waitress trying to take care of eight or ten tables can't be dismissed. Here's hoping the competition makes both places better (maybe it has - I haven't been to BG since December).

Jakes "Famous Kansas City" BBQ (Columbia St, Carroll Gardens)
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Not good. I wasn't expecting a whole lot based on chowhound sentiment, but they largely fell shy of mid-mediocrity, more into the lame-mediocrity stratum.

We went ostensibly so my father-almost-in-law could check out the beef chili. No beef brisket that day, so no beef chili. The veg chili was pretty good. Ribs not bad: some smoky flavor, though the "award winning" sauce seemed a bit sweet to me. And the biscuits were decent. All else - let's see, that included buffalo wings (not my first choice, but when the ribs/brisket/pulled pork combo was out, I figured at least the wings could be shared), catfish, mac & cheese, straight-from-the-can baked beans, and a few other forgotten sides - was weak, in a few cases woefully so. Even the tartar sauce was off (too sweet, not tangy) though it seems unlikely that Jake's did anything beyond removing it from a jar. Ooh, almost forgot, crab cakes nearly as bad as Downtown Atlantic's were good.

Do they do anything else well? Did we miss some memorable brisket? (Well, maybe not, since they claim to be KC style.)

FWIW, while they have a handful of tables, they don't appear to really expect anyone to use them. We ate alone during prime dinner time - all the action was delivery and a few pickups. Owners and/or employees occupied another table or two, watching TV.

Even if I lived in their delivery area, I think I'd pass on Jake's and instead head to Virgil's (yeah, Virgil's is that much better) - or more likely, Pooor Freddie's way the hell out in Jamaica - to scratch that itch.

Melange (444 Atlantic)
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Closing shop. Too bad; I've enjoyed shopping there for dried fruits, cheeses, and a few odds and ends in the two years I've lived nearby, and enjoyed inexpensive takeout of hummus, kibbeh, etc. and a few pretty good brunches and dinners while they tried to make a go of being a restaurant too.

They apparently changed ownership, oh, about six months ago. The restaurant's tales were gone, and both inventory and employees were shuffled. I'm sure times are tough and perhaps rents are up, but this reorganization was no improvement. I'm told they have a couple other locations, but in Manhattan.

Veggie Castle (Church just east of Flatbush)
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Ital joint in a former White Castle a few doors down from Guyanese fave Sybil's. Actually I'm not sure whether their fare is strictly Jamaican, but at least this was my predominate impression. ~15 steam table choices, and more made to order, e.g. veggie burgers, fried things. Fresh juices & some variations on Caribean drinks like sea moss. Like Sybil's, lots of tasty looking pastries and pones and other baked goodies. There's also a room inside the restaurant called Health Castle which looked to be all about vitamins & supplements but which was closed at 8 on a Sunday.

I was on a solo mission and ordered a small meal - one protein + two more sides for about $5.50. Tofu & potato curry *rocked*, a mostly brussel sprout melange was also terrific, and lo mein noodles blended nicely. Total quantity was quite filling, possibly a bit more than I'd normally need for dinner, but hey, I ran earlier today and missed lunch. But if I'd not been so hungry that my brain had shut down, I'd've ordered a medium or large meal and had a larger variety plus tomorrow's lunch. Next time.

Pho Tay Ho (86th Street, Bensonhurst)
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I think Sietsema said they excel in anything with beef; whether or not he did, that's been our finding. Pho, the beef stew "bahn mi" (which here and at Gia Lam have meant stew bowls with the part-rice-flour baguette on the side - does "bahn mi" == "bread"?), the whatchamacallit with rice noodles rolled up in lettuce leaf, all superb. In a couple or three visits I've had a few non-cow-derivatives, some very good, some just competent; but aside from pretty good summer rolls I've forgotten the particulars.

Whether here or at other Vietnamese joints, don't miss drinks like salty plum, or soda with egg yolk and condensed milk. Ordering the latter once got me a knowing wink from a waiter somewhere - "for strength!" - I guess it's the equivalent of just about every Caribbean drink. (The only one I really believe in is sea moss. :-)

Chuck

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