524 Court St., at Huntington St., Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn,
CUISINE: American comfort food
VIBE: Country B&B
OCCASION: Casual date, bar bites, kid-friendly family dinner
DON’T-MISS DISHES :Maple- and bacon-roasted almonds, delicata squash tart, duck meatloaf
AVERAGE PRICE: Appetizers, $8; entrées, $16; dessert, $7.
RESERVATIONS: Accepted for parties of four or more
Owner Doug Crowell named his new restaurant in Carroll Gardens after a shallow strait that runs between Governors Island and Brooklyn.
Once upon a time, farmers used to walk
their cattle across this strait during low tides. That was more than a
hundred years ago, but I imagine that back then a corner restaurant
might have looked like Buttermilk Channel.
A single candle flickers in every window, and a clunky wood dresser
stands along the edge of the room. Wooden pews from a church down the
street serve as benches against one wall, and a long, reclaimed
communal table is in the center of it all. At Buttermilk Channel, you
feel like you’re eating at a small-town bed-and-breakfast.
Crowell is thinking seriously about what neighborhood really means, which is smart these days.
Buttermilk Channel’s all about Brooklyn: 15
Brooklyn beers, breads, bratwurst, ice cream, cider, mozzarella, and
even a 2005 Merlot called Brooklyn Oenology. And Buttermilk Channel
caters to everyone in the neighborhood – vegetarians, locavores,
hipsters and hipsters with children.
The food is straightforward American bistro cooking. Not what you’d expect from a chef, Ryan Angulo, who came from the Stanton Social and David Burke & Donatella, two trendy Manhattan restaurants.
The kinds of places that think
straightforward means Kobe-beef pigs in a blanket and truffle fries.
Who comforts themselves with caviar in times like these?
At Buttermilk Channel, comfort food means grilled bacon, a big burger, a Niman Ranch flap steak and meatloaf. It also means duck meatloaf on a lily pad of creamed spinach, topped with onion rings.
This is a great example of the new world of
meatloaf, where the most basic and often dreaded home cooking turns
into something splendid. A lot of people think you can make a really
good meatloaf by jazzing up the extras, but Angulo knows it’s about the
quality of the meat.
This is where you see the subtlety of
making familiar foods with superior ingredients and a little
imagination. You end up with foods that taste close to home, only
better, like buttermilk fried chicken – punctuated by pepper –
accompanied by a cheddar waffle and winter-vegetable slaw.
There’s cauliflower and apple soup
garnished with bacon and croutons, baby back ribs scented with anise
and cinnamon, and roasted leg of lamb on Tuesdays.
Not many restaurants list nuts on the menu,
but these aren’t just any almonds. These come roasted with chunks of
bacon, bacon fat and maple syrup. The chef’s squash tart looks like a
savory Slinky – rings of skin-on delicata squash topped with a sweet,
homemade ricotta. This is the best dish on the menu.
Just don’t order fish. The herb-crusted hake was practically raw,
and the bacon-wrapped trout tasted like, guess what, bacon. You might
want to skip the kale and endive salad seized by way too much anchovy
After all that comfort food, how about a comfort-food dessert –
Doug’s pecan-pie sundae or the clown sundae? The clown sundae’s made
with organic Blue Marble ice cream from Boerum Hill, a homemade cone and M&Ms. It’s on the kids’ menu, but you can have one too.