Faces Behind The Food: Places & Faces Downtown And Brownstone Environs
There is a wide assortment of people and talents behind the renaissance in food and drink in Brooklyn. Our new column, Faces Behind the Food, will begin an ongoing, light-hearted look into what makes the Brooklyn Food & Drink scene tick and click.
There’s a reason people call Lou Sones one of the coolest guys on the planet … Well, OK, more than one reason. An actor by trade (with multiple appearances on “Law & Order”), Lou has operated The Brazen Head, 228 Atlantic Ave., for more than a decade. He named his cool ale house, where the food earns kudos, after the original Brazen Head pub in Dublin, Ireland, which dates back to the 12th century.
“It’s the longest-run in history,” Lou says, “Still going strong.”
The Brooklyn Brazen Head also has a rare historical distinction: one of its inside walls is a remnant of a building on the original Red Hook Lane, which ran from Fulton Street to the Red Hook waterfront. One segment of the original Red Hook Lane remains, officially, as a short, one-block strip between Livingston and Fulton streets (at Boerum Place). You’ll find a quote from James Joyce as you enter The Brazen Head, and sometimes live music inside.
If you are lucky, in warm weather, there might be some dramatic readings in the garden in back. Lou Sones is probably the only bar owner you’ll ever meet who has actually played Hamlet. (Well, OK, he played Polonius, who gets killed by Hamlet … but that’s show biz!)
Smetannick Honey Cake is a dish you will find only at the Cobble Hill-based Kitchen (254 Court St.), where the authentic Russian dishes and family recipes of Olga Potap are available. The cake is an amalgam of a sour cream cake and a honey cake. All dishes are prepped fresh, from the chicken soup with dumplings (yes, a family recipe) to the authentic potato pancakes.
The phrase “farm to table” rings true here, as Olga’s family brings in fresh food and ingredients from their upstate farm. Indeed, homemade ice cream is made entirely of ingredients brought from the farm.
Ah, the power to bring in samples of the best of different cultures to enrich our fair city of Brooklyn. To see the full menu, please visit the website at kitchenatcobblehill.com.
No matter what happens down on the border, there’s no wall in the heart of Downtown Brooklyn. A guy named Rocco Mangel has made sure of that. He’s the founder of Rocco’s Tacos and creator of the menu (South of the Border) and the drink selections (“So much fun it’s like a tropical vacation”). Rocco’s Tacos offers a true taste of Mexico in a fun environment.
People rave about the mouth-watering guacamole prepared tableside, the 425 varieties of tequila and the margaritas with a sour mix you will find nowhere else. In Downtown Brooklyn at 339 Adams St., manager Al Vila and event manager Rashad Webb can handle just the two of you for lunch, or a large dinner party in one of the private rooms for dinner or late-night fun. All Mexican, full menu, hugely fun!
“Prost!” Brooklyn has an international beer hall just a golf shot away from Barclays Center. At Kings Beer Hall you might easily find folks speaking German. Multilingual hostess Miranda will guide beer lovers to choices from every corner of the world.
Kings Beer Hall also passes the acid test for an old-world beer hall — you get bratwurst! The camaraderie of the long table layout sets the tone for your time there to be carefree.
“Relax and revel in the good spirits,” says Miranda. The only downside: you might be having so much fun that you’ll forget you have tickets to the game at Barclays, just a short stroll from 84 St. Marks Place.
O’Keefe’s Bar and Grill
“This address on Court Street has been a popular bar since Prohibition,” say two friendly guys named Jimmy and Eddie.
They are the owners of O’Keefe’s, still a popular bar at 62 Court St. Family-owned by the two friendly guys since 1974, O’Keefe’s has a modest exterior — just a neon sign that reads “Bar-Grill” — but inside is a warm, lively setting that could be Brooklyn’s “Cheers,” where everybody knows your name and Tiffany-style lamps hang warmly over a long, classic, polished bar.
Regulars follow sports or news on the screens and the bartender is no pushover. He’s a pro and if you’re smart, he’ll listen. If you want suggestions, he’ll talk.
A huge favorite of lawyers and law students, maybe O’Keefe’s should bill some of its clients who overhear good legal advice in between servings of chicken wings, fries and beer or rye … “Or both,” Jimmy says, referring to a few of his old-timers.
Chatting with one of the regulars recently, a “Faces” reporter was told, “This is the friendliest place I know to drink … and I always stay to eat.”
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