288 Smith Street between Sackett and Union in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
about $125 for two, without drinks, without tip
We were in Brooklyn to visit friends who were house and dog sitting while on vacation from San Francisco. When it was time to eat dinner, another friend–a Brooklynite–quickly suggested The Grocery. It’s one of his favorite haunts but he has never visited in the summer when the garden is open, so when we arrived we asked to be seated out back to enjoy the warm summer breeze.
The Grocery’s staff works from a kitchen half the size of a New York City apartment’s. You can imagine how tight it was in there to maneuver but somehow they make it work because they churned out some of the best meals I’ve had this summer. And I do not say churn lightly: we waited for almost thirty minutes to get our appetizers. The waitstaff were so busy running the front and the back that it took twenty minutes to get the menu. We had to order wine with our food because she forgot to show us the wine list while we waited for her to reappear to give us glasses of water.
Because we haven’t seen our Californian friends for a while, we didn’t mind the wait even though we didn’t have anything to drink. We passed the time catching up and talking about our respective lives. We realized we had been waiting too long when the youngest member of the family behind us whined so loudly about being hungry–they were already seated when we came in to wait for fifteen minutes to complete our party.
But when the food came, the short-staffed restaurant delivered as if they worked out of a professional and very spacious kitchen. The slow-rendered duck breast was superb in caramelized red wine sauce with baby carrots and beet greens. I would most likely wait another forty minutes to eat this again. The toasted farro salad was a nice break because of the summer greens in a very interesting sorrel vinaigrette that gave the dish a kick and acidity. The roasted beets were nothing new, but they were perfectly cooked. One of my favorites was the fried artichoke because of its texture. The little crunch lent beautifully to the escarole and the Parmesan. For dessert, I was very happy to get the wild strawberries with the buttermilk panna cotta. You can’t get small and tart strawberries from supermarkets anymore, so I was very pleased that they featured them unadorned. The warm peach cobbler made everyone else happy as we took turns scooping it out of its ramekin.
At the Grocery, the wait time is longer than I want it to be but the food showcases the season’s best and the cooks in the kitchen make up for the service that needs sharpening.