I knew as I approached Vinegar Hill, a small neighborhood restaurant in the Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn, that I was going to love it. It’s absolutely everything I want in a restaurant these days: simple, honest, delicious food, not too many choices, a good edit of reasonably priced wines, and great cocktails. Who can ask for more?
My friend Betsy who lives in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn first told me about Vinegar Hill a while ago and then several other friends mentioned it to me. Many New Yorkers shun a subway ride to Brooklyn and I was no different for a while, but no more. Manhattan is too expensive for a small operation like this to make it, but this is just the sort of well planned and personal place that I like. They keep the feel of the neighborhood and the food is never faddish.
Bria and I decided to sit at the bar. Actually she decided because she prefers to eat at a bar; I agreed because I was in the mood. Our seats had a perfect view of the kitchen. We started off with cocktails. Since I’ve been living bi-coastally, I’ve become quite obsessed with the cocktail scene in LA. One of my favorite downtown LA bars is 7 Grand that specializes in American cocktails. They make a superb old fashioned with Sazerac rye. The bartender at Vinegar Hill suggested I try his version and I have to say it was great. He makes it with Michters’s Rye served on the rocks, which is good, but I prefer the spiciness of the Sazerac.
I was impressed that they used Kold-draft ice which is the must have ice if you are a serious cocktailian. A whole new technology in ice, Kold-draft melts more slowly than other ice and the cubes are bigger. Bria had the margarita which was also delicious I can’t remember what they did that was different but it had a unique flavor. We then ordered the farmstead cheese and salami plate to go with our cocktails, and it was incredible: three different Vermont cheeses, pickled quail eggs, artisanal salamis, and homemade crackers, each flavor and texture complemented the other.
I wanted to try so many things on the menu but we settled for just a few. I started with the watermelon salad with feta and calamata olives and Bria had the black pepper fettuccine with shell beans and cherry tomatoes. My salad was just ok, the two varieties of watermelon were cool, but the feta did not work at all for me. I was thinking maybe ricotta salata would have been a better choice. Bria’s pasta was insane, perfect in every way, a marriage of textures and flavors that were speaking eloquently of the height of summer.
I was torn between the Cast Iron Chicken and the Red Wattle Country Chop. It was 95 degrees outside and I thought the pork would be too heavy. Everyone said that I had to try the Cast Iron Chicken and so I did. Bria ordered the Boneless Braised Short Ribs. Before my chicken was served a potholder was placed in front of me, a nice touch. The chicken came in a skillet and was quite good. It had some kind of vinegar sauce/reduction that I love with chicken. Bria’s shortribs were also good, but a dish I would prefer in the dead of winter.
A customer next to me got the pork chop. I was so jealous!!! I wanted to reach over and fork a piece for myself. It was sliced and served on what looked like a fingerling potato salad. I immediately began planning my return.
We ordered a bottle of Viognier from Alban Vineyards. I have a soft spot for Condrieu, which is a white wine made in the Northern Rhone of France with the Viognier grape and a very soft spot for John Alban who makes probably the best Viognier in California. This was not one of his single vineyard Viognier’s. Nonetheless it was a perfect wine for our meal.
I am not much of a dessert person, but Bria insisted I try the Guinness Chocolate Cake with a cream cheese icing. It was one of those desserts that you think, oh I will just have a bite, and before you know it, it’s gone.
If a restaurant can be judged by how soon you want to go back for your next meal, then I would have to judge this restaurant on a scale of 1-10 a 10!Vinegar Hill House
71 Hudson Avenue
Brooklyn, New York 11201