Is There Such a Thing as “New Brooklyn Cuisine”? Brooklyn Foodies Weigh In

12/22/2010 12:44 PM |

brooklyn food
  • A carrot with a mustache, obvs.

Is so-called “New Brooklyn” cuisine, recently thrust into the spotlight thanks to the Kings County-themed bar The Brooklyneer opening in Manhattan, something real and distinct as a culinary movement? Or is it a made-up media fad meant to help move magazines? [Ed. Duh, yes.] We asked some of Brooklyn’s most notable gourmands for their opinions.

Rachel Wharton, Editor, Edible Brooklyn
Well the media, of which I am a member, certainly likes to rely on handy shortcuts to quickly describe anything, but I think New Brooklyn Cuisine exists. Just like Old Brooklyn Cuisine exists—meaning Junior’s, L&B Spumoni Gardens, Brennan & Carr’s, The Vegas Diner in Bensonhurst and so on—it’s more about a feeling, right, than any menu item or method. Can you find what constitutes New Brooklyn Cuisine all over the country? Yes, but when it’s in Brooklyn, hey, it’s New Brooklyn Cuisine! Plus we got population on our side. Anything that Portland or Berkeley does, we’re gonna do bigger. Of course when Brooklyn Cuisine is in Manhattan is it still Brooklyn Cuisine? That’s a tougher question.

Jason Marcus, Executive Chef, Traif in Williamsburg

To call oneself an artist, a chef really has to have the goal of innovation via cooking and the dining experience. There are really only a fraction of chefs being innovative. Unfortunately, there are a lot of restaurants charging ‘innovation-prices’ featuring ‘artist-chefs,’ which leave guests unsatisfied. In those cases, the focus is not on the guest but the chef and restaurateur’s ego. What we focus on at Traif, and what I see from a lot a chefs in Brooklyn is a turning away from the artist/innovation concept and an embracing of the satisfaction concept of running a restaurant. I’m not sure if that’s necessarily what defines Brooklyn cuisine nor whether that even exists. Brooklyn just seems to be emblematic of that philosophy.

Laena McCarthy, Owner, Anarchy in a Jar
I do think there is a lot of creativity happening in Brooklyn right now, and a lot of amazing food being made. Obviously, I personally like that the Brooklyn-hype helps my company, and I like that it allows people with dreams to quit their boring day jobs and make caramels or ice cream. But we’re at a high Brooklyn saturation level, and just like the bacon trend, I think the “Brooklyn” craze will start to dissipate. That doesn’t mean that kick-ass food in the borough will reach its zenith and fade. But naming everything “Brooklyn___” will eventually be like adding bacon flavor to popcorn or chocolate; it will begin to seem less awesome with time. Is there really a “New Brooklyn” cuisine? I don’t know, ask me in 20 years when I’m retired on my yacht from all the money the media-fad brought me and able to reflect on things that once transpired in my youth as a Brooklyn foodmaker.

Josh Ozersky, Meat Guru, Time Magazine and Ozersky.Tv
The ‘New Brooklyn’ cuisine is, in my opinion, largely a fraud. While there are a few legitimately unique restaurants, like Roberta’s, that couldn’t exist in Manhattan, they are far more rare than people realize. Most of the rest are basically second-rate Manhattan restaurants basking in the love of overawed locals who are happy just to not be eating falafel. For the most part, the best Brooklyn restaurants, like Vinegar Hill House or Seersucker, are exactly what you would find in Manhattan if their owners had more money. The rest are second-rate imitations, marred by insouciant service, inconsistent execution and the omnipresence of screaming tots. The true Brooklyn cuisine is still to be found in the old, ungentrified, unassimilated neighborhoods like Bensonhurst and Brighton Beach, where they’ve never heard of seasonal cooking or artisanal bitters.