Runner & Stone
285 Third Avenue, Gowanus
Runner & Stone, named for the top and bottom millstones in old-time flourmills like the ones that once stood on the nearby Gowanus Canal, deserves every bit of buzz it gets for its bread. Peter Endriss, the baker at this coffee-shop-by-day/refined-restaurant-by-night, once worked as the head baker at Thomas Keller’s Per Se and assisted with the bread program at Bouchon Bakery. His baguettes, spread with exceptionally creamy house-churned butter, perfectly balance crunch and chew. His croissants, served as early as 7:30am, are flaky and light. At lunchtime, crusty and pleasantly sour slices of rye elevate a grilled cheese sandwich with mild cheddar, pickled apples and crispy pancetta, and a chewy roll encases a delicately sweet butternut squash fritter and rich, house-made ricotta. Before dinner, a complimentary olive-filled turnover made for a perfectly buttery, airy, briny and sweet first bite.
But if you were to dine on bread alone at Runner & Stone, you’d be missing some of Brooklyn’s best chicken. The half-bird is super-juicy, appropriately homey and infused richly with butter and mushrooms. It’s served alongside some deliciously doughy buckwheat dumplings in an altogether dreamy mushroom broth. If you are sharing the dish with a friend, things may become uncomfortable when one of you starts lapping up the broth like a puppy, so be sure to order your own. More shareable are the ricotta-filled ravioli, which are fashioned into twists, served on a bed of tangy tomato jam and drizzled with fruity basil-infused olive oil. An appetizer of subtly flavored grappa-cured striped bass, served with grilled ciabatta and fennel, seemed almost too mellow after a salad course of apple panzanella; the bitter baby arugula and apple matchsticks coated in a very tart walnut dressing made us long for tender springtime greens.
With its streamlined modern-industrial style, Runner & Stone may look a little formal for a morning cappuccino and perhaps a bit stark for a date-night dinner, but the comfort here is found in the warm staffers and the unbeatable sweets. The palmiers are heavenly, impossibly light little curls priced at $1 a piece. The daytime treats-menu includes a buttery lemon-poppy cake and a classic, deeply chocolaty brownie. After dinner, the lemon curd trifle is equal parts tart and sweet, with a super-rich texture and a welcome salty crunch from pistachio nuts. To top it all off, they’ve even got a full bar. The wine list focuses on local and Italian bottles, and the short list of specialty cocktails includes the Moped, a concoction of cocchi Americano, Plymouth gin and Tito’s Handmade vodka that’s as light as a Lillet, but with a little more bite. Toss back a few and grab a baguette for the road.
Photo by Latent Productions / Ho Kyung Lee