New York magazine food critic and Manhattan resident Adam Platt ventured out to Williamsburg recently to dine at and review The Elm, chef Paul Liebrandt’s new restaurant in the King & Grove hotel on the northern end of Bedford Avenue. Once there, Platt expressed surprise that The Elm was not the typical “raffish outer-borough destination” and, that it was, in fact, more evocative of Manhattan. But a very specific part of Manhattan, namely, Platt thinks The Elm is “like the breakfast lounge of a second-tier midtown tourist hotel.” Ouch. But then, while being served mini-baguettes by a “plaid-shirted waiter,” Platt really drove the point home, saying, “This is the end of Brooklyn.” Ominous!
So, “the end of Brooklyn.” What does that even mean? In this case, it seems to mean that Brooklyn’s demise is due to, I don’t know, strangulation by ivy-covered walls, with the soul of the very borough itself writhing and spasming on countertops of shiny stainless steel. All of which is to say, Platt so closely associates fine dining and this specific type of stylized interiors with Manhattan that he thinks its very presence in Williamsburg (of all places!) signifies the end of the concept, or, you know, brand, (*shudder*), of Brooklyn. You know, Brooklyn is dead. Long live Brooklyn. That kind of thing.
Except, of course, that this is ridiculous. Platt seems to think of Brooklyn as still only being populated with “scruffy bourbon bars and locally sourced restaurants,” which, of course, it is but it’s not only that, and yet Platt seems to think that these are the only places that exemplify Brooklyn, both the borough and the brand. And so, when he notices that all of his Manhattan friends are able to enjoy themselves at The Elm, he seems to think this means that “the original style that the locavore gastronomes created for themselves [will begin] to mirror the stuffy, gilded fine-dining world of Manhattan that they left behind.” And, I mean, sure! But that’s been happening for a while now. And there have actually always been Brooklyn restaurants (The River Café, anyone?) which have modeled themselves off the idea of top-tier Manhattan restaurants. There’s nothing new there. And to deride The Elm’s decor as being similar to that of a midtown hotel’s? Well, King & Grove is a hotel, and that part of Williamsburg? We hate to say it, but, these days, it’s not too dissimilar from Murray Hill.
The thing is, there won’t be any “end” to Brooklyn. Not Brooklyn the brand, and definitely not Brooklyn the borough. And that’s mostly because there was no real beginning to the Brooklyn that Platt thinks of when he thinks “Brooklyn.” It’s not like waiters in plaid shirts and beards emerged fully formed from oyster shells on the banks of the East River, like hirsute Aphrodites on their way to work at Maison Premiere. The Brooklyn that exists now is the end result of decades and decades of social and economic changes that haven’t stopped and that are not entirely possible to accurately predict. And so will there be more “Manhattan hotel” restaurants in Brooklyn? Maybe! Probably. But that doesn’t negate all the other stuff going on here, and it certainly doesn’t portend the death of Brooklyn as we know it, any more than just the plain old passing of time signifies change. Brooklyn’s development continues unabated, but it doesn’t have to mean death. And if death comes at the hands of plaid shirted waiters carrying baguettes? Well, you know. Things could be worse. Much, much worse.
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