So, the 85th Academy Awards ceremony is this Sunday, and we wanted to get in on the action. No, not by donning our finery for a viewing party in somebody’s living room (which is totally cool if that’s your bag.) But by handing out our own, equally arbitrary awards, that don’t actually mean anything to anyone, accept maybe the people receiving them. And like the Oscar’s, our honorees aren’t exactly working to cure cancer, or anything. But unlike Angelina Jolie, say, or Christian Bale (have you seen him in the Machinist?) they can always be counted on to dish up an excellent plate of food.
So without further ado, we introduce the 2012 nominees for our 1st Annual BK Foodies Awards (requirements dictate that they need to have debuted a project within the last year). And yes, in the spirit of the Oscar’s, this list is padded with awards bait — although instead of 3-hour period drama’s about orphans with Downs Syndrome done good, we’ve got $25 an entrée eateries, with no reservations policies and classically trained chefs at the helm. So hurry up and draft out your teary acceptance speeches all of you (restaurant) industry folk. Because we like you. We really, really like you.
- Photo Elizabeth Lippman for the New York Times
Pok Pok Ny
Such a tough field this year. with Talde taking the long-held crown from al di la as one of the hardest tables to score in Park Slope, a last minute push from avante garde contenders Prospect and Gwynnett St., and of course, Andy Ricker’s unstoppable Oregon transplant, Pok Pok Ny. But in the end, we’ve got to give it up to that unlikely indie darling, Battersby
, owned and operated by super bro’s Joseph Ogrodnek and Walker Stern (they graduated from the Culinary Institute of America together). Although we totally blame them for the continued omnipresence of the kale salad.
Andy Ricker (Pok Pok Ny)
John Bush/David Massoni/Dale Talde (Talde, Pork Slope, Thistle Hill Tavern)
Emiliano Coppa and Anna Klinger (Bar Corvo, al di la)
Jean Adamson and Sam Buffa (Hillside, Vinegar Hill House)
This might seem like a gimme for media darling Andy Ricker, who’s made even the most hardened foodies swoon into their collective napkins and metal cups of Pandanus leaf-scented water, since sweeping onto the scene with Pok Pok Ny. But this is a Brooklyn magazine first and foremost, and we haven’t forgotten that Ricker started in Portland, then tested the climes of the Lower East Side, before staking claim on the Columbia Waterfront District. So we’re going with total BK boosters Bush, Talde, and Massoni
, who opened two (and revitalized one) awesome Park Slope restaurants in the span of one year. They’re also an insanely well-oiled machine, checking egos at the door and letting each member control what they’re best at…Bush at the bar, Talde in the kitchen, and Massoni orchestrating front-of-house.
Best Chef (Male)
Dale Talde (Talde, Pork Slope, Thistle Hill Tavern)
Andy Ricker (Pok Pok Ny)
Walker Stern/Joe Ogrodnek (Battersby)
Justin Hilbert (Gwynnett St.)
Angelo Romano (The Pines)
This one goes to Talde
, for keeping the ball in the air at three terrific kitchens. He may not always be behind the burners nowadays, but a well-trained staff ably executes his dishes and carries out his message…inventive Asian fusion at Talde, craveable sporty grub at Pork Slope, and rustic comfort food fare at Thistle Hill Tavern. All kicked into high gear by a tasty through-line of Frank’s Red Hot or sriracha.
Best Chef (Female)
Elizabeth Falkner (Krescendo)
Alex Raij (La Vara)
Liza Queen (Potlikker)
Katy Sparks (Toby’s Estate, Union Market)
Anna Klinger (Bar Corvo)
Lists like these drive home the fact that there’s a continued dearth of females heading up Brooklyn’s kitchens. There are a lot more ladies currently taking the reigns in Manhattan, so let’s step it up BK. Especially since the above chefs are so entirely kickass. Love Alex Raij’s original, intensely flavorful tapas at La Vara, and Falkner’s skillful, yet unassuming pizzas at Krescendo. But Liza Queen
opening Potlikker after such a long hiatus was like John Travolta expounding on the Royale with Cheese back in 1994. A star is reborn!
- Photo Karsten Moran for The New York Times
- La Vara
Best Original Concept
Maimonides of Brooklyn
M.O.B brought us vegan-friendly, Brooklyn Bridge-shaped dough sandwiches, Potlikker gussied up rootsy, regional food like Dutch pancakes, corned beef tongue, and Ploughman’s lunches, Dassara invented “Brooklyn Ramen,” The Pines made fine-dining dishes out of virtuous ingredients (quark) and good for you grains (amaranth,) and PeteZaaz gave us the fully loaded, purple baked potato pie. But did you know what Moorish-and-Jewish-accented Spanish food was before La Vara
came along? Neither did we.
Best Adapted Concept
Pok Pok Ny
David’s Brisket House, Bay Ridge
No. 7 Sub, Greenpoint
This category is reserved for either intended, casual offshoots of more refined restaurants (Hillside, Bar Corvo), or expansions of established eateries into alternate locations (David’s Brisket House, No. 7 Sub). And then there’s Pok Pok Ny
, which travelled cross-country to become our hands down winner. Yes, it could easily have won any of our more prestigious categories, but does Andy Ricker really need any extraneous accolades? You rock, Andy Ricker. We all know it.
Brooklyn Sandwich Society
Not all restaurants strive to be hushed temples of fine dining, and we love them all the more for it. These fast-casual places were some of our favorites to hit the food scene this year, from the amiable “Brooklyn BBQ” haven, Fletcher’s, to the Bushwick Bar Heavy Woods, which currently hosts the awesome N’Awlins pop-up, Tchoup Shop. But it’s the entirely without pretention PeteZaaz
that we return to time and again, for their pastrami-stuffed Reuben Stromboli’s, bonkers pizza pies (tofu, yellow squash, fontina, stewed collards, and pickled Thai chiles, anyone?) and “pretty fly for a white guy” chef/owner’s.
Best Visual Effects
These cutting-edge eateries are all about the visual pyrotechnics, although not at the expense of sophistication and flavor. The modern Scandinavian restaurant Aska replaced the pop-up Frej in Kinfolk Studios, granting patrons permanent access to Dried Pigs Blood chips and Local Sea-Buckthorn Berry jelly. Visitors at Prospect at Fort Greene can go for straightforward fare like burgers and fries, but are better served by a trip to the Chef’s Table, for intriguingly conceived dishes like “Nitro Foie Balls,” with Winter Citrus, Meyer Lemon Cake, Poppy Seed Crumble, and Orange Snow. And our winner, Gwynnett St.
, constructs serious eye-candy from deceptively simple ingredients, like an ash-dusted and brined Amish chicken, perched on a cornucopia of potatoes, rutabaga, and brightly colored beets.
Lifetime Achievement Award: Saul Bolton
The ultimate Brooklyn chef and restaurateur, Bolton brought a Michelin star to Smith Street after opening Saul 13 years ago. He’s since opened the Vanderbilt, a casual gastropub in Prospect Heights, created an upscale concessions program for the Williamsburg movie house, Nitehawk Cinemas, and added a Caribbean accent to the recently overhauled menu at the Red Hook cocktail and tapas bar, Botanica. Did we mention he also owns an artisanal sausage company, Brooklyn Bangers, or that he just opened the well-received Red Gravy, an Italian-American trattoria, in Brooklyn Heights? Although honorees of this type of award often joke that they must be close to death, this committed Brooklyn boy shows no signs of slowing down.
In Memoriam: The Restaurants We Lost This Past Year (Accompanied by Rising and Falling Applause)
Sun Bo Bo
Cha Cha’s Bar and Grill
The Bourgeois Pig
Hinsch’s: died twice (or did it?)
Denny’s Ice Cream Shop
Abigail Wine Bar
Night of the Cookers
Jamie Lynn’s Kitchen
Park Slope Eatery
Gold Coast Deli
Veronica’s Peoples Club
Blue Ribbon Sushi
Pillar and Plough
The Dekalb Market