593 Lorimer Street, Williamsburg
Rating: 4 out of 5 L's
Joaquin Baca has had quite the ride. First, he rode shotgun at David Chang's Momofuku empire, claiming the title of partner until striking out on his own to open the first Brooklyn Star in a tiny former pizza joint in Williamsburg. That place wasn't long for the world, burning down in early 2010. In March, Brooklyn Star finally returned, taking residence in the cavernous space once occupied by Cajun dive bar Lazy Catfish.
Baca hasn't missed a beat. The meatloaf sandwich was as good as I remembered it, a thick slab of pork, beef and veal with a clean finish, slathered in a piquant chipotle-like sauce and stuffed between fluffy pieces of Pullman bread. It's also a steal at only $9. The menu is divided into two sections: "Big" and "Small," with everything meant to be shared family-style. Eating here can be relatively painless for your wallet, especially once you realize how large the "Small" dishes are (one meatloaf sandwich is easily enough for dinner).
According to the menu, "All animals are killed humanely with a five point exploding heart punch," a clue to the seriousness of the dishes. But, though Baca, a Texas native, prepares his food with care, the dishes can occasionally be absurd, like the delightfully meaty tripe chili, a foodie stoner's delight composed of tripe, Fritos ("Sourced from Plano, Texas"), cilantro and sour cream.
A more serious dish is the shrimp and grits. The crustaceans, flown in from the Gulf, are grilled to a slight char, all plump and smoky with a hint of spice, resting on a bed of grits with bacon, scallions and pan gravy. The country-fried steak is a heart attack on a plate, tender beef shoulder pounded flat and covered in a crunchy, flaky crust. Mix in the roasted marrow bones, served simply with red onion jam and toast, and you've got yourself a meal worth the Lipitor prescription. Choose from ten beers on tap, including selections from breweries like Sixpoint and Captain Lawrence.
Dishes come out as they are ready, with tattooed waiters placing them on the thickset picnic tables that fill up the dining room. Carefree country charm is the theme here, from the flower-filled mason jars to the twangy tunes playing on the stereo. The fire that burned down the first restaurant might have actually been a blessing in disguise. Baca still fills up the place night after night; now, however, it's 108 seats instead of just 29.