South of Windsor Terrace and west of Ditmas Park, Kensington is about as ethnically diverse as it gets: Polish, Hasidic, South Asian, Mexican, Chinese, African, Caribbean and many other communities call it home. But there has never been much of a reason for the adventurous gourmand to venture out here. And there still isn’t. But if you live in Kensington, or just happen to find yourself on the Windsor Terrace border, there’s a great new pub down the block.
The husband-and-wife team behind Alchemy in North Slope opened Hamilton’s in October. The endless, elaborate drink selection at the former has been pared down at the latter to a simple drink menu heavy on craft beers; mixological wizardry has been replaced with honesty and straightforwardness. (Hamilton’s is located on Fort Hamilton Parkway, its namesake.) The corner tavern brings warmth and a sense of community to otherwise darkened residential streets, fractured by jutting highways, vrooming with cars and trucks. Inside, candles at every table dimly light a spacious square room. The walls are invisible glass panels. The bar beckons drinkers with 18 tap handles, pouring a full range of styles from American breweries. The burgers are made from grass-fed beef. The speakers softly play the Cure. The waiters are young, knowledgeable and ready to describe anything and everything on the menu. You’re in “New American” land, suddenly.
But have no fear; sit back and relax. Let’s start with a few cocktails. Actually, this is where Hamilton’s is most disappointing; there are currently no cocktails on its diminutive drink menu. There are, however, house wines on tap for $6 a glass; that’s a refreshing alternative. The Pinot Grigio is not bad. It will work perfectly with the oysters coming up next... What? No oysters, either? Well, so much for that then. But if you’re looking for small plates, there are familiar staples on Hamilton’s menu—mac and cheese with aged cheddar, seared Brussels sprouts, and a marinated olive plate. There are Spanish inflections, too: idiazabal cheese on the Caesar salad, smoked mojo rojo sauce with salt-baked fingerling potatoes. This sort of flair comes to its fullest, most flavorful climax with the adobo-braised, sweet chili-glazed chicken wings. They’re not fried like Buffalo wings—the flavors are slowly cooked into the meat, gelling the skins to a lip-smacking stickiness that requires extra napkins, thoughtfully offered by a waiter along with the dish. The entrees are more sturdily classic, including beer-braised short ribs, roast chicken, and a satisfying burger smothered with a sweet-and-slightly-sour onion agrodolce. The one real anomaly is a fried egg over kimchi brown rice, a comfort food from a distant land. This vegetarian entree uses Brooklyn’s own artisanal Mama O’s Kimchi, however, bringing it a little closer to home.
Say you’re ready to move on down the wine list; there are only about 10 varieties. Hamilton’s is not for the persnickety wine enthusiast but for those who like a small yet safely curated selection with entries for every taste. Domestic wines are not overlooked, with an Oregon Pinot Noir and a Fingerlakes Cabernet Franc Rose from Brooklyn Oenology. It’s difficult not to go with the house pours for their considerable bargain, but no single glass runs higher than $10. If you’re here for beer, you’ll be more impressed with selection. Like its neighborhood clientele, the draft beers at Hamilton’s run the gamut: there’s Miller High Life, Stella Artois, and Guinness... but wait, don’t back out yet, gentrifying, persnickety gourmand! The list also includes beers from microbreweries like Michigan’s Dark Horse, Vermont’s McNeill’s, and the latest and greatest seasonals from local breweries like Captain Lawrence, Carton, Sixpoint and Kelso. This is all to say that Hamilton’s is a uniquely welcoming place. Whether it’s for the bar chatter or a nice date, a pint of rare brews or the best meal to treat yourself, this is the spot, you guys.