Tucked into the same stretch of Carroll Gardens side streets as Lucali, Crave is racking up points as Brooklyn's best under-the-radar wine bar. It's been open since October 1 but remains largely undiscovered. It's only open Thursdays through Sundays after 6pm, and even then, the lights are low and the interior is obscured by the corks that fill a thin glass case in the front window. Inside, the walls are dark and rich, banquettes line the perimeter, and small groups crowd around small, white pedestal tables. The mod seating isn't the coziest in town, but there are comfy enough, high-backed chairs at the bar. The smiling, unpretentious staff adds to the warmth that pervades the space.
The wine list is divided into categories like "voluptuous" and "soft." Um, are we ordering a glass of wine or a mail-order bride? Bartender, while you're at it, can you fix me something that's big, strong, and emotionally unavailable? Oh, nevermind. If you're in the mood for something voluptuous, the Chilean carmen�ƒ¨re with notes of blackberries, coffee, and tobacco makes for a lusty $8 glass. On the softer side, you may prefer the Beaujolais ($10), a bright and refreshing red that is served chilled. They've also got a small beer selection, and for those who aren't imbibing, there's an off-the-menu non-alcoholic German brew called an Einbecker. If it were a mail-order husband, this beer might be described as "slightly sour and soulless, but does the trick if you're desperate." Hey, if non-alcoholic beer were as delicious as regular beer, the world would have far fewer hangovers. If you can, drink the real stuff.
The best thing about this place is the inventive snack menu. As longtime neighbors know, Crave was once a much-loved restaurant with a creative and eclectic menu, but they closed years ago to focus on catering. Their catering services are still their main focus, but bar snacks like house-made Asian-spiced beef jerky hint at the innovations going on behind the kitchen doors. My drinking buddy aptly described the rosemary-white truffle-parmesan popcorn as tasting like "truffle-flavored air"â�‚��€œget the bigger bowl for 8 bucks. The beef sliders, tiny patties on brioche buns with melted cheese and a pleasingly tart smear of pomegranate ketchup, are a steal at $5 for a plate of three. Daily specials, like mustard-glazed short rib sliders ($6), are worth checking out, too. As long as it keeps a low profile, Crave is a great place to crash while waiting for a table at Lucaliâ�‚��€œbut once the word gets out about their friendly service, solid wine list, and killer snacks, it may become a destination unto itself.
Photos by Ashley Minette