Fried chicken in a sandwich? Yes please! Part of me feels like this place should be in Williamsburg. Cheap, Southern comfort food, local brews on tap, a chef (Rick Hauchman) from Roberta's and the Commodore; how this place ended up on Court Street is beyond me. Well, rejoice Cobble Hill residents, the Van Horn Sandwich Bar is a gem.
About that sandwich. It consists of a thick, meaty chicken breast that's been marinated overnight in jalapeno buttermilk and then fried to perfection. On it you'll find a pile of wonderfully tart shredded red and white cabbage slaw and pickles, all on a buttery sesame seed bun specially designed for them, like all of their bread, from nearby Caputo's. Make sure to splash with a bit of the mildly spicy vinegar, which adds just enough heat to make things interesting. There are other meaty sandwiches as well, inspired by the chef and owner Jacob Van Horn's native North Carolina, including one filled with cornmeal-breaded fried catfish and pulled pork that's been marinated in a vinegary BBQ sauce and smoked for 12 hours.
As much as I loved that chicken sandwich, next time I eat there—and there will be a next time—I'll probably order the BLP, which stands for bacon, lettuce and pimento cheese. I didn't even know what pimento cheese was until a year ago when my good friend and fellow food writer, also from North Carolina, introduced me to it. Here it's a creamy concoction of four cheeses, little bits of red bell peppers roasted in-house, and mayo. They spread it against generously buttered, toasted pieces of Pullman loaf and complement it with tomato, shredded lettuce, garlic aioli and strips of savory bacon, a wonderful balance of creamy and salty flavors and one of the cheaper things on the menu at $8.
Lunch here has a real neighborhood vibe. When I visited, a friendly waitress was juicing lemons by hand behind the bar; couples were sharing casual lunches at two-tops covered in brown paper as a kid walked in with his father, scooter in hand. Plenty of light poured in through the slatted front window, gently illuminating the navy blue walls, decorated carefully with fading photographs of Van Horn's grandfather from Oklahoma. At night things pick up thanks to the full bar, stocked with eight taps dispensing craft brews from the likes of Sixpoint and Captain Lawrence, plus a serious selection of whiskeys. Once spring hits, the small backyard will open, and you better believe I'll be at one of the picnic tables with a pimento cheese sandwich and a bucket of beer.