391 Van Brunt St, 718-643-6636
Price Range: $15-25
The Good Fork is the latest addition to Red Hook’s restaurant row (bringing the grand total up to four), and judging by the dining room, which was filled to capacity on a Tuesday night, the neighborhood’s residential growth is currently outstripping its culinary options. The Good Fork tries to fill a restaurant gap, but which one? Is it the homey neighborhood spot, the nouveau American artisanal restaurant, or the kid-friendly saloon? Its ceiling, warm-wooded and curved to meet the walls, hugs the small tables close, like the hull of a ship (if you focus on the low ceiling) or a frontier bar (if you’re listening to the country tunes). The menu is a curious mix of the ordinary (hot wings) and the high-minded (veal sweetbreads), but the clientele have embraced the low-key casual side of the Good Fork; a Burger ($9.50) or a plate of the homemade Pork and Chive Dumplings ($5) graced every table.
After I noticed the complacent smile of the toddler eating a dumpling next to us was echoed on several adult faces in the room, I wished we had ordered the dumplings too. Despite briny shrimp and crunchy okra, the Gumbo ($8) was strangely bland. Bitter Greens ($8) appeared deconstructed into three fragments: a small pile of beets, a mess of spiky greens, and a shredded potato and apple cake topped with goat cheese. It wasn’t clear how each item was supposed to interact with the others, or to what effect.
Entrees were more cleanly executed. Smoky and tender, the slow-braised Berkshire Pork ($14) induced a rhapsodic look in my dining companion; I scoffed, but then tried it and agreed. Ravioli ($12), filled with arugula and ricotta and sprinkled with toasted pine nuts, had an effortless grace. Made just a few blocks away, Steve’s Key Lime Pie ($6) was a pucker-perfect end to the meal. In fact, the Good Fork could resolve its identity crisis by following Steve’s maxim — make one thing, and make it really well. Red Hook’s restaurant row won’t be four establishments small for long, but its residents — like any neighborhood’s — will always want to flock to the place with impeccable homespun food and a genuinely kind waitstaff. The Good Fork, with some menu tweaks, could become that place.