Barley and Nut Sack?

05/27/2009 4:00 AM |

Watty and Meg, 248 Court St, 718-643-0007

Price range: $21-$35 Rating: 3L’s

Those of us based in and around Carroll Gardens are desperate for
outdoor seating. Enter nice weather and it’s brunch at Bar Tabac;
drinks at Abilene; even the occasional bout of aesthetic disregard when
we say, “Fuck it, let’s just go to Downtown Bar and Grill.” Now, with
an inviting plot of sidewalk space, the two week-old Watty and Meg is
already packed.

Occupying the former Café Carciofo space, Watty is a
collaboration between the folks behind Building on Bond and native
Virginian chef Sosie Hublitz. The name refers to a ballad by
Scots-American naturalist Alexander Wilson and —
geo-appropriately — the restaurant’s logo (a gold “W&M”) has
a certain Colonial Williamsburg-ness. Hublitz admits to Old Dominion
inspiration but in spirit seems to be aiming for that casual Brooklyn
classiness patented by Frankies — and perfected by Buttermilk and
Char No. 4 — that allows access to handmade, locally sourced,
artisanal pickled things while wearing jeans.

A lantern-lit entrance gives way to the main dining room: There’s a
long and welcoming bar, a worn black-and-white tile floor,
mirror-backed bookshelves, and candles at every table. Peak in at the
stately, chandelier-lit backroom and you’ll pass at least five patterns
of vintage-y wallpaper. And when I say the place is packed, I mean it
seems to have an unavoidable Lost Island magnetism preventing passersby
from carrying on further: old folks, young couples, and stroller-bound
youth are drawn in equal proportion.

The food isn’t particularly cheap for the neighborhood: salads and
seafood-heavy apps range $7-$12 but most are worth trying, especially
the bright and caper-heavy salmon tartar. And definitely the salad
involving vanilla vinaigrette and peanuts — it sounds wretched
but our table left unanimously more at ease with combining vanilla and
leafy greens.

After a shaky start, the entrees have quickly improved. On opening
night there were barely-cooked scallops, raw veggies and a general lack
of seasoning — all of which have been remedied, except for maybe
that last one. A week later the hanger steak was richly meaty and
well-cooked, and the chicken — stuffed with pumpkin seed and mint
pesto — with butternut squash puree was juicy and inventive in an
abstract-Thanksgiving kind of way. As a general word of caution, avoid
the seafood: the salmon with quinoa couscous is boring, and our garlic
shrimp had an unidentifiable chemistry lab tingle to it. BUT, all this
is moot, because you should really just get the burger, which was
better than anything else we tried. The patty was a tad dry, but
otherwise awesomely beefy with a crisp charred exterior and a brioche
bun.

Watty and Meg doesn’t have a liquor license yet, but the wine list
is solid: some Euro, some domestic, and most modestly priced under $50.
We liked the Berger Gruner Veltliner because, as a friend pointed out,
you can’t go wrong drinking decent wine sealed with a beer cap. There’s
also a short list of mostly worthy beers, like the crisp and summer
appropriate Einbecker Pilsner.

Watty and Meg doesn’t pull off the same rustic sophistication or
bold, comforting flavor of many of its nouveau Brooklyn forebears. But
I don’t think that matters. It’s good enough and again, the outdoor
seating
. Plus, with the exception of the immensely awesome Sam’s
Steaks and Chops, north Court Street is struggling for dining options.
Double plus, its name lends itself to vaguely-Scottish
misinterpretation — so far this week I’ve heard: Wally and Ned,
Nutty and Lamb, and — my favorite —Barley and Nut Sack.

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