788 Franklin Avenue, Crown Heights
“Was this that shady bodega?” my Crown Heights friend asked her roommate as she looked up at the glossy aquamarine paneling on the high ceilings at Glady’s. “Like, where they’d send a 7-year-old to the basement to get stuff for you?” Now, blond-wood floors match the communal tables, which are lined with metal chairs painted a distressed teal. Neatly piled firewood, ready for the wood-burning stove, gave a rustic feel to mod red shelving, and in the open kitchen one of the cooks—there were four or five of them, looking like a band of bearded brothers—seemed to be working over an open flame. All signs of the former occupant here at Franklin Avenue and Lincoln Place have been erased.
In their place, a cheerful bartender poured summery cocktails and talked about the ingredients on the menu that were delivered via his girlfriend’s bicycle from a farm in North Brooklyn. The small-plates menu put an inspired spin on the early-summer CSA specialties. Dark pools of smoked whey—a yogurt-like cheese-making byproduct infused with smoldering flavor—enhanced a plate of lightly grilled garlic scapes, fermented garlic and richly fatty guanciale. Earthy sunchokes served several ways (raw, roasted and fried) paired well with piney rosemary and the succulent leaves of sweet-sour purslane. A bright and citrusy basil gimlet, made with fresh basil, gin, lemon and lime, tasted like springtime in a glass, and the Greenwich sour, a bourbon cocktail with lemon and Cointreau, was topped off with a summery and sparkling Lambrusco floater. We also sampled one of the house-bottled sodas, a deliciously boozy and herbaceous root beer, which may have been even more magical if we’d thought to pair it with the smoked maple ice cream—a deceptively simple, must-taste dessert that perfectly balanced sweetness and smokiness in every bite.
Though Glady’s bills itself as a sandwich shop, only one of the sandwiches we tried—the grilled truffled cheese with truffle butter and caramelized shallots—stood up to the drinks, snacks and that incredible ice cream. Though the Pollos Hermanos, a Buffalo-style pulled-chicken hero, was tasty, it seemed steeply priced at $12, especially since the sandwiches here don’t come with any sides. The Bubie, a standard combination of corned beef, sauerkraut, cheese and mustard, could’ve used a little something extra—perhaps a dash of the smoked whey that dotted the garlic scapes.
After dinner, as we walked down Crown Heights side streets, we paused to listen as one of the neighbors blasted slow jams at an impressively high volume into the warm summer night. The neighborhood might change, but it also stays the same.
Photo by Austin Mcallister