688 Franklin Avenue, Crown Heights
“Crown Heights” and “elegance” aren’t often strung together. But the neighborhood is changing. Mayfield, the new bar/restaurant that opened on Franklin Avenue last month, is just one testament to that. There may be fewer luxury housing developments being built here than in other changing neighborhoods, but one thing that has been rapidly multiplying—particularly on the stretch of Franklin Avenue just above Eastern Parkway—is the number of fine-dining establishments.
Opened in the old Franklin Roadhouse space—a former pizza and burger joint that went belly up after its first year—Mayfield has scraped up its remains and taken them to the next level. The interior is elegant while retaining a rustic allure: drop-leaf bar tables, dark wood chairs salvaged from a church in Kentucky, exposed brick walls. A trim of wood panels laid into the bricks in geometric designs somehow fits seamlessly with the frosted glass Art Deco-inspired light fixtures hanging over the bar. But the best bit of décor is the open kitchen, where six cooks in chef’s whites work side by side, like in a sushi bar. Bright and completely exposed, with sparkling-white subway tiles, a raw bar crawling with oysters, and new everything, the kitchen is the focal point of the restaurant, especially for those seated along the spacious bar.
Under chef-owner Lev Gewirtzman, Mayfield boasts clever juxtapositions in its food and drink menus. The sharing plates offer New American (pub) food, with a thick burger or Cuban sandwich, which come with fries or a minimally dressed green salad; fried snacks like oysters in a basket; buttermilk-fried quail; and a papardelle with a luscious veal-breast ragu. The drinks are just as unexpected—and stylishly executed. The New York Old Fashioned has a touch of cognac with rye and a sugar cube. Signature cocktails include the Better and Better, a concoction of Mezcal, Jamaican rum, Velvet Falernum and lemon with almost no hint of sweetness; it’s strong and smooth enough to make you breathless. While the draft-beer selection is limited, the bottle selection includes offerings from lesser-known craft breweries around the country. Lastly, the respectably sized wine list, which includes several options under $10 a glass, was solid and eagerly sampled out by the friendly staff: Oregon Pinot Gris, Argentinian Malbec, Spanish Bombal, Cotes du Rhone, and a fizzy Lambrusco, perfect with the burger.
The bar exudes a pleasant, neighborhood-pub atmosphere; from the stereos, classic rock alternated with 70s soul (it’s named after Curtis Mayfield) on the nights I visited. Several lone patrons and parties of two looked as if they were already settled into their weeknight routines, chatting about sports and headlines. Mayfield serves many functions: cozy sports bar, craft-beer bar, date-night restaurant, people-watching spot. And it serves them all well.