Straphanger’s Delight #3: Hot Bird and Speedy Romeo [A former autobody shop face-off where everybody wins]

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Don’t be fooled by the car stuff and Liquors sign. There’s actually some fine ass pizza behind those walls! It’s Speedy Romeo and the picture that I took that showed you both sides got deleted from my phone because phones are hard and technology is hard but pizza is good, especially this pizza.

  • Subway stops: Hot Bird and Clinton-Washington; Speedy Romeo at Classon Ave
  • Walk from subway: 9 minutes from Clinton-Washington to Hot Bird; 2 minutes from Classon Ave to Speedy Romeo
  • Neighborhoods: Hot Bird in Prospect Heights; Speedy Romeo in Clinton Hill
  • Locations: Hot Bird at 546 Clinton Ave on the corner of Atlantic Ave; Speedy Romeo at 376 Classon Ave on the corner of Greene Ave

It’s that magical time of the month, the middle. For March that means being somewhere between a lion and a lamb, a limb, if you will. For Off the G it means it’s time for another installment of everyone’s favoritely named feature: “Straphanger’s Delight!” For those of you who are new readers, first off, welcome, thank you, I don’t know how you found this blog, please never stop reading this blog, and feel free to email me and tell me how talented and pretty I am. Also, a quick explanation of what Straphanger’s Delight is. It’s when I take two businesses along the G line that share some kind of common bond and talk about them together. This week I felt like truly embracing the yo-yo-ing weather of March and talk about a place that’s good for the warm outdoor weather and the cold nights that you want to sit by a wood burning fire eating pizza and meats, both in former auto parts shops. Did you follow that? You mean you can’t understand my tangential train of thought that has led me to this post? Did my brain never fully develop or am I stuck in a state of arrested development, like the show? These are questions I ask myself daily. Anyway, this post is about Hot Bird, a bar with plenty of outdoor seating in Prospect Heights, and Speedy Romeo in Clinton Hill, a restaurant with a woodfire oven for pizza and a grill cooking up the nicest cuts of meats and octopuses you’ve ever seen. And what brings these two together in a Straphanger’s Delight? They’re both obviously located in old auto body shops, because this is Brooklyn after all. So much like the weather and my brain, let’s ping pong back and forth talking about these two G-line delights.

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One of the aforementioned G-line [Straphanger’s] delights: Hot Bird. Don’t let the smoke from the fire pit confuse you; there actually is no smoking. Please read all the signs lining the fence.

On a cold, March night, after a warm March day, I found myself ducking out from the rain and looking for a nice hot place to get some hot eats. So you’re thinking to yourself, Hot Bird, right? It’s got “hot” right there in the name. Nope, I’m actually talking about Speedy Romeo. Their hardwood fired pizzas are cooked in an open kitchen for the whole restaurant to see, and if you’re like me, take so many pictures of that eventually people start to notice. All of my other posts up to this point have seen me taking really, just truly shitty pictures, because I’ve been nervous about telling businesses about my blog so I tried to be discreet. But after a day fighting with my phone after it repeatedly deleted all my photos, I rebelled against my old ways and my phone, threw caution to the wind, said “fuck it,” and took as many non-discreet pictures as I could. But don’t worry kids! The photos are still poor quality because I’ve got a brand to maintain! Anyway, back to what’s actually important: pizza. The times I’ve come to Speedy Romeo, it’s always been incredibly popular, and while there’s a bit of a wait, you can wait it out drinking around the bar/kitchen (as I said before, it’s a good view, so it’s kinda worth it to have a wait), or you can go to a bodega nearby and buy a Powerball ticket. I suggest this because I did that once, and while I didn’t win, I felt like a winner because pizza is fucking delicious. Aside from the bar/kitchen, there’s also an open grill that you can watch the cooks firing up some of the most succulent looking protein dishes this side of the Rockies. There is regular seating, but we were lucky enough to get a seat at the bar next to the kitchen. This meant not only getting to see them prepare everything, which did NOT make it easier to order because I wanted to eat all the pizzas and meats, but you also got to bathe in the warmth from the pizza oven. Perfect for a cold night out on the town, or anytime because I like being warm always.

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A coupla chefs, a coupla pizza boxes, bada bing, bada boom, you’ve got a Clinton Hill Speedy Romeo

There aren’t a ton of remnants from it’s former auto body shop days. Aside from some mechanical stuff that I’m assuming was for car repairs (but to be honest could have been for cooking. I don’t know how to cook. Or repair a car) and the outside which is adorned with all kinds of car insignias, what really stands out is the painted portrait of a horse in the kitchen, watching over all the dishes before they go out. No, he can’t taste them, HE’S A PAINTING. And yes, he is Speedy Romeo, a former champion racehorse who is the namesake for this restaurant. If you’ve read any of my former posts, you know that I’m a sucker for a good animal portrait that watches over a bar or dining room. So honestly, the food could’ve been truly awful and I would’ve been like, “But it’s great because a horse watches you eat.” But obviously, you know that’s not true. One peek at their website and you’ll see words like “Michelin” “Jean George” “New York Rising Star,” which I don’t even need to give you the context to because you know that means good things, or at least you think you know that it means good things because you watch Top Chef and you once watched your friend make pasta. I’ll get into the food a little later. But let’s quickly pop on to the G and go one stop to check out Hot Bird.

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Quickly, let me slip in this pic of Speedy Romeo, the horse, and a horseshoe, that I can only assume was taken right from his now bare hoof.

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The bar, and name of the bar. I think it’s named after a car. That rhymed!!

Let’s imagine for a minute that it’s a beautiful, sunny, summer day. You want to get together with a bunch of friends and drink outside, before you go eat pizza alone at Speedy Romeo because you don’t want to share. Day drinking outside, what a splendid idea! Oh, oops, you pay way too much for a tiny ass apartment with no outdoor space, unless you want to sit on the curb near a fire hydrant because no one can park there so you can spread out a little bit. But, oops, again, there are open container laws so what’s a girl to do?! That’s when you call up your friends and you all meet at Hot Bird for some beers and maybe a couple cocktails. Pick your poison. Hot Bird is a bit opposite from Speedy Romeo. While there’s a fire if you insist on sitting outside for your drinks even if it’s cold and you’re a maniac, to truly enjoy the outdoors it’s best to come on a nice, spring or summer day. There’s not a ton of food options except for a taco “truck” located next to their outdoor seating. And the outside is not covered in automobile insignia. While Speedy Romeo might wear its former auto body shop-ness on the outside, the orange fence walls of Hot Bird don’t readily suggest that greasers used to operate on cars behind those walls. However, step inside and you’ll see plenty of old remnants of a bygone car shop, down to the name of the bar and the shades outside that are reminiscent of those things on the tops of gas station pumps. What are those called? Again, I don’t know anything about cars.

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Much like Dorothy had to follow her yellow brick road, just follow the orange wooden slats around the corner of Atlantic Ave onto Clinton Ave and just like that, you’re at Hot Bird. Again, no smoking.

While Hot Bird might be seen as a destination wedding for those who like to get married on former blacktop while people they don’t know surround them getting slowly drunk throughout the day, if you’re wanting to go there even in bad weather, there is always the indoor bar, which is where you have to go anyway to order your drinks. You might be forced inside even if it is nice weather because I have been known to go to Hot Bird on some of the first nice days after the winter moths, only to go 15 minutes after it opens and the place is packed to the gills. You’ll be sitting on the very tippy edge of one of the picnic tables while a group of 17 close friends laugh and catch up about their EXCITING! and INTERESTING! ENDEAVORS! In scenarios like that, it’s a better option to head inside. The space, while still having ample seating, is very open with a large window that illuminates the room and makes you feel like you’re just outside adjacent. Which is because you are. Outside adjacent is a term I just came up with and it actually means inside. To be real though, it can get very unbearably hot in New York in the summer, who are we kidding. And this isn’t Southeast Asia or anything, so it’s not like it’s fun. You’re just hot in the city, where everything starts to smell like rotting garbage, and you’re sweating, looking for any air conditioned building you can find so you can run to the bathroom and rinse your pits off in the sink. On days like this, you’re gonna want to go with the indoor seating and take in all of the garage themed decor. Don’t worry. The decor is clean and you won’t leave covered in grease, but if you order the tacos you might leave covered in sweat. Because I ordered them for the first time ever last week and those tacos are muy caliente! If that is correct spelling, grammar, and says what I think it says, then the 5 week Spanish class that I took 3 years ago is basically just paying for itself!

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In putting this picture up, I realize that you can’t really see the size and openness of the indoor part of Hot Bird. So I guess you just have to trust me that it’s large. Do you trust me? You should. I’m very smart.

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Hot Bird’s “taco truck,” with bird decal and no wheels. Don’t let the impending spring and summer be the only thing that makes you sweat! These tacos will have you panting!

Since we’re talking food, let’s pretend on the hypothetical day I mentioned so long ago in this post that the sun is setting and you’re looking to go gorge yourself on some hot meats and melted cheese. That’s when you get back on that G and keep ridin’, as I implore you to do at the end of every one of my posts. But again, these two former garages are only one G stop away so you won’t be on that little train that barely can for too long. Get off at the Classon stop, and head back to Speedy Romeo. If you’re keeping track, then you might remember that our hypothetical day actually started by going to Hot Bird, it was just this post that started off talking about Speedy Romeo. Because that’s me. Always keeping you on your toes. Anyway, back to our hypothetical day in which you go to Speedy Romeo for dinner after Hot Bird for day drinking, because you’re a lover of car repairs of yore. I know I’ve mentioned a few pizza places on this blog before. And as wonderful and unique as they all are, Speedy Romeo may just be my favorite. For one, if you branch out and decide to get something from the grill, YOU’RE NOT DUMB. Yes, you’re at a pizza place, and yes, for many pizza places, if you decide to go off the pizza menu, you can expect some version of a pasta dish and maybe a salad with some prime iceberg lettuce from the corner deli. But Speedy Romeo don’t play like that. I said it before and I’ll say it again, watch them cook those slabs of meat and those whole fish on that grill. Everything here is cooked using woodfire, either a grill or a stove, and I’m now a convert that woodfire might be the only way to cook. We got the grilled octopus and I have never had a better octopus in my life. And I mentioned Southeast Asia above for a reason, because I’ve spent my fair share of time there and they eat all the seafoods there. And even still, this was the best octopus. It’s not rubbery, it’s not tough, it’s not chewy, and it won’t make my sister throw up upon first bite like that octopus she tried in Japan that one time. It’s got all of the great flavors of octopus without that weird, chewy, ouch-my-jaw-hurts mouth feel that you might sometimes get.

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It’s pizza by candlelight. Say “I love you” with two full pizzas.

Obviously, the good food doesn’t stop there. I’m a sucker for eggs. On everything. So when I saw the Kind Brother on their menu, complete with a farm egg, wild mushrooms, smoked mozzarella, and sage I was like, “Check please! But first give me that pizza and then I’ll order one more pizza and then a couple more beers and then…I’ll take the check!” In short, I was excited and metaphorically shot my wad. Is that too much? I don’t know anymore, it’s come to my attention recently that not everyone appreciates my lack of a filter and I’m really having an internal struggle over it. Back to the pizza. It was delicious in all the right ways. I love egg and cheese. I have gone days in a row where I’ve later realized that every meal I had was some kind of incarnation of meat, cheese, and egg. So the Kind Brother really spoke to me on a very deep, personal level. And although I easily ate my weight in octopus, egg, pizza, cheese, meats, crust, sauces, etc., they were kind enough to treat us to a branded marshmallow chocolate cake. And when they say branded, they truly mean branded. Like with a branding iron. At your table. And I said, “But I’m so delicate and full!” And then ate the whole thing. Because it was a FUCKING BRANDED MARSHMALLOW. You don’t come by those everyday. And while I think the whole reason we were given the cake was so I could take a picture of it, the only one I got that was even somewhat decent was post branding, as you can see below. Again, this is one of those times where you must learn to trust me, thank you. The art of table-side cooking is usually reserved for making guacamole, but I think Speedy Romeo is on the brink of starting a new trend in table-side branding.

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Marshmallow branded chocolate cake, post branding. Sorry kids, I’m not a photographer. I’m not a writer either, though, and yet here we all are

With your dessert now fully consumed and your belly really testing the limits of the seams on your pants, your hypothetical day has come to a close and you’ve only had to ride the G to two neighboring different stops to experience two very different takes on an old auto parts shop. With the hypothetical day ending so ends this post and my inability to really have that whole hypothetical day as a through line. Oops. Maybe I’ll be better at writing this thing next time. There’s only one way to find out and that’s to-

Keep r-i-d-i-n

-Off the G

Trivia Thursday: Putnam’s Pub & Cooker

I’m sure there’s some kind of clever caption about the Irish flag and the impending St. Patrick’s Day holiday, but I just can’t come up with it

  • Subway stop: Clinton-Washington
  • Walk from subway: 8 minutes
  • Neighborhood: Clinton Hill
  • Location: 419 Myrtle Ave, on the corner of Clinton Ave
  • Trivia Nights: Wednesdays at 8:30pm

It’s been two weeks, or 14 days, or 336 hours, or 20,160 minutes, or 1,209,600 seconds (roughly) since our last Trivia Thursday. I don’t know how you tell time and this isn’t a song from Rent, so let’s just say it’s been a fortnight and call it a day. With that passage of time it could mean only one thing. It’s time for another Trivia Thursday! This week’s is a doozy, because if you search for trivia in Brooklyn this will often come up as the top one in the borough. And I have to say, having been to many trivias in many different states and no other countries, I have to agree that this trivia is among my favorites. So you’re likely at this point at the edge of your seat, wondering what it is. Might I direct your attention to the title of this particular post. Oh, you don’t take directions from blogs? Okay, then I guess I’ll tell you what the place is in the body of my blog, as all the best authors do. All the best authors have blogs, right? Oh, they have vlogs now? Noted. Anyway, we’re talking Putnam’s Pub & Cooker in Clinton Hill!

An illuminated beer always makes the losing at trivia a little more palatable

What makes trivia at Putnam’s so great? Well, for starters, even if you’re not there for trivia, they have a nice offering of food, drinks, and merriment. They have oysters for those who need to order oysters every time they see them on a menu (that’s me I’m describing), they have a nice list of beers on tap, and if you’re feeling funky, why not order some cheeseburger spring rolls? Feeling cheap? Show up before 7 and you can take part in the centuries old tradition of happy hour! So even if you don’t win at trivia you can still feel like less of a failure at life for scoring them cheap eats and booze!

Putnam’s trivia is of course very popular so it’s no surprise that my team, “Glance Steinbaum, DDS, At Your Service,” didn’t even crack the top ten, but the way you play the game can be strategic and all ride on that last question. For example, if we had gotten the last question right, we would’ve been in the top 5, but the world is full of coulda, shoulda, wouldas and you just can’t dwell on them.

Sometimes you just get a sheet of looseleaf paper at trivia. Sometimes you get something a little more complex. As they say, “different strokes for different folks.”

So how does the trivia all work? What is this “strategy” that you speak of? Well, if you have very good eyesight you can try to look at the picture above to figure out the rules. Or I can try to break them down for you in a way that won’t be too boring to read when you’re not actively participating in trivia. There are four rounds of five questions. The first four questions for every round are between 1-4 points but you get to decide how much you want to wager for each question. “Well, then I’ll just wager 4 points for every question to maximize how many potential points I get,” you’re thinking to yourself. You just think you’re so smart don’t you. You probably are the kinda person who thinks they’re the only ones who don’t pay for cable anymore and just use Hulu and other streaming sites to watch TV because you’re SO SMART. Well you’re not because that’s not how the points work in this trivia. You have to wager 1, 2, 3, and 4 for every round, so aside from the 5th bonus question that you don’t get to pick the value of, each round maxes out at 10 points. Which brings me to the fifth bonus question in every round. The first round it starts out at 5 points, then it gradually grows in intensity with every round, making the very last question worth 10 points, which could be the ultimate in game changers. Are you following me up to this point? It’s actually not that confusing. I just tend to explain things using the maximum amount of words.

 

In case you forgot, let this picture serve as a reminder that Putnam’s is a bar


 

Let’s say there are some questions that you feel like you might know, the answer is at the tip of your tongue, but you could really use some audio or visual assistance in locating that answer from the deep recesses of your brain. Don’t worry, they got you. The categories for each question, the questions themselves, AND the answers are all shown on a TV screen by the bar. Each question also comes with an  accompanying song that’s meant to either act as a hint or throw you off the scent. When will it not be a hint? You’ll never know, until they reveal the answer and then you’ll know. And when all is said and done, what are the prizes? Just a $100 bar tab for the winner, no big deal. And second and third prize aren’t too shabby either with a $50 and $25 bar tab respectively. 

What also makes this such a well running trivia is that it’s not run by some big wig quiz master company. These questions, clues, and misleads come straight from the brain of the MC, meaning that they understand what they’re asking you, why they’re asking it, and they’re equipped to fight anyone who might contest an answer. I don’t actually know about that last part, but I always appreciate it when the person asking the questions at trivia actually knows the answer and can explain to you why it’s right.

So if you’re looking for probably the best bar trivia in Brooklyn, or at least the most involved, complex, and brain straining trivia, I found it for you. And if that’s not your bag, the weather’s getting nice and they have outdoor seating so you can watch from the great outdoors as the trivia participants toil away indoors. And as always-

Keep r-i-d-i-n

-Off the G

Other Half Brewing Company: how the other half lives, if you’re a wine drinker and not a beer drinker. Otherwise, if you are a beer drinker, it’s a brewery!

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Nothing like an afternoon beer to make you forget about the real world and all of it’s responsibilities

  • Subway stop: Smith and 9th St
  • Walk from subway: 3 minutes
  • Neighborhood: Carroll Gardens
  • Location: 195 Centre St., between Smith St and Hamilton Ave near the BQE

While this was supposed to be posted yesterday, a small bout of food poisoning had me sidelined, keeping me from writing all about this Carroll Gardens’ brewery, Other Half Brewing Company. I guess you could argue that spontaneously vomming into a bush while walking down the sidewalk seems somewhat fitting for a post about a brewery, but in this case the two are not related, other than one leading to the delay of the blog post about the other. But I digress. Perhaps the name “Other Half” is meant for those drinkers among us who are a bit more classy, those who might like craft beers for their delicious taste, and like to bring their entire family to a brewery on a Sunday afternoon. Ya know, the other half. The half of drinkers that’s not in college or trying to drown their daily problems in booze. The half that DOESN’T do that. That other half. Are you with me so far or has my food poisoning spread to my brain?

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Classy beer glasses and an ever-changing menu for classy and ever-changing people

Other Half beers can be found all over, including in previous blog post subject, 61 Local. But there’s no better place to go to get that real Other Half lifestyle than the brewery. Being in Carroll Gardens, you would be right in assuming the clientele is a nice happy mix of people who like to get day drunk because it’s not a work day and they have no responsibilities, but also have a refined palette, and people who have a small family with kids and pets alike, and they will bring the whole family there because nothing says “family fun” like watching Daddy desperately hold onto his youth, getting sloshed at 3pm. Just kidding, your kid’s cute and I was eyeing that King Charles Spaniel someone brought with them like it was a doughnut wrapped in bacon that I would take home and raise in my own image. Honestly, I have no problem with people bringing their kids to a bar or brewery as long as it’s kid friendly, the kid tends to keep to stay with their original group, and the kid is not a laptop. One of these days I am going to steal someone’s laptop at a cafe or bar, to teach them a lesson.

Anyway, you might expect a brewery in Carroll Gardens that serves delicious craft beers has a storefront that you can’t miss. But you’d be wrong. Because, located near the BQE, the exterior looks just like it’s located underneath a highway. I walked right by it to where a cat was cozy-ing up to a big cart full of hops. It took me a minute to realize, wait, this is the block where the brewery is and this is a huge pile of hops (a common ingredient in beer, ya chumps), so I must’ve walked right by the brewery. I had. The door is very non-descript and covered in chipping paint, to give it that “authentic” feel.

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Good thing a cat made me stop on the sidewalk, otherwise I probably would’ve walked right by this place

The hops-loving stray cat is a perfect introductory symbol for the Brooklyn-ness of this brewery. After walking into what seems like an abandoned front door, you’re greeted with a rustic, wood interior, bearded men, a taxidermy antelope head, a lot of hodge-podge decorations, and an “every man for himself” seating arrangement. This brewery knows what it is and where it is, and it doesn’t try to shy away from that, and there’s something somewhat refreshing about a place that so unapologetically leans into every Brooklyn stereotype. There’s a certain set of people who tend to gravitate towards craft beers and they know it and fuck it, they’re here for you. What’s that? You want to know another refreshing aspect of Other Half Brewing Company? Their beers are not only nutritious, but are actually affordable. Walking down Smith or Court St only a few minutes away, you could easily shell out a lot more money on the same beer, but stop being a lazy bum, walk a few more minutes to the brewery, and get yourself some reasonably priced beer. The taxidermy antelope head commands you!

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He COMMANDS you.

As mentioned above, this is definitely a first-come, first-serve seating type of establishment, so unless you plan on getting there as soon as they open, or staying until last call, if it’s a weekend, plan on standing. Otherwise, reevaluate your life and maybe have some free time during a week day. What are you doing with your life that’s honestly THAT important? But let’s say it is a weekend that you go, it’s been open for a few hours and the one communal table has no seats left. You can crowd around the table on the little ledges that are mounted on the walls for people who like to awkwardly eye the people who are sitting, trying to mind control them into standing up (which is exactly what I did, and after an hour IT WORKED), or you can walk a little further into the room, by the bathroom where you’ll see a door leading to an entire other room. That room will likely also be crowded and standing room only, but it’s another room and you can see some of the brewing machinery, bucket things. I don’t know what they’re called. They probably have a tour where they explain everything. If they do, I didn’t go on it. I was too busy trying to sit down.

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Looking a little crowded on that side, too. I’ll just chill out underneath the antelope head and shoot daggers out of my eyes at the people who are sitting, thanks!

So, all of this talk about the space probably has you wondering, why the fuck do I care? What about the beer? Well, I wouldn’t have even opened up a tab to write this if the beer was shit. And I’m a lover of a good pun or a good reference to my cat’s name, and their offerings happened to achieve both. And if you’re scrolling up to try and figure out what my cat’s name is based off of the menu that was posted above, his name is not “Peach Wood Aged” or “Other Half IPA.” It’s Nug. So I ordered the Super Nugget because I always honor and respect my son, even when he’s at home sleeping on a pile of my clothes and getting cat hair all over them. If you’re a stout fan like I am, there is absolutely nothing to complain about with that Super Nugget. In fact, if you know what kind of beer you gravitate towards, they probably offer it in it’s best form. Their sour beer was a sour beer to end all sour beers (I’m not a sour beer fan myself, so not one of my top picks, but that’s not the point I’m making). Their IPA makes good use of that hops pile I saw earlier in the day. And their Make It Rain…was liquid like rain is. And because my cat couldn’t be there, eventually the cat we saw earlier on the sidewalk snuck in and made all the friends and got all the pettings and purred in a sign of solidarity towards my apartment-bound cat who couldn’t make the trip.

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A Super Nugget on the right and a Canni Baal on the left. You wish you were drinking them right now. I wish I was drinking them right now. I’ve been drinking Gatorade and Ginger Ale all day.

If you’re a lover of good beer, the occasional cat spotting, the occasional dog spotting, and wood, it’s worth going to the Other Half Brewing Company. If all of that scares you a little bit, because you’re a loser who doesn’t know how to step outside of their comfort zone, just relax and take a deep breath. It’s going to be okay. Are you afraid that you won’t fit in? Are you worried that everyone else will know way more about beer than you? Don’t let your anxieties get in your way. They are largely in your head. Also, there’s a cat there that will love and respect you so you don’t have to feel so alone. It’s okay. Oh no…my food poisoning…it’s spread to my heart…goodbye…until next time…

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Here’s a picture of where you order the beer, because I didn’t know where to include that before

Keep r-i-d-i-n

-Off the G

Madiba: The most delicious way to pretend you’re not in Brooklyn, but actually in South Africa

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Usually these sidewalks are lined with tables and chairs, filled with customers soaking up the sun enjoying brunch. But this is Brooklyn, not South Africa, and that means in February or March it’s usually cold. So quit griping and go inside.

  • Subway stop: Clinton-Washington or Fulton St.
  • Walk from subway: 6 minutes from either stop
  • Neighborhood: Fort Greene
  • Location: 195 Dekalb Ave on the corner of Carlton Ave

It’s nearing the end of winter in New York City which means a lot of things; you’re slowly growing weary of just coming home and watching Netflix until your eyes bleed, you’re far enough removed from the holidays that you’re starting to think you might have money again and are online shopping for yourself because you’ve convinced yourself you deserve this, and the weather is wildly fluctuating from day to day. One day it’s 65 degrees and you’re wearing sandals and eating outside and the very next day it’s 27 degrees and you already forgot what it means to bundle up while looking good so you just throw on 5 sweatshirts, a parka, winter boats, and flannel lined pants, all while cursing March. It’s in like a lion and out like a lamb every. Goddamn. Day. Those occasional glimpses into the warm weather are enough of a teaser to turn that online shopping into an impulse buy of a plane ticket to a nicer climate because you just can’t stand it anymore. But STOP. You can pretend you’re going to a much warmer and more flavorful place by just taking the G to this 17 year-old Fort Greene staple, Madiba. Serving South African cuisine with many, many, many portraits of a smiling Nelson Mandela watching over you, you can save a few hundred dollars and pretend you’re in Johannesburg for the night.

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Nelson “Tata Madiba” Mandela happily watches you enjoy your seafood and curry. If you don’t enjoy it, first off, what’s wrong with you, and second, I guess he’s just taunting you and not happily watching you. In either scenario, he’s a painting and he’s smiling.

Having never actually been to Madiba until recently, I knew I had to go soon when I started seeing campaigns posted online and on their doors that said “Save Madiba!” I’ve unfortunately had to watch some of my favorite places along the G close down recently, before even getting to write about them for all of my RABID FANS, due to increasing rent costs causing even the more successful businesses to close their doors. I had looked at Madiba’s menu before, I had seen people enjoying cocktails on the sidewalk on sunny days, and I had even seen their posters bashing Trump next to their entrance. I knew that even though I had yet to go to Madiba myself it was already a local favorite for so many and would likely become a favorite of my own. So before I even delve too far into my usual ramblings, I would like to plead everyone to please patronize Madiba. Do not make this the next ScratchBread, which continually had a line out the door and had the best breakfast sandwiches in town, but still had to close. Madiba had an IndieGoGo campaign that closed at the end of January so as of writing this it seems that it’s either in good shape or not accepting donations anymore. Either way, the best way to ensure it stays open, is to go there and tell your friends to go there, and I’m about to tell you why.

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It’s hard to properly express through a photo how amazing this “Isopho” Cape Seafood Soup is. But I can tell you that it was very filling and kept me alive for two days straight. And this is day three and I’m still surviving off of that seafood.

Their food gave my seafood loving bones new life. And their Chicken Livers Peri-Peri made my former childhood picky eater self shrivel up and die. Their cocktail names that celebrated all things South African, and all things Obama for that matter, had me thinking I was on the beach in the middle of the day, totally not knowing that while I was sitting in Fort Greene enjoying my dinner, it had turned dark and the temperature had dropped to 33 degrees. I even became a convert of curry, a kind of food I’ve never really taken a liking to. Does that make me unpopular? I feel like curry has the kind of feverish following that kale has which I ACTIVELY DESPISE. So I’m sorry if I offended you with my lack of love for curry. But know that I did like Madiba’s curry. So get off my jock.

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A not so artistic shot of one of their Durban Style Curries, a sort of “choose your own adventure” when it comes to ordering. You pick the main ingredient, either vegetable, chicken, lamb, or seafood, then the style, either curry & rice, breyani, durban bunny chow, or roti. Pictured here is chicken with curry and rice. If that didn’t quite make sense to you, I’m sorry but this is a caption not a how-to guide.

Let’s break this down a little bit, much like they broke down the chicken for the livers and curry (zing!). There are a few different areas within Madiba that you can nosh on your sea meats and sip on your ‘tails. If the weather is nice, which, who knows, it’s snowing while I write this, but in an hour it could be 90 and sunny, definitely sit outside. There’s nothing better than people watching while getting day drunk, especially so close to Fort Greene Park where you’re bound to see people getting ready for a run in the park, walking their dogs, or pushing their kids in a stroller. Hey, passerby, you enjoy that, I’m just gonna sit here and chug my Shongololo, a tequila, guava juice, lemon-lime juice, Cayenne pepper concoction. Yes, they’re fucking delicious and yes, the name is fun to say.

 

Shongololo and Chicken Livers Peri-Peri. If you’re like me and sweat when you eat, even when eating Skittles, you will sweat. But it’s a good way to clean out your system.

 

If it’s cold and you HAVE to go inside, don’t fret. As I said above, there are plenty of fun decorations and portraits to fill that people watching void, plus excellent music, sometimes live, sometimes a playlist, sometimes recorded and live. A piano in the small bar/lounge area was sometimes played by people walking by, attempting to seamlessly integrate it into the playlist that was broadcast throughout the restaurant. So while there wasn’t scheduled live music when I was there, I can say that there was technically live music.

 

For the comfortable seat lover in all of us, please enjoy these couches in the bar area. And for the vaguely hut-like bathroom lover in all of us, Madiba’s got you covered there, too, immediately to the left of the couches

There are two indoor areas that you can choose from, the bar area with small couches and tables and a bathroom that’s designed to look somewhat like a hut from the outside (don’t worry, there are Nelson Mandela pictures by the bar), and the main dining room, with high ceilings and even higher paintings. That’s not true, the paintings do not extend past the ceiling. The dining room is a step down from the lounge/bar/comfort zone, but if you can’t handle the step there might be hope for you yet. The wait staff is very friendly, sometimes dancing their way to your table, hot plates of food in hand. I also noticed a door that went directly from the sidewalk into the dining room. I would not be surprised if the wait staff opened up that door for you so you could get in, in case there wasn’t and room left outside or in the lounge area. Knowing that sometimes, a disabled entrance can lead you on a tour through the back area and kitchen, it’s nice that there are multiple options for disabled seating that don’t send you through a separate, embarrassing route, all while retaining that cool eclectic vibe and architecture that makes their indoor seating so fun. So kudos to you, Madiba. You did good.

 

The dining area, as seen when walking in from the bar. I need to be more confident when whipping out my phone and taking pictures of these places, because I try to be discreet but then I just grt blurry pictures like this and everyone still sees me snapping photos anyway.

Now that we’ve talked about the space, we really need to talk more about the food and the drinks. I said it before, there food would’ve been enough. It doesn’t hurt that they have a very cool vibe and ambience and all that shit. But they could hang their hat on their food alone and be more than okay. Unfortunately, when I went, it was dark and I couldn’t really snag a great photo of the food I ordered, but if you go to their website, you’ll see some professional level photos of some professional level food. And while our meal was not quite a kaleidoscope of colors, you can see that they’ve got things on their menu that include every color of the rainbow. Speaking of colorful rainbows, listen to the ingredients in this cocktail: rum, OJ, cranberry, mango and guava nectars garnished with lychee. What might you call that? An Obama Mama, you dumb idiot.

 

One Obama Mama, coming right up!

 

One picture of Obama in a corner, also coming right up!

I will be honest, this weather is really starting to get me down. The fact that this blog at times feels like I’m just screaming into an abyss, in so much as very few people read it and I’m definitely just talking to myself, is also a bit of a kick in the pants. But something about Madiba got me excited about being in Brooklyn in late February/early March, and the writing of this post just fucking flowed right out of me. And that’s gotta be worth something, right? So if you’re experiencing the same sense of cabin fever, and the occasional peaks of sunlight just make it even worse when it goes back to below freezing, don’t buy a ticket out of town. Buy a seafood soup and keep Madiba around to stave off future generations of seasonal affective disorder. And as always-
Keep r-i-d-i-n

-Off the G

Take Out Tuesday: Bar Bruno

There’s nothing quite like a Squirt to wash down your Mexican cuisine

  • Subway stops delivered to: Bergen St and Carroll St, with plans to expand their delivery area
  • Neighborhoods delivered to: Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens on the west side of Smith St
  • Location: 520 Henry St on the corner of Union St

We’ve finally made it, kids. It’s Off the G’s much anticipated second Take Out Tuesday post. Calm down and clean yourselves off, it’s just a blog! Today, I’m talking about take out from Bar Bruno, a Mexican Bistro in Carroll Gardens that could still technically be considered along the G line, but if you’re as lazy as I am, the long trek from the Carroll Stop on Smith St to Henry St, where Bar Bruno is located, is arduous and taxing, especially when it’s cold out. I mean, I guess the weather is nice out at this exact moment in time and you do get rewarded with a delicious meal to refuel your system if you were to visit the physical establishment, but that’s not what this feature is about. So stop nitpicking and just let the take out wash over you.

 

An uncomfortable close up of some fish tacos.


While their delivery zone is currently not that large, really only covering the west side of Smith St in Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill, it’s still worth ordering if you’re in that area. For starters, because the delivery area is on the smaller side, you don’t have to wait very long for food. After I placed a recent order on Seamless and they estimated it would take an hour, I accepted that challenge head on, knowing full well that sometimes, as much as I love them, Seamless is full of shit. Sure enough, 20 minutes after my initial order, the doorbell rang and there was my food. The Seamless app was still telling me some bullshit about staring into a crystal ball and the food being currently prepared. Get your act together, Seamless. I love you, but COME ON.

I’m the kind of person who likes to sample a little bit of everything off a menu, which is perfect when I’m with more than just myself, but a real punch in the wallet when I’m ordering for one. Browsing the menu when I ordered, I decided on some smaller plates so I could try a little bit of everything while avoiding being evicted because I ran out of money. I decided on an old standby, Ensenada Tacos, or fish tacos for those of us who don’t know what Ensenada is. Which I don’t. Good thing I have a blog where I largely talk about food! I’m clearly very qualified! I also ordered a side of fried plantains and a little dessert, which I’ll get into later. Because I have a sweet tooth and waiting to eat dessert to get my sugar fix was just simply NOT GOING TO HAPPEN, I also ordered a Mexican soda. But not just any Mexican soda. I ordered the lesser known, lemon lime delicacy known simply as “Squirt.”

 

Squirt from on high. And fried plantains.


Nothing quite says “thirst quencher” like a soda called “Squirt.” Despite the fact that I had never heard of Squirt, it did not disappoint, in flavor or name. And since you can’t really order beer or a cocktail to come with your food delivery, Squirt is definitely the next best thing. While I was ready to sample a few dishes and wash them down with my Squirt, I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the delivery bag and found some tortilla chips as well. They do not want their patrons to finish their meals hungry. Either that or they thought my order was for multiple people and a nice way of saying, “Thank you for bringing us to the attention of more than just one person by ordering in pairs,” was to throw in some complimentary chips. Either way, I ate all of them.

Finally, having doubled my weight in Mexican foods and sodas, it was time to keep eating. I bring you now to the dessert potion of my take out from Bar Bruno: churros and chocolate sauce.

 

If I were in charge of naming churros based on seeing a picture of them alone, I would probably call them “Lil Sweet Nubs,” or “Sugar Logs.” This is why I don’t work in marketing


I will be totally real with you all and show you how little I knew about other cultures and cuisines in my youth (that has marginally changed as I’ve matured, but only marginally). The first time I ever had churros was at Epcot Center in Disney World. I didn’t even know what I was ordering, I just got nervous and pointed to the first thing I saw on the menu. That game time decision changed me forever. Churros are delicious. And these Bar Bruno churros changed my perception of churros YET AGAIN. Churros with chocolate?! Why have I never done this before?! (Am I on a fast track to diabetes?)

If you’re looking to mix some sweet and savory Mexican flavors together, and you’re in the Carroll Gardens or Cobble Hill area but have been sitting on the couch so long that your flesh has started to grow into the fabric of the couch, might I recommend Bar Bruno. If you are a little more mobile, but just like, “I don’t want to miss my stories on TV,” you can still order from them, I won’t judge. Or you can also just go there and person, and of course-

Keep r-i-d-i-n

-Off the G