Mekelburg’s: a gourmet deli grows in Brooklyn and saves us all from our inner demons

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Their bathroom wallpaper inspires joy and delight, much like their menu…and my personality

  • Subway stop: Classon Ave
  • Walk from subway: 4 minutes
  • Neighborhood: Clinton Hill
  • Location: 293 Grand Ave between Clifton Place and Greene Ave

Many Wednesdays have come and gone since my recent promise to have new Off the G posts every Wednesday, and yet, my procrastinating nature remains the same. So with the best of intentions, I’m attempting once more to start regular postings on Wednesdays, starting with one of the places I whiled away my time between my last regular post and this one, not posting, but enjoying my life in the form of food and beer. I’m talking of course about Mekelburg’s, a combination deli/grocery store/bar/trivia spot/purveyor of such delightful offerings as “slab bacon baked potato.” You had me at “deli” (I love a good sliced meat), but you had me even more at “slab bacon” (I REALLY love a good brick of meat). Located not far from Pratt, if you’re a non-art student it can sometimes feel like you’re a little out of place wandering around that neighborhood. Mekelburg’s, however, offers a safe haven. You can go to Clinton Hill and enjoy a nice sandwich and a beer before heading back to your overpriced apartments with a frozen Roberta’s pizza, looking out onto the street at all the college-aged art students walking by, a whole life’s worth of mistakes ahead of them. You pop your frozen pizza into the oven (they sell those at Mekelburg’s, if that wasn’t clear), and you stand in front of your freezer with the door open attempting to cool off while it cooks, trying to piece together what you did wrong with your life. Your pizza dings, but you’re not there to take it out of the oven, because you’ve returned to Mekelburg’s, this time enjoying a shandy in their backyard area, sitting in the hand chair that seemingly was plucked directly from the “Arrested Development” props department. Meanwhile, back at your apartment, your pizza is burning and catches fire. Your apartment is on fire, but who cares because you’re not there! Existential crisis avoided. Thanks Mekelburg’s!

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The Mekelburg’s backyard: give ’em a hand!

In keeping with the theme of existential dread and attempting to power through it, Mekelburg’s is located in the basement garden level of a building, so you can feel good about leaving your house AND also feel good about wearing a shirt that’s stained with yesterday’s coffee. Because when you’re in a somewhat dimly lit multi-hyphenate establishment, no one really cares what you look like, everyone’s too busy trying to figure out if they’re there to drink at the bar or to buy a replacement CO2 cartridge for their Soda Stream (also something that’s sold at Mekelburg’s). Thankfully no one will judge you if you do both. And despite the rathskeller-type vibe one might expect from a place that’s below sidewalk level, it’s actually very lively. Not in a “drunk frat kids” kind of way, and not in a overly enthusiastic and bubbly way. In the kind of way where the bathroom is wallpapered with zebras and chalk boards as seen at the top of this post. Also in the “not afraid to blast Edith Piaf” kind of way, and god knows I love a bright wallpaper and “La Vie en Rose” combo package. It makes me feel like an extra in Amelie, which comes naturally to me having once been Amelie for Halloween and had to yield questions all night about who I was. “Cool girl from the 90’s costume. What’s with the gnome?” “I’m actually the titular Amelie from Amelie.” “Hey, I don’t know what you’re saying.”

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Beautiful day out? Perfect weather basement-ing

One of the best parts about Mekelburg’s is it’s ability to welcome people no matter who they are, whether they’re Amelie themselves or just an Amelie imposter, or more commonly regular humans who don’t exist in a fantasy world. I’ve been there in the morning, watching people who are about to run off to work at some boring office like some boring adult with boring responsibilities and boring bills. I’ve been there in the middle of the day watching people work on their laptops, again probably doing something boring on those laptops to help them pay their boring bills. I’ve been there in the early evening and seen families there with their boring kids doing boring kid things. I’ve been there at night watching all of those boring people fucking cut loose man and drink one beer responsibly. Being an adult can be a drag, but at least you can legally drink and make your own decisions when out at a restaurant. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a kid out at a restaurant who willingly ordered Sambal Butter Roasted Oysters (they sell that at Mekelburg’s). Let’s get real, the clientele at Mekelburg’s are not boring, they’re adults who are in charge of their shit and know what good food and drinks taste like.

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Literally one of the only times I’ve been here when no one else was. Naturally, I took a picture.

So now that we’re all fully on the same page and have accepted our fates as adults who are just trudging through life, slowly getting closer and closer to death, and we’re finding solace surrounded by our ilk in the lower level fine foods and craft beer emporium that is Mekelburg’s, let’s Sheryl Sandberg this bitch and “lean in” to the menu. The real bread and sambal butter. The true slab bacon and salt baked potatoes. With an always changing craft beer list on tap, you’ll be screaming, “Beer, a depressant?! I don’t think so, bub!” These are not your average Bud Lights or your Natty Bo’s or your Mountain Brew Beer Ices. This is the good stuff. And if beer isn’t your thing, they’ve got other drinks too. Bloody Mary’s more your speed? Don’t worry, they’ve got that and yes, I have tried to order one of their BM’s (Bloody Marys, not turdy) on Postmates before. It didn’t work out. Also, in case you forget, they have a whole store in the front that you have to walk past to get to their bar. You can always just grab something out of one of the cases in the front if you’d rather have a coconut water because you’re worried about your health. Why didn’t you think of that? For your health.

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Smoked salmon tartine and beer because I make #smart #choices

You may have been living your life prior to visiting Mekelburg’s thinking, “Fuck, I’m an adult. Where did my youth go? When did my dreams die?” But then you step inside and you’re greeted with what adulthood actually is. It’s good food and drinks. It’s people who know what they want in life because they’ve lived a little bit. It’s a wall full of Zapp’s potato chips (they sell those at Mekelburg’s). It’s a space that can be whatever you need in that moment. And it’s eating their delicious oysters then realizing later that night that you are indeed allergic to shellfish, but adulthood is about coming to terms with who you are and quite literally what your body can handle. That being said, I don’t care, I will continue to eat oysters. Because I’m not that mature. Yet.

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“There ain’t no such thing as ‘just Zapp’s,'” something that was said to my boyfriend once in Louisiana

Hey look at that, you came here to read about Mekelburg’s and instead you got a lesson in overcoming your internal existential dread. Goes to show you never truly know what you’re going to get here at Off the G [shrugs shoulders smugly]. So don’t forget to come back next week and as always-

Keep r-i-d-i-n

-Off the G

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If you scrolled all the way to the bottom, congratulations! Here’s a b-b-b-bonus picture of oysters

 

Back on track

Yes, you read that train-themed pun correctly. Off the G is back (on track). But before we get back to your favorite posts about all things along the G line, I felt it important to re-introduce, re-focus, and re-brand what Off the G is, because nothing says “a hardly read blog with no agenda written by one person alone in their apartment” like the term “re-branding.”

First off, the re-introduction: I write this by myself as a bit of a passion project that combines three of my favorite things: personal storytelling, humor and travel. I know what you’re thinking; “Travel along the G line does not constitute travel.” Okay, sure, but I think we can all agree that one definition of travel is getting off your ass and traveling outside of your dank hovel. Also, there’s no better start to a hopeful career in travel-humor-storytelling than in your own backyard. As a side note, does anyone know if such a career exists, or am I carving out a niche market for myself that maybe doesn’t exist yet for a reason? I guess we’ll never really know because the internet is surely not for figuring out if something already exists.

I’ve spent the last few months stalling on relaunching this blog, wondering if it was worth it, but I kept hearing your whispers in the wind, “You’re a singular voice with a weird concept that probably only you enjoy, but you should write it anyway.” I also heard your impassioned cries, “Hey, whatever happened to that blog you wrote? I chuckled at it a couple times.” So I’m here to answer your prayers! Going forward, I’m re-focusing (for those keeping track that was the second prong in the re-blogging trident of success). There will be the traditional Off the G posts all four of you have grown to love, posted every Wednesday. I know I’ve made that promise before, but I already have several posts written and timed to go up over the next few Wednesdays, so even if the whole world blows up in a ball of threatening tweets and bombs, my blog would still post a new entry, somewhere into the ethers of whatever is left of the internet. In addition to the regular posts about what you might find on everyone’s least favorite subway line, I’ll also be posting the occasional entry that doesn’t necessarily fit the criteria of being a place along the G line. There might be a post about something else in New York City. Maybe a different city all together. Maybe nothing to do with anything even remotely associated with this blog. These will be “Off Track” entries, will have no regularity, and you’ll honestly just have to deal because sometimes I’ve wanted to write something in the same aesthetic as this blog is written but have had to stop myself because I’d be writing about a dog breed I really like. I will stop myself no more! It’s my blog and I’ll write about what I want! Also, the very very slight successes of this blog have come not from the fact that I’m talking about places I’ve been to, but the way I’m talking about the places I’ve been to, so excuse while I explore my own voice a little bit more. 

As for the future of Off the G, we turn to re-branding (the third and final prong in the aforementioned re-blogging trident of success). Just call me Brandy because I love a good duet about boys being mine. Just ask anyone, I have two boys and I sing about them all the time (they’re cats). Or you can call me Brandy because I want to become a real “brand.” I think. Yeah, I think that’s what I want. As such, over the next couple of months you’ll see a more streamlined blog, without the clunky “wordpress” in it’s url (sorry WordPress, thanks for hosting me! You’ve been a peach!). There won’t be any branded content because I’m a nobody, but you may see a shift in focus from Instagram posts to more blog posts, as I’m going to use Instagram mainly as a way to funnel people into this blog. I’ve never been much of a photographer, so while I dabbled in making Off the G a more photo based platform, it’s time to get serious about where my strengths are. Also, using words like “platform” and “strengths” and “dabble” and “peach” make me sound really legitimate.

So that’s it for now. This Wednesday starts the official official re-launch of Off the G, with a more official official plan for moving forward and more official official sounding vocabulary. Excuse me while I make this thing official. See you back here on Wednesday and as always-

Keep r-i-d-i-n
-Off the G 

Farmacy: Neither a farm, nor a Macy’s, nor a pharmacy. It’s an ice cream parlor, ya dig?

Don’t worry, this ooey gooey goodness will all make sense in good time

  • Subway stop: Carroll St
  • Walk from the subway: 8 minutes
  • Neighborhood: Carroll Gardens
  • Location: 513 Henry St, on the corner of Sackett St

I know what you’re all thinking: “Where’d you go? You promised us you’d stick around this time and educate us on all things along the G, while simultaneously sprinkling in fun anecdotes about your life. You didn’t hold up your end of the deal!” To which I respond, “Oops, I fucked up. Also, we never had a deal and you don’t know my life,” even though, truth be told, most of you do know my life. But that’s neither here nor there. The long awaited return of Off the G is here, just in time for New York to start heating up and smelling like garbage. So what better way to beat the heat than to sit in front of a computer and read about some ice cream I ate! We’re kicking off the return of the Off the G blog with a post all about Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain in Carroll Gardens.

The outside of Brooklyn Farmacy, or as I like to call it, “A dream in ice cream colored pastels.”

If you’re unfamiliar with the old timey soda shops of Brooklyn, you might think I’m suffering a brain injury and desperately pleading with my readers to get me to a pharmacy and buy me some drugs to alleviate any swelling and pain I may currently be enduring, but the head injury is impeding my ability to properly type out “pharmacy.” I’m trapped in my own brain, begging my dear readers to put me out of my pain and get me some medication. Nope! Wrong again! Jeez, my hypothetical readers are constantly hypothetically misunderstanding what the places are I’m posting about. You guys should really hypothetically get it together. Farmacy is actually an ice cream/soda pop shoppe that looks straight out of Back to the Future or Pleasantville, both very timely references. The major difference here is not as much chrome, a lot more wood, but no young Elijah Wood playing an arcade game. If none of that makes sense to you, put down your books and watch TV every once in awhile.

In case you didn’t believe that it’s like a blast from the past, I edited this photo to be in black and white!

Like I said, or at the very least heavily implied, stepping into Farmacy is a little like stepping through a portal into another era, one where women in cat-eye rimmed glasses and red lip stick and men with handlebar mustaches make you an ice cream sundae, a milk shake or an egg cream. You might say, “But I see people like the ones you’ve described all the time in Brooklyn and I didn’t step in a time machine.” This is NOT in Williamsburg, this is in Carroll Gardens, home of strollers and brownstones, not home of people living out a Portlandia sketch. So it is a little like going back in time. Again, I am always right and you are always wrong. Let’s establish that now so we can move on with the rest of this post without further interruption. Back to the foodstuffs; if you’re wondering what an egg cream is, look no further than the picture below. It should answer any questions you may have.

If you don't know what an egg cream is you're in for a....WHAT?!

If you’ve never had an egg cream before you’re in for a…what?! Tracheotomy?! Nooo!

So by now, you’ve undoubtedly come to terms with the fact that this Farmacy leans more heavily on the “farm” side of it’s name as opposed to the “Macy” side. While they do sell some apparel, namely shirts that say “Jerk” on them, in general what you’ll get is locally sourced and made dairy products, served in traditional ice cream sundae glass goblets, but created with a twist. This twist can be as simple as a coffee flavored egg cream (or what I can only assume is a coffee flavored tracheotomy, because of the sign blockage I can only guess), or as complex as a sundae with potato chips that manages to posit the question “Who’s your daddy?” in it’s description on the menu. Because when I think ice cream sundae I think potato chips and then I think, “Wait a second, who’s my daddy? Is it that guy with the handlebar mustache. No, he looks too young, he probably lives in Williamsburg with two roommates and a stray cat. Or is it my dad and this is a time machine and my dad was actually a civil war hero? Oh wow, he’s bringing me something that looks like a sundae. Oh no, that’s a scalpel, I think he’s about to give me a tracheotomy!” And then I snap out of my daymare and order the ice cream sundae that wonders who my dad is, because dads are hilarious (Side note: I was once a dad for Halloween).

Tchotchkes and some clothes that say “Jerk.” Ya know, ol timey stuff.

So yes, I ordered the Mr. Potato Head sundae “as seen on the Food Network’s Unique Sweets.” In fact many of their specialty sundaes can claim fame on the ol’ media hype machine (that’s a thing right?). The Sundae of Broken Dreams has been “featured in the Time Out NY, New York Times Crossword,” the Affugazi Affogato “carved out it’s place in culinary history on ‘Bobby Flay’s Top 10 Restaurants’,” and 99 Problems, which is apparently a sundae doused in a thick vanilla milkshake, was “featured on Travel Channel’s ‘Food Paradise’,” because nothing says paradise like the words “doused” and “thick.” Needless to say, I see you Farmacy menu. Don’t be ashamed to say you were featured on Off the G, a WordPress blog!

Once you’ve ordered comes the next best thing after actually eating your lactose heavy concoction: watching everyone else’s orders come out and trying to guess what they got and wonder, “Did I make the right choice? Do I want to gain forty pounds or forty FIVE pounds? How much time do I have to sit on the toilet later tonight?” Don’t worry, there’s no wrong choice, unless of course you are lactose intolerant. If that’s the case, however, watching the variety of milky goodies come out is a good alternative to actually eating it as it’s a bit like a spectator sport. You never know what food is gonna be sticking out of where, and the towering creations could knock over at any time of someone sticks their spoon in at the wrong direction. Keep your cameras ready!

If watching food being delivered to someone other than yourself isn’t your thing, first of all you’re selfish, and secondly you can always watch them prepare the dishes since it’s an open kitchen. Are they making my order? For me the dead giveaway was the bag of chips. Not a lot of chips on the menu. When my Mr. Potato Head came out (and yeah, I ordered a mini version because I cherish my arteries) with it’s caramel, whipped cream, peanut butter, vanilla ice cream, and of course chips, I wanted to wait to see what my Farmacy visiting buddy ordered so I could sample both. They ordered a milkshake that came almost immediately after mine, with the excess milkshake served on the side in the metal cup they used to “shake” it. Three desserts for the price of two? Sure why not! I’m not going to the beach anytime soon! Finally it seemed appropriate to compare our orders. The newly added milkshake had notes of peanut butter, caramel, and broken up bits of ice cream cone. Oh, so we essentially ordered the same thing except mine is a sundae with POTATOES.

Are you my dad?

I prepared myself for buyer’s remorse and dug into my sundae. Five minutes later, after wolfing down the entire sundae, chips and all, I’m happy to report that I have no regrets. And three hours later when we took turns in the bathroom because we’re adults and the only dairy we put in our bodies these days is the milk in our coffee and our night cheese, I still had no regrets. Sometimes you need to revert back to another era, or when you were a younger age and milk and ice cream sundaes were a frequent occurrence. Then, and only then, can you see the question “Who’s your daddy?” and answer with a clear head, “Not you, mustachioed man with a scalpel. Not you.”

In short, enjoy your ice cream and call your dad. And as always-

Keep r-i-d-i-n

-Off the G

Sisters: like Tia and Tamera except a restaurant and not two human relatives

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A cool restaurant/bar/live music venue in an old hardware store with a lot of wooden details…in Brooklyn?! Well, I never!

  • Subway stop: Clinton-Washington
  • Walk from subway: 7 minutes
  • Neighborhood: Clinton Hill
  • Location: 900 Fulton St between Washington Ave and Waverly Ave

In the not too distant past, there was a time when I had many lofty dreams, several of which stemmed from blogs that seemed to be going nowhere. Never one to easily learn a lesson, here we are today, writing yet another blog entry on yet another blog that may or may not be read. Why do I bring this up? Because in reinvigorating the “Off the G” brand with it’s first real post, I’m merging this blog with another blog that maybe had potential, but just faded into the deep recesses of the internet. I’m of course talking about my barely read blog that I co-wrote with my sister all about being a sister, growing up sisters, and having a sister. The blog was aptly named “Sisters.” The title really let our readers know right from the start just what to expect in creativity and originality. So when thinking of restarting this blog, I could think of only one place and only one person that I could go explore it with. If you haven’t put two and two together yet, I’m talking about going to a place called Sisters with my sister. A couple of weeks ago, while my sister was in town, we made the trip to our namesake to try out their “New American” cuisine because we’re forward thinkers and “Old American” is so last year. Make American New Again!

When first approaching Sisters, you’re greeted by a pretty narrow set of doors and windows, above which they advertise all the important meals of the day: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Music. How can they fit all those foods, including the music food, inside what looks like a very tiny space? Sorcery?! Close. Much like Diagon Alley in Harry Potter is deceptively small from the outside being that it’s in the back of a dank pub, so is Sisters much larger than it appears. But instead of tapping on some bricks with a wand to enter, you simply have to look to your left and you’ll notice that there’s actually another set of doors that leads into the restaurant. Ya got pranked.

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I bet you do want to enter through these doors. Think again, friend. THINK AGAIN.

Once you step inside you’re like, “Wait a minute, this is huge! And I can see the sky through the ceiling! Are you sure this isn’t from Harry Potter? They can see the ceiling in their dining hall because of some ancient enchantments.” Wrong again! No magic here, unless you want to call the ability of skylights made of glass to show us the outside world above us magic. In that case, yes, magic. Once you take your eyes off the sky and focus more on your physical surroundings, you’re immediately struck by how modern, designy, wooden, and overall Brooklyn-like this place feels. Almost too cool for school, but not really because I went there once for breakfast and there was a Norwegian sailing group made up of 15 or so middle-aged Nordic men speaking their native tongue and I’m assuming swapping stories about the stormy seas. They were also drinking large quantities of wine at 11am on a Tuesday. So maybe they’re also too cool for school. Do Norwegian sailors go to school? Something I will ask Siri later. Back to the look of Sisters. I wish I could say that my sister and I matched the interior and gave off the same effortlessly stylish vibe, but for some reason that day we decided it would be fun if one of us wore all black and the other all pink as we pretended we were gearing up for an early Halloween. Also, we had spent the first half of the day watching the movie “Sisters,” starring Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, ordering coffee to be delivered to my door, and wearing sweatpants until we got dressed at 2pm. When we go decide to go with the sisters theme, we go all out. While we may not have matched the impeccably designed interior, we did match their large and in charge size. We thought the first room we stepped into was it, and then we were led back to another room, past a DJ booth where DJ Bianca was on the ones and twos (hey, I know lingo! I’m hip!), past another bar, and right next to a stage. “Now I’m beginning to think we stepped through a wardrobe into Narnia!” my sister exclaimed. “No, wrong series!” I screamed, as I slapped the glass of water she was about to drink out of her hand, causing it to shatter on the floor and us to be kicked out. Blog entry over.

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The bar in the way back room would’ve been impressive enough on it’s own, but instead Sisters likes to have two well designed bars. Maybe their bars are…sisters…? If so, which bar is Beyonce and which one is Solange?

Just kidding. That last exchange didn’t happen because my sister doesn’t think in terms of Young Adult fantasy series. Being that Sisters is in Brooklyn, the menu of course has a multitude of delicious, healthy sounding dishes that I skipped right over to order the Sisters Mac and Cheese, because being around my sister makes me feel small and like a child. Just kidding, I’m a real jokester! This paragraph is full of jokes! In truth, I just like to eat lots of cheese. It had mushrooms in it, though, so I got my veggies for the day. And since one helping of cheese isn’t enough to satiate my need for cheese, we also ordered the baked wine and cheese. As a reminder, I’m a big fat fuck who has coffee delivered to my door.

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Very much I’m an adult

In addition to the plethora of cheese, Sisters also offers a very well curated cocktail list, because again, this is in Brooklyn. Say you’re in the mood for something called Holidays in the USA because you like to associate holidays with apples and getting wasted on bourbon, Sisters has you covered! More of a fan of the name Pink Orpheus? Me too, despite the fact that I don’t know what coconut orgeat is. Say you like your cocktails with peppers, don’t worry there’s always Geryon’s Revenge, which I like to call Greyjoy, Theon’s Revenge. Man, I must be on a real fantasy series kick right now. At least I’m maturing into more adult choices in literature as this post goes on. I guess that’s just the beauty of Sisters. It matures you.

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Holidays in the USA, Pink Orpheus, and Geryon’s Revenge, I think in order from top to bottom. The bottom two are up for debate. Maybe Sisters will read this and correct me. I welcome it, in fact I encourage it, and it also wouldn’t be the first time!

How does it mature you, you may ask? Well, a week after visiting Sisters with my sister, I decided, hey, maybe I should get off my ass and pretend to be a productive member of society. I hopped on the G and made my way back to Sisters IN DAYLIGHT…FOR BREAKFAST…AND COFFEE. And I ordered a side salad. Sure, the side salad came with burrata, and after the coffee I ordered a Michelada, but I had to balance out the salad. But I’m not the only one who’s maturing. Next week, Sisters is celebrating it’s two year anniversary. If it were a human, it would be walking and talking, but probably talking in it’s own made up language that no one understands, but once you spend enough time with the two year old, you begin to understand that when they say “Dan” they really mean you. You know, regular two year old shit. I guess, if I were really trying to make this analogy work, I could say that Sisters has their own language, too. They’re a cafe in the morning, a brunch place on the weekends, a music venue with live DJs, a restaurant with inventive dishes at night, possibly a place of magic and sorcery. They can’t really be labelled, but you can get a feel for what they are by hanging out with them. Could you also say that about sisters? I know I don’t. I speak English with my sister.

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Burrata and michelada. They almost rhyme.

This is where I’ll leave you for now, with the image of me trying to grasp the English language and how it rhymes and if I speak it with sister. There will be more to come, written in some semblance of English, and as always-

-Keep r-i-d-i-n

-Off the G

Wait Here to Board

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Kids these days will never remember when you had to figure out the hard way where to stand to board the G 

Much like the G stops at weird locations on the platform, has service changes causing detours and delays, never makes it’s way into the “big city” of Manhattan, and has never reached it’s goal weight of eight cars, this blog has had it’s share of stops and goes. But also like the G, this is the little blog that could. So many months, many credit card debts, and many trips overseas and off the G later, THE BLOG IS BACK, BABY.

Why now, you ask? Well, faithful reader, you can thank a stranger who recently sat near me on the G train. She was riding with her two young sons and I was only going three stops. As always, I secretly tasked my fellow straphangers with leaving me with a lasting impression. “I’ve only got three stops, so y’all better make it quick or else I will get off this train and never think of you again,” I think to myself. In most cases, the impressions left by other riders are not the best. I’m not fond of the “It’s showtime!” guys. I’m also not really a fan of the guy I got into a full on elbow war with. Or the guy who yelled at my sister and I for looking at pictures on my camera that I had taken that day. My sister shortly moved out of the city after that incident. New York City subway riders are not always the most forgiving and can be a constant reminder of everything that we all hate about this city. But this ride was different.

At every stop, the boys would scream out, desperately searching their mother for a negative response. “Are we getting off here??!!” “No, not yet.” And then a loud guttural shriek of glee as her sons would yell, “Yay! We get to stay on the G!” We would pull into another stop and the same exchange, with one addendum: “Hey! There’s another train over there! What train is it?!” “It’s another G going the other way.” “ANOTHER G TRAIN! YAY!” As we pulled into the Broadway stop their mother said, “This is the first stop I ever lived at when I moved to New York. And then your father and I moved a couple stops away to Classon Ave. And now we live by Carroll.” “YAY!” Much like the first 10 minutes of Up, I had a crash course glimpse into this family’s life as seen through where they had lived along the G. And this story didn’t end with zero children and a dead wife! I got off at the next stop, a pure, unadulterated love for the G train washing over me. That family had done what so few had done on the subway; made it an enjoyable commute. “I shall immortalize you one day on a rarely updated and even more rarely read blog about things that are found above ground,” I yelled to them as I got lost in the sea of people getting off at Metropolitan Ave. “What are you saying? I can’t hear you! Are you threatening my family?” the mother screamed back. “Stand clear of the closing doors,” the conductor muttered out in a barely audible slur of words. The doors closed and I watched them zoom past me through the subway car window while I stood stationary on the platform, getting jostled from side to side by people trying to get their lives on the surface. Some of that happened and some of it didn’t but I never reveal what’s fact and fiction because it keeps the tension at a maximum.

Fast forward to today, a month later from this fateful G subway ride. I’ve listened to too many podcasts about the upcoming election and I’m just getting really worn down and upset and worried. I get out of work earlier than expected. Work is conveniently located on the G, just like my apartment. I put in my headphones as I walk down the stairs to the subway. But as I listen to Trump’s entitled voice echoing through my ears, I look at the time left on the episode I just started. 53 minutes. I see that back-lit green G, a beacon of hope coming down the track. I know I have 20 minutes until I get home, if I walk slowly. I quickly switch to my music because fuck Trump and I also am not gonna finish the episode anyway. Listening to happy people singing about being happy and in love sheds a different light on the night time commute home after work as opposed to sad people talking about sad things. I got off the train at my stop just as “I Love You Always Forever” by Donna Lewis (a highly underrated song) came on. I put the song on repeat for my walk to my apartment and as soon as I’m inside the door of my apartment I start pumping my fists in the air at the semi-triumphant part of the song (around the 2:38 mark, for those looking to reenact in their own abode). It’s more of a ballad than an anthem, so the triumphant part is a little understated, but under the right circumstances it does the trick. After an appropriate amount of time spent dancing it out, I sat down and opened my computer, and here we are. The blog is back.

But where did it go? Well, it’s more like, where did I go. I went to a couple different countries, went to see Beyonce, went to a couple different coasts, officiated a wedding, and every once in awhile someone would bring up Off the G. “It’ll be back,” I always promised, knowing I’ve had a couple of failed blogs in my rear view mirror. I hoped this one wouldn’t end up in the same graveyard. As I had explained in an email to an owner of one of the businesses I had previously written about, I love personal storytelling, traveling, humor, and the weird little community that is the G train. This blog is not supposed to be any one of those things, but some hybrid weird marriage of all of them. And now that I’ve officiated a wedding, I’m more qualified than ever to stand at the helm of this (hopefully not sinking) ship. Or train. This is a subway blog so I should keep my metaphors somewhat train related. I’m more qualified than ever to mumble nonsense that no one can understand while I conduct this train. And in the spirit of fully embracing my past, I’ll be using one of my former blogs as a theme for my first real blog post back, dropping later this week. Will it be the blog I started with my college friend where we wrote about the poops we recently had? You’ll have to read it to find out (It’s not. That’s a very niche audience that I don’t really want to attract here).

So, just to reiterate, I’m back. And this time I’m not going anywhere. I’ll just keep writing about the G, shouting into the abyss of the internet, hoping something happens with this, but also being okay with it if it doesn’t. Because I love the G, always forever, and I will always-

Keep r-i-d-i-n

-Off the G

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