Off the beaten path

You know that neighborhood you idealize, where you imagine yourself residing in every time you visit, knowing that you’ll never actually live there? For me, it’s Red Hook, Brooklyn.

There’s a restaurant that defines its appeal. It’s not the popular Hometown Bar-B-Que or Brooklyn Crab, but a cozy locale with a dominant bar that specializes in brunch and tiki cocktails. Flowery, Hawaiian-print, elasticized cloth covers each table. You arrive here feeling like you’ve stumbled upon the somewhat hip, best-kept secret of a small New England town.

The food is American, with Southern influences, especially at brunch. Huevos rancheros isn’t a dish I order often, but I’d still bet on their version—two eggs on extra-crispy tostadas, topped with savory pork chili, and a just-right amount of melty cheddar and sour cream—being one of the city’s best. The decadent French toast, smothered in blackberry syrup and mascarpone and served with Nueske’s bacon, is a must for the table with a hankering for something sweet. I have a soft spot for restaurant-made oatmeal, which I ordered here yesterday. It was an immensely satisfying wintertime breakfast: thick and creamy, topped with a dollop of yogurt slicked with warming spices plus a modest handful of slivered almonds and halved grapes.

It was the afternoon. We had indulged in several extra hours of sleep after a Friday night of too much wine, and thus decided to split an Irish coffee (“the best in the known world,” according to the menu, which quotes the NY Times). I think that was my first time having Irish coffee, so I can’t weigh in on said opinion, but it was quite tasty, very strong, and paired well with my bowl of toasty mush.

Dinner here is quieter, magnifying that quaint and comfy sensation. Dishes that hug you tight are the way to go. For starters, the deviled egg with salty fried capers or the mousse-like chicken liver pâté smeared with bacon-onion jam on thick slices of almost-burnt bread. Then, a hamburger: 8 oz of ground chuck from the mainland’s Pino Prime Meats up against lettuce, red onion, pickles, and special sauce slathered on a brioche bun. It tastes best with a Bourbon-based libation, so take your pick.

Fort Defiance
365 Van Brunt St, Brooklyn, NY 11231
(347) 453-6672

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