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Another call for Cafe on Clinton reviews

c
Carol Gardens Sep 9, 2007 01:47 PM

Just wondering if anyone has been to the "new" Cafe on Clinton recently. I so loved the old one. I was at the sneak peek night in August and the new owner seems to want to keep it a neighborhood joint. How is the food and atmosphere so far?

  1. EJC Sep 9, 2007 04:31 PM

    Unfortunately this isn't what I consider a casual "neighborhood" menu:
    http://cafeonclinton.com/menu.htm

    2 Replies
    1. re: EJC
      n
      Nehna Sep 10, 2007 09:46 AM

      Oh wow, that sounds like a tasty / unique menu for our neighborhood. Now I'm intrigued...I heard they do sweetbreads as well.

      Anyone been??

      1. re: EJC
        j
        jmh Sep 10, 2007 03:24 PM

        To be fair, there's also a "lighter fare" menu: http://cafeonclinton.com/lighterfare.htm

        We've eaten there a few times since the re-opening and have found the food to be generally quite good. The freshness and quality of the seafood have been impressive, and we haven't yet found a bad dish on the menu. While the dinner menu is more ambitious than at the old CoC, you can still get a good burger and a beer or a salad and a glass of wine.

      2. deepyarn Sep 10, 2007 10:14 AM

        Had dinner at the bar last night. Kept it pretty simple with some oysters and a burger. Burger was cooked to order, had a nice beefy flavor, and the bacon they used on it was top notch. Oysters were clean and fresh. I know a lot of people think the old ConC was pretty good, but I always found it mediocre for the most part. This felt like an improvement to me. They also have a very respctable wine list now, that runs the gamut from wines under $20 to high-end wines (at least for the neighborhood).

        1. b
          bklynkat Sep 10, 2007 12:50 PM

          I had dinner there last week for the first time in a couple of years.
          My report:
          The overall service and the staff were wonderful and it the place really seems to exude a warm vibe. That being said, I noticed that the waiter approached various tables but noticed he was addressing the old farty regulars...none of the newbies. We were impressed with the wine list and our order of oysters was delectable...they were extremely fresh and huge! The steak was very good, but I was very disappointed in the duck...very dry which is usual for duck because it's so fatty. I couldn't eat it. Also, they failed to tell me that the weren't serving the risotto cakes and instead served a dinky portion of boring roasted potatoes. I'm going back because I want to support the place, but I'm definitely not ordering duck in the hood unless it's at The Grocery.

          1. d
            David B Sep 19, 2007 01:12 PM

            Thought I would revive this thread as we ate at COC last Saturday night and had a wonderful meal. We got there fairly early (before 7:00pm) and every table was taken. Sat at the bar and had a half dozen oysters for an appetizer. We both ordered steaks and shared an order of broccoli rabe and garlic mashed potatoes. Oysters were good and very fresh. The steaks were very high quality and cooked perfectly - really delicious. Both sides were great as well, the potatoes in particular - really really garlic-y but in a good way. The bartender was a really nice guy and provided wonderful service (the bar area was completely full by the time we left). Really nice dinner and with a couple glasses of wine very reasonable.

            1. w
              war machine Oct 7, 2007 07:31 AM

              UPDATE: Under new management (the chef from Patois, another crappy restaurant) and not worth your time, money, or taste. The former CoC was a friendly neighborhood eatery that kind of felt like Cheers in its dysfunction but always had you coming back. Continue reading for my new review of Cafe on Clinton Redux.

              To start, what is the point? Why would you want to take a restaurant that had some great dishes and some that were maybe not right on and throw the menu out and make food that can't even be called mediocre?
              To take away a once welcoming staff (even the new people were immediately friendly)? It's like walking into an alien space that feels so completely foreign that the hours of time logged with friends, family, and other patrons never existed. Why is this place still called Cafe on Clinton? Obviously I have some hang-ups as a former regular. And obviously I can't expect everything to be the same but isn't it also obvious when something just totally sucks?

              I wanted to have at least three experiences here before I wrote this review. I'm usually not as thorough in judging a spot but I just wanted to be sure everything I knew and loved about this restaurant was dead and gone. Except the horrible typeface on the menu (that's just my inner design nerd talking).

              I've had my regular bar interaction here twice. Once was for its unofficial "soft" opening and once just to grab a beer after a day of meetings and errands and ready for a solid happy hour on Friday. I was greeted with my myriad bags by a front-of-the-house persona and a sommelier asking if "they can help me." They didn't like the looks of my large load, clearly. The soft opening was a celebratory social experience that was supposed to bring the regulars, friends, and new management together. Appetizer plates of fried crap were served. Really. It was tasteless over-fried garbage. But the chef wasn't cooking. Huh? I mean the chef will be cooking when the restaurant is really open, right? He's trying to introduce his food to the public, right? Why serve crappy stuff that's not on the menu? But it was free. Give the guy a break. At least I can get a fresh Brooklyn Pilsener. Nope. Only Jever on tap, folks.

              Our first meal in the newly run establishment was a family occasion for the GF and included her father and brother for dinner. She had been trying to get our name on the list, if there was one, unsuccessfully for several minutes and was snubbed again with the arrival of people behind us. Frustrating to say the least, but we finally were seated and ordered. Some got steak, others got the leg of lamb. Both were overseasoned to the point of killing the meat flavor and charred way too much. There was nothing particularly special about the side accompaniments and I felt a little bad we had decided to make our debut meal at the new Cafe on Clinton a group occasion. I noted the chef/owner was making calls on his cell phone and hanging around the bar throughout the entire meal. Shouldn't he be in the kitchen?

              Enter my last attempt. We have guests in town and they arrived far later than expected but we stayed up partying for a few hours after they arrived. Normally I'd make brunch but didn't have the food or the capacity this morning and Catherine's suggestion that we try the Cafe for brunch seemed easy and perfect. We noted Bocca Lupo's seating availability as a plan B on the walk over since the Cafe was so packed last time. We were immediately given a front table for six at 1 p.m.
              There were no tablecloths and vinyl had been stapled over the wood tables. Did we just enter a raw bar? Were we going to be hosed down after the meal?

              The brunch menu had the same price of $12.95 but no longer included the appetizer course, fresh bread, alcoholic drinks, or fresh juice. Am I missing something? Well, the coffee was included. Phew. Out of the six choices offered for brunch entrees we ordered four. I love eggs benedict and also find it a great gauge of who gives a fuck about what comes out of the kitchen. Catherine ordered the duck hash. My friend (and former Cafe patron) ordered the Salmon Nicoise salad, and the visitors ordered French toast and eggs benedict. It was a bit like watching the total collapse of the Mets. Was it really happening? Was I really going to swear off this place I had so frequented for nine years? I came out of the meal reeling. Stunned. I was sad. Not only were my potatoes not cooked, the orange/brown hollandaise was glumpy and tasteless, while the Canadian bacon was just barely there. My limp, wilted greens offered no consolation. My visiting friend wondered whether that strange taste was in the syrup or on her charred French toast. Catherine's potatoes were also not cooked through and her duck hash was "tough and horrible." The salmon nicoise was "unremarkable" and "a little dry." And the chef/owner socialized at the end of the bar throughout the entire meal.

              Shouldn't HE be in the kitchen?

              3 Replies
              1. re: war machine
                l
                LED Oct 7, 2007 06:26 PM

                Thanks for your post. My husband and I, who were regulars at the old Cafe on Clinton for Lobster Night (which was such an amazing deal and some of the best cooked lobster I've had outside of MA, ME and NH) and brunch, have been too depressed to even try the new incarnation. The new menu looked too fussy and overpriced for me to be interested. Now I know we shouldn't even bother. It is baffling that they kept the name. It was a sad summer when we lost CoC and Christophe's Delicatessen next door.

                1. re: LED
                  m
                  MShapiro Oct 8, 2007 02:05 PM

                  We went last Friday night. Polite service, but it was slow and somewhat disorganized. The waiter whom we knew from before is now tending bar maybe that’s why? Anyway, the snails tasted just like last time, the steak and salmon dishes for our main courses were good as well and reminded us of the days from the past. But again, the service was a bit off. The waitresses/waiter seemed confused and we felt forgotten, which was kind of odd since we were sitting right near the kitchen. As far as I can tell it looks like the kitchen staff itself increased as well (you know the adage about too many cooks). Liked the food, service could use tweaking IMO.

                2. re: war machine
                  l
                  Lazygal Oct 8, 2007 01:59 PM

                  I didn't even bother with three visits - one bad brunch (http://lazygal.blogspot.com/2007/09/t...) was enough for me. The menu didn't seem to whisper "give me a chance... come to dinner", so we're off to find other places to dine. Bar Tabac was always a good standby, and we ate there last Saturday.

                3. i
                  Ima Foodie May 13, 2008 11:43 AM

                  Very sad to see it's changed. Was planning to come back to the old neighborhood for a visit, and Cafe on Clinton was to be the first stop. Is Grimaldi's still the same as it used to be (at least what it was 5 or so years ago)? What about Noodle Pudding?

                  1. o
                    Olive123 May 15, 2008 09:45 AM

                    I did get around to trying it (after posting a question for recent experiences a few weeks ago) and have to agree with the adorable but disappointing comments. The french fries were really wonderful, and the service was very friendly. The steak and burger got good reviews, but the macaroni and cheese was terrible (I think they forgot the fontina entirely, just seemed like elbow noodles with some dried out ricotta) and the asparagus appetizer was not good (cold, which could be fine, but the texture was off and the sauce just was not pleasant). The timbale appetizer was good. Overall, not satisfying (the burger and steak folks might disagree!) for me. Maybe we will go back to try brunch, though, since the setting was so nice.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Olive123
                      s
                      son of a butcher May 15, 2008 05:56 PM

                      Overall, the food was good, the portions were very small, the price was too high. The service was good. I liked the old place much more. It was a neighborhood hangout for years, and the food was decent. Will not go back there for a good while.

                    2. c
                      Carol Gardens May 19, 2008 07:55 PM

                      I'll reply to myself. I did have an excellent roast chicken there recently/

                      1. Ljubitca May 20, 2008 06:50 PM

                        I have had really wonderful meals there and great service - I don't get why this place gets negative reviews for not being what it used to be. The current place exists- thats it - old place - over, gone. And when I had the mac n cheese it was dreamy. I hope this place evolves into greatness.

                        1. f
                          floorshow Jan 21, 2009 11:44 AM

                          I've been once to the old CoC, four times to the new, about the same to Patois. The old place was an old Brooklyn neighborhood joint with mediocre but comforting food and atmosphere. The new place is very much like Patois in spirit --i.e, it's superficially charming but in actuality a disaster to anyone who knows the first thing about cuisine or hospitality. The food is VERY hit or miss; the atmosphere downright bizarre. Some nights it has a nice neighborhood vibe; other nights it's nothing short of a David Lynch freak show. What makes it a complete failure as a restaurant is the mis-alignment between its prices, which suggest a level of care and seriousness about cooking, and the quality of the experience at CoC, which is anything but. The wait staff are either over solicitous or zombie like. Everything, in short, is off at this place. Don't bother --walk a few blocks and have a genuinely warm experience at Boca Lupo.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: floorshow
                            m
                            MShapiro Jan 22, 2009 10:45 AM

                            "...a David Lynch freak show" - explain?

                            We've been there many times and even though the food is not as good as it used to be we always found our meals, staff and service to be competent and pleasing.

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