Char #4 on Smith Street
- Peter Sep 24, 2008 11:15 AM
Has anyone tried the new restaurant on Smith Street, between Warren and Baltic streets? It's called Char #4, and it's a BBQ and bourbon place.
I could care less about the bourbon, but like many, I'm strangely drawn to new BBQ places, regardless of reported quality.
I went with some friends on Friday night. The menu was small, but had some nice options. We had some drinks at the bar and ordered a few dishes; sliced steak w/ potatoes (meh), a ham plate w. fig jam (tasty), and clams w corn & bacon (winner). They serve brunch, and from the looks of its menu, that's the real draw. The place has a great decor, and the staff were very friendly. Only downside is that it literally smells like charred wood inside; to the point where I had to wash my clothes when I got home.
Pleasant place with as said above nice charred smell. I think the reference to char must be to bourbon barrels. Anyway when I went I did not eat (no food till after 6) but their bourbons are staggering and they let you have 1 oz. tastes as well as 2 oz. pours. My complaint is that the prices are outlandish, averaging $12 a shot for whiskey you can get elsewhere (admittedly at places with lesser selections) for $7-$10, and more often at the lower end unless you're at a hotel bar in Manhattan. Really off the charts. I will go back for bourbon and Q though.
Had dinner at the bar last night and was very pleased. Quick rundown:
* Fried cheese curds - cheddar cheese curds with a well-fried bread crumb crust, served with a pimenton dipping sauce ($7) - 8 deep-fried curds, weren't too greasy, quite nice, though a somewhat meager portion
* BLT - Char No.4's interpretation of a BLT - house-smoked pork belly coated in bread crumbs and deep fried ($10) - served with pickled onions with sesame and pickled peppers - incredibly tasty, but how could deep fried bacon chunks not be. Not as heavy as it sounds.
I had three one ounce pours of various US whiskeys (Wild Turkey Russel's Reserve Bourbon ($4), West Virginia "Mountain Moonshine" Corn Whiskey ($3), and a 13-year bourbon whose name I forget ($6).
Altogether it ran me $30 + tax, tip, which I felt was reasonable. There are about 20 or so bourbons, whiskeys, and ryes available for $3 / oz., and about another 20 at $4 / oz. (There are also some available at $150 / oz., so they have quite a range.)
One note - like the_state said, when I got home my clothing smelled like beef jerky. They have a smoker in the basement and the ventilation ain't that great. That said - I like the smell of beef jerky, so I all it made me was hungry, but for those with sensitive noses, you may want to steer clear.
Char No. 4
196 Smith St, Brooklyn, NY 11201
I ate there last week and really enjoyed the meal, the service and decor of the bar area. I posted photos and descriptions on my blog, Eat It: The Brooklyn Food Blog. Some are complaining about the burnt wood smell. I did not find it offensive, and rather felt like it was like being around a real campfire.
Ate here last week and had a great meal. Great service too. I posted photos on my blog, Eat It: The Brooklyn Food Blog. Some people are complaining about the smoke smell. It didn't bother me, and usually I'm very sensitive to that sort of thing. Instead it was like being around a camp fire!
well the first thing you should know is that it is not really a bbq place. When I asked the waiter what's the focus of the restaurant they said "the chef is from texas." She couldn't elaborate beyond that. i was very MUCH underwhelmed by this place. The food was on the bland side (to a huge disappointment). There were couple of delicious things - like fried cheese curds, the squash side dish, BLT. However the portions are TINY. And the majority of the entrees really lacked in flavor. I say the worst was pork sausage - which was one of the blandest sausages I've ever tasted. Beef sausage was a little bit better. Steak.. well it's steak like everywhere else. I really wanted to love this place. I love pork, and the idea of a place that smells like smoked pork, and breaming with whiskey cocktails, and q seemed like heaven. Upon my dining visit, it turned out to be more of a manhattanite idea of what a creative Brooklyn restaurant should be like. However, in actuality, it's overpriced, unmemorable, over hyped joint.
I'll agree with you that it's expensive, but other than that, I have to disagree. First, I don't think anywhere they've ever represented themselves as a BBQ restaurant. I think they aim for creative Southern, but all in all it's just an "American" restaurant, and a fairly good one at that.
I find the portions to be a perfect size (except for the bacon starter, could use a third piece), and everything to be seasoned quite well. The pork sausage, the three or four times I've had it, has been a mild sausage with a great taste of the smoker. With the apple and cabbage it's served on it's one of my favorite dishes on the menu. I've pretty much eaten my way around the menu and the only thing I don't care for is the steak, because - like you said - a steak is a steak is a steak. I think it's on the menu to sate the db-s that show up because you can get a $50 bourbon. But the lamb pastrami is one of the best things I've eaten in a long time, I'm addicted to the shrimp and grits (though I'll admit I've had better elsewhere, this for some reason just hits the spot with me), and the pork nuggets should put McD's out of business. The sides are usually amazing, too, like the delicata squash that you mentioned to the excellent cauliflower gratin.
One thing I'd note is that the service seems to be scattered lately; while the main servers are still great, the n00bs seem to be a bit lost. Hopefully that irons out, I hope their indifference (from the sounds of it) didn't affect your impression of the dishes. (For instance, that BLT is very polarizing, I think you either love it or despise it; it's hard to have a middling opinion on that thing.)
Perhaps if you give it another try and go in not thinking of BBQ, but of just quality home-made (and it is homemade, almost everything is made, cured, smoked, etc. in house) American food, maybe you'd like it better? (Though, the prices won't change, and it is expensive enough where if I had a bad experience the first time I wouldn't have gone back.)
If you find yourself nearby, sit at the bar and try the lamb pastrami and get a Virginia Gentleman bourbon ($2 per 2-oz. pour, Lenell turned me on to this as a great inexpensive bourbon and I really do enjoy it). It's a perfect bar snack for me.
I might say that brooklynsavory is insane, but that would be name-calling, so instead I will say that I disagree profoundly. I have tasted half the menu at this point (the food menu that is--the bourbon menu will take longer) and have found nothing that isn't superlative. Their chicken is tasty, the steak fought over at my table, the appetizers original and remarkable (though I really don't go in for cheese curds), and the pork raved about by the hard-core pork connoisseurs in my family (73 and 62 years experience respectively.) I find the smoky smell charming and inviting, until the moment I leave and realize it is following me home. But this is the price of fine, freshly smoked food. The waitstaff do not always recommend the most expensive bourbons, which I appreciate, but tailor suggestions to the diners stated tastes. My only complaint is that the very low ceiling in the dining area creates a dizzying sound level, which after one tortured meal I learned to avoid by eating earlier, before the tables fill up. Perhaps, they could consult with a acoustical engineer -- outside of that, I think it's perfect.
If you actually type the word insane - you've already done the name calling. I am glad you enjoyed your meal. I however did not. Neither did anyone in my party, or a lot of other carroll gardens residents that I know. Just because you and your family have 6 decades of taste experience in pork does not make one an expert. By the same definition whatever my food experience is (which is considerable as both a taster and a chef) does not make me an expert either. There's not accounting for taste. I found it very underwhelming, and overpriced. I've had better. You enjoyed. Lets leave at that. No need to put other opinions down just because they disagree with yours.
I called them on a Thursday afternoon for a Friday reservation. I wanted an 8:00PM slot. The cheerful and polite reservationist told me they had a 5:30 and an 11:00PM. What we have is the Babbo of BBQ.
Because we are eternal optimists three of us stopped in at 8:00PM anyway and were very lucky. Three seats at the bar opened up as we walked in and we snagged them.
We had (and I'm cutting and pasting from Menupages http://www.menupages.com/restaurantde...):
2 orders of the Smoked & Fried Pork Nuggets with Char no.4 hot sauce
Cured Kentucky Ham with fig jam and pickles
Apple And Fennel Salad with blue cheese, pickled turnip and apple cider bourbon dressing.
House Smoked BLT with pickled tomato, romaine and chillie mustard aioli
(2) Chopped Pork with pickled onions, pickled peppers and side of baked beans
The pork nuggets looked a lot like Tater Tots. They were surprisingly unsatisfying. The outside was crispy but the interior was mealy, as if they were filled with overly diced pork. The hot sauce supplied for dipping was quite good but the pork nuggets are best considered as a vehicle for conveying the hot sauce to your mouth.
The Kentucky ham was fine but nothing special.
The B in the BLT was pork belly instead of conventional bacon. It was pleasant.
The chopped pork sandwiches (aka pulled pork) were substantial and well made. That said, I've had similar sandwiches at other places. Downtown Atlantic, five minutes away, serves a better pulled pork sandwich which is both larger and comes with fries as a bonus. It's also $4.00 cheaper. Then again, the atmosphere at Downtown Atlantic is merely that of a nice neighborhood restaurant. Char 4 shimmers.
Maybe we missed out because none of us are whiskey drinkers. My GF and I drank beer and our companion is a non drinker.
Service by the bartender was excellent, especially in light of the fact that the place became jammed 10 minutes after we walked in. The hostess, who was working almost directly behind us, was unfailingly polite to the crowds who made their way up to the counter looking for tables.
This is not your typical Brooklyn crowd, even for yuppified neighborhoods like Carrol Gardens or Park Slope. They have a buffed, polished, and monied look to them. The average age is around 26 and I suspect they all stopped off for cocktails at the tony Clover Club first. Char 4 has an atmosphere that attracts a crowd like this. It's to Char's credit that the service is attitude-free and the prices are actually gentle. With 3 beers the bill came to $92 for the three of us before tip.
I'd go back when the crowd moves on to the Next Big Thing and it's easier to get a table. If you live in Manhattan there's no need to travel here unless you're in Brooklyn already.
re: Bob Martinez
Bob I never like to disagree with you but I really really disliked that pulled pork sandwich at Downtown when I finally had it :( Way too sweet, the sauce was rather 'cloying' and there was too much of it as well. I do really like the one at Waterfront however. I haven't tried Char's yet....with the baby in tow, our dining out is a bit more limited right now.
re: Bob Martinez
As a lover of both Downtown Atlantic and Waterfront's versions, I gotta say that they are extremely different. Waterfront is the one that most bbq folks will prefer and Nehna's absolutely correct that DA sauces theirs with a sweetish bbq sauce that I really like but would make Sam (Waterfront's owner and bbq maven) laugh. They also put very thin, breaded onion rings on the sandwich at DA and, again, this sweetens the taste. The commonality is that both DA and Waterfront use good meat, give good portions, charge decent prices and have good fries (DA gives them free with the sandwich, W. doesnt). Also good beer.
I didnt like the cheese thingies or the pork balls we had at Char #4 and also thought the general food prices were too high for what they were serving. I havent tried the pulled pork there yet but, then again, I dont think we'll be going back anyway. Just doesnt seem my type of place.