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Vinegar Hill House

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Has anyone been? I'm thinking about going on Friday night but am being swayed by all the good reviews of Buttermilk Channel on Court Street.

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  1. Went tonight - Tuesday night -- on a whim 'cause I was in the neighborhood. Here's my late-night, disjointed take:

    -- Walked in at 8:45 or so and the place was PACKED. Every seat taken.

    -- The hostess made room for us at the bar and said it would be 30 minutes for a table. After 10 minutes she asked if we wanted to eat at the bar (yes) and then 2 minutes after that, she offered us a sweet table by the window. We stuck with the bar.

    -- Surprise. No liquor permit yet. BYOB. They did give us the business card of a wine shop in DUMBO that delivers! Instead, a neighbor offered us a few glasses from their bottle. Evening saved.

    -- Very, very, very thoughtful lovely room. Has that shabby chic thing going on. Similar to... I don't know. nothing comes to mind. But really thoughtful. The owners renovated the space themselves.

    -- Very, very, very nice owner (Johnny) chatted with us for quite some time. It's clear they worked hard and care a lot and will make this work.

    -- A downstairs room that will be ready in a week or so and can seat from 10 to 16 people.

    -- A garden by springtime.

    -- When full it's a LOUD room. Not louder than your typical "What did you say??" place, but loud.

    -- When we got there there was maybe 3 people out of 50 over the age of 40. Everyone looks very hip. Lower East Side. Williamsburg. Dumbo. Vinegar Hill artists. Quite the photogenic room. When we left I was probably the oldest at 38 and the average age of the room was probably down to 28.

    -- By the time we left around 11 it went from absolutely capacity with 5 standing around the bar to 3 or 4 empty seats and a more manageable sound level.

    Oh yeah, the food. Very lovely. Not the best thing you'll ever have eaten, but they're only 3 weeks so give them some time. They'll get better and better.

    -- Small menu right now: 3 apps, 3 entrees?, 3 sides, 3 specials. Menu changes weekly.

    Apps:
    Some pastry thing cooked in the oven. 2 others I completely don't recall.

    Entrees:

    Chicken roasted in their 700 degree wood-fired oven in an iron skillet. Very tasty. Not quite as good as Red Cat, but very pleasing, especially for the money.

    (That wood-fired oven is gonna be a fantastic tool once they start to get the hang of it. Cornbreads, roasted fruits, creme brulees, warmed smoky bread... fun!)

    Pope Hats (pasta) filled with lamb, in a borwn butter and sage sauce. Very good.

    A big pork shank. Don't know. Looked good.

    Sides:
    The ubiquitous Brussel Sprouts. Nice. A little softer and wetter than most places but that's a nice change.

    Wedges of sweet potato (in OJ maybe?). Very good.

    And... don't recall.

    Specials:
    Beet salad
    cheese plate
    "meat plate" - (Charcuterie)

    Desserts:
    Sweet potato cake with cream cheese frosting -- much like carrot cake. VERY good.

    Something else with pears.

    No chocolate dessert. Egads!

    All very, very reasonably priced. 2 entrees, 2 sides, 1 dessert... enough food to fill up 2 eaters with slightly small appetites: $55.

    Go for the novelty of eating at the SINGLE commercial establishment in Vinegar Hill, enjoy the gorgeous room and great people watching, eat the very good (very very good for the money) food and know that this place will only get better and better.

    Peter
    http://www.FlashlightWorthyBooks.com

    p.s. Sorry if I sound wishy-washy above. Walking in off the deserted street -- unable to see in the room because of the fogged over windows... walking into such a scene of a room... it was a bit of a magical experience. I think I downplay it above 'cause I don't want this place to be any more crowded than it is. ;)

    3 Replies
    1. re: Peter

      great review. i have been waiting to hear feedback, but haven't heard much. definitely going to try it next week. says on their site that they only take res for 6 or more. that is def. a drawback since there is no bar or anything nearby.

      1. re: malibu

        Indeed, there's no bar nearby. In fact, there's no NOTHING nearby. At least when it comes to retail. I asked one of the owners -- Johnny -- and he confirmed that they are the ONLY retail establishment of any kind in the neighborhood. This is a bar in the restaurant though. Not a large one, but you might land a stool.

        Also, thanks for the compliment on the review. I'll admit that it's one of the more thorough ones I've written, but man, can you believe I was sober when I wrote that? Soooooo disjointed.

        Peter
        http://www.FlashlightWorthyBooks.com

      2. re: Peter

        I tried to make a reservation a week in advance for a party of 8. I was told that they were already booked but if we came by 7pm would could be seated. When we got their the hostess grudgingly gave us a table and told us that we had to be finished by 9pm. There were people in our party in the food business and we were all very under whelmed. Too bad....it's a pretty room. But would not recommend.

      3. I went Fri, Dec 12. We got there at 7:30 and were promptly sat, but there had to be 40 people waiting within the hour...fire hazard indeed. The space is amazing, but the four of us were quite disappointed with our food and service. The waiter had a difficult time explaining the specials and how they were served, but that didn't matter. The cheese plate was tasty but at $20 I wouldn't get it again. The mussels were hit-or-miss. There has been quite a bit of praise for the chicken here, and three out of the four diners ordered it. Two had to send it back because it was raw near the bone, nothing like that taste of undercooked chicken! I got the pork shank, which was mediocre. The one thing that we noticed is the same we noticed when Jean was at Freeman's - the food is terribly underseasoned. The chicken and the brussels sprouts had not a trace of sea salt. The white beans with the pork were completely bland. Also, everyone keeps talking about what a great deal $15 chicken is...well it doesn't come with any sides - those are $7, and we found the overall prices to be a bit much for what we got. Our waiter relayed to Johnny about the undercooked chickens and we weren't offered any apologies or even a coffee on the house. The service was very slow...we waited half an hour in between dinner and being offered desert. I hope they get things worked out b/c it could be a great addition to the area, but for now money and time is better spent at a lot of other option in Brooklyn.

        1. We went to Vinegar Hill House last Friday night. We waited, and this is not an exaggeration, 2 hours and 10 minutes for a table (shame on us, really-- but the host/owner kept telling us that it would only be another 1/2 hour, and after an hour of waiting already, we felt like we couldn't leave!)

          Once we were finally seated, we were ignored for another 20 minutes. Among the many items we ordered off the menu, the mussels were raw, and the chicken (which NY mag RAVED about) was totally dry- and served by itself with a single roasted shallot.

          Our food came to $94. And we were not comped anything from the bill, nor did the waitstaff apologize or even say goodbye when we were leaving.

          1. Had high hopes for this place. Really nice room. However the food is badly prepared with the exception of the skillet chicken which is delicious. Everything else is either over or under cooked, not enough seasoning, or plan blah. We've been twice hoping it would improve. The wait staff was nice. However the hostess was down right rude to members of our party. Too bad....I wanted to like it!!

            1. Thought I'd throw my two cents in here since the last post on Vinegar Hill House wasn't too long ago. I tried this place last night after hearing excellent reviews from two different friends of mine, and I was seriously disappointed. It seems that there's been such a buzz-- and such consistent crowds-- that I was surprised to feel like not much effort or thought is given to the dining experience. It's true that the the design of the place and the ambiance is gorgeous-- certainly worth the trip alone. A very, very cozy dining experience once you're seated and settled. But so is my living room. Anyway, here's the run-down:

              Like the other posts mentioned, we waited a really, really long time for a table. We put our name down at 8:00 and were told it would be thirty minutes. It ended up being an hour wait, and the place was so crowded and hot and stuffed to the brim that there wasn't any choice but to wait outside. We were fine with all of this, but as one of the other posts mentioned, the people handling the door are fairly non-communicative. I saw some people sitting in their cars waiting on the street, since the nearest bars or stores are a good walk over to Jay Street, and standing in the entranceway of this place could make you go mad.

              Once we sat down, it was bizarre how long it took our waiter to acknowledge us considering the wait and the crowds, though we were relieved not to feel rushed. The place doesn't offer any bread, or anything on the table, so after waiting an hour for a table we unscrewed our wine and made do with some red while our stomachs grumbled. Once he came, our waiter was certainly a sweet enough guy.

              I ended up ordering the sage & kale ravioli, which was very tasty but pretty straightforward and IMO a shockingly small portion for $13-- four very small raviolis in a bit of sage butter sauce and that's it. My friend was really happy with the chicken, and my other friend enjoyed the rabbit pappardelle that was one of the specials for the night but felt similarly about the portion size for $15.

              Dessert: my friend was gaga for the Guinness chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting, and it seemed to be extremely popular-- and while this did taste great, the no frills plating aesthetic was a bit much; looked like it came from an Entenemen's box.

              The deal with this place seems to be that you really need to: be ready to drop the bucks because the portions are very, very small. I'm on a relatively tight budget these days, and I'm sure I would've had a much better experience if I'd gone all out & started with a cheese and a meat plate-- which are both quite pricey-- moved on to an entree and a side (the brussel sprouts my friend ordered were indeed the best thing I tried the whole meal), but I didn't feel like dropping $50 last night. Plus, even if I had felt like dropping the money, I can go elsewhere for better food with more appropriate prices for what I'm getting.

              I'm sure that the owners are fabulous people as everyone is mentioning, and it's definitely still early in their run, but so little thought is given to the customer experience from minute one that I can't say it's worth the dough. Even their sparse website is a bit ridiculous-- if it's a 10 minute walk at least to any wine store, why not say that you're BYOB? Maybe I'm just getting less patient in my old age, but like one of the last posts mentioned, I was really excited to like this place, but quickly felt like I wasn't getting my money's worth at all.

              1. It seems things havent changed much since December / January.
                Walk-in at 730. Packed house. Told 30 min. Was more like 50. I'll manage.
                Pretty space and decor. Interesting fire oven and open kitchen. Loud noise level.
                Timing to first acknowledgment was longer than I would have liked.
                Waiter was cordial, knowledgeable, enthusiastic.
                Sadly no bread basket. Appetizer timing was prompt.
                Free form tart w/ ramps, mozzarella. Found it a bit under-seasoned. Otherwise well-composed and appealing.
                Salumi and cheese plate. May have gone down in price from 20 to 18 since past reviews? Would have preferred 16. Quite good nevertheless. Selection of 3 cheeses. All good. Two cured meats. A bit too similar to one another but individually good. Apples and crackers as accompaniments.
                Timing to entree adequate.
                House chop. Appropriate portion size. Well-seasoned. Nice char. Married well with potato and dill.
                Roast chicken. Flavorful, moist. Nice caramelized onion. Would have liked an actual side dish without having to order one separately.
                Waiting 30+ minutes for table clearance. Despite obviousness that we were finished. Despite pointing out we were finished. Almost chaotic front of the house. Headache-inducing noise level. Waited longer. Sadly never informed about dessert. Decided to forgo dessert. Asked for the check. Waited 15+ min for the check.
                Vanished into the night satisfied by the food, disappointed by the service.
                Were they understaffed that night or every night?
                Host spent an awful amount of time in the back of the house and in transit, functioning as a runner. Additional server and bus boy needed.

                3 Replies
                1. re: prcentauri

                  yeah, we were also there last night. generally, the food is pretty tasty, although nothing to go too far out of your way for. but the vibe is all so too cool for school, urban super chic, uber hipster that it quickly becomes a bit tedious. the servers generally seem like they would rather be chatting with their friends and acting cool than providing you with hospitable service. and the design is so poor that the crowd noise makes having a conversation anywhere below shouting volume basically impossible. portions are generally too small, especially amongst the very limited entrée choices, and a number of people in our party left hungry. they also ran out of bread early in the evening because "it got used up at brunch," which seems like a kink that should have been worked out long ago. but the thing but still confounds me about all these new, hip, chic eateries is why they all serve more or less the same menu, which usually includes a beet ravioli, a half chicken cooked in an iron skillet, anchovy croquettes, a pork chop or a braised pork shoulder, chicken pate on toast, gruyere mac and cheese, an iceberg wedge, grilled char or pollack, a boring piece of salmon, etc. why is it that all these new places are serving off the same menu template and basically just providing watered down, post culinary school, "small plate," bourgeois fare that is neither challenging, novel or exciting? are new york diners no longer demanding or curious? or is this just how group think interprets the mandate of seasonal, locally sourced fare?

                  1. re: yussdov

                    So it sounds like they are serving brunch now. does anyone know the hours, and if it is the same menu? I didn't notice any mention of brunch on their website, and I live in the area so I'd be curious to check it out...

                    1. re: twiggles

                      we were just there on saturday night, and although we went at 6 since we had two little kids with us so we didn't have to experience a wait, we did have a great meal.

                      and they are serving brunch. this weekend was their "soft opening" and they will be officially open next weekend and definitely for brunch.

                      and just to add to the posts about the food. we really liked our meal. first of all, they had amazing butter that came with the bread -- don't know where it was from but super tasty. we had two appetizers. the zucchini ribbons with hot bacon vinaigrette with a poached egg were good (the bacon especially) but there was too much water on the plate. we also had the chicken liver mousse with vinegar onions and pistachio and big buttered pieces of toast -- that was excellent. and our mains were also solid. we got the wattle country chop (very nice, cooked perfectly) with fingerling potatos, the appetizer portion of the tagliatelle with pork and fava beans and that was good, but really the best thing all night surprising was the broccolini served with some kind of parmigiano (but not exactly that) and that was fantastic. i also thought that the chocolate cake with guiness and creamcheese frosting, though nothing fancy was good. service was in fact slow. we would have thought that with 2 kids they would have hustled a bit more but we didn't get out of there till 7:30 (and that was not good for us) and they were getting swamped. the space, as others have pointed out, is really lovely.

                      www.cherrypatter.com

                       
                       
                2. We went last night. Friends are regulars so they called to put their name on the list. At 9pm we were told to come over. We waited at the bar for about 20 minutes and were seated in the lovely back garden area (but in uncomfortable chairs). Loved the food and thought the portions and prices were fine, but service was pretty awful. Our waiter looked really annoyed to have to deal with us, and we were not high maintenance at all. We had to ask for bread and water multiple times and there was a serious lag in the time between appetizers and entrees. Our friend (the regular) talked to the manager to speed up our meal and our desserts were comped, which was appreciated.

                  Between 6 of us we had:
                  Bread with olive oil (very good)
                  2 orders of grilled octopus -- a special
                  2 cheese/salami plates
                  1 zucchini ribbons
                  1 tart with ramps, cheese and something else -- this was the best of the apps

                  Entrees:
                  1 chicken -- delicious
                  2 orders of chops
                  2 rabbit papardelle specials
                  1 trout

                  Desserts were guinness chocolate cake (AMAZING) and butterscotch pudding. We also had a lot of wine. It ended up being about $65 p/p with tip and tax and drinks.

                  All in all it was a very good meal and a very nice setting. I'd go back but would definitely steer clear of that waiter.

                  1. Ok, so we had to try this beautiful place last Sunday. Got there at 6 and snagged a lovely table for 2 at the widow right away. The owner was very gracious. We ordered cocktails and were served in a reasonable amount of time. No bread basket was forthcoming, a good way to save on food cost. Ordered the zucchini ribbons with poached egg and bacon, delicious.
                    The other app was a snail dish, also quite satisfying and garlicky. Our waiter had a weird habit of cleaning his fingernails with his fingernails, and flicking the debris sideways while talking to us, gross. He also stroke his thick beard constantly. Maybe a nervous thing, but not appetizing.
                    I got the pork chop with fingerling potatoes, which was weirdly cut up into 6 segments, exposing way too much fat. Awful presentation, good caramelized flavor. When I was finished there was a heap of fat, about one half of the original chop, left on the plate, though. Also ordered a side of artichokes, which were decent.
                    My partner had a fish filet (forget which), which came with no sides at all, as other posts have pointed out, so you wind up ordering a $7 side, and the dish becomes quite expensive.
                    Desserts, butterscotch pudding and lemon tart were presented very no frills on small mismatched bread plates or saucers. We liked every bite of both.
                    So, to sum it up, I would go again. The wait staff is a bit slow and, in our case, weird.
                    Ted Danson seemed to have a good time, with his party sitting near the kitchen. I hope the hip factor will not kill their culinary ambitions.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: flo

                      correction to above post; the snail app doesn't exist at VHH, we had it the night before at Jolie on Atlantic Ave, my apologies.

                    2. Me and Ms. P'dexter went Sunday evening with our four-year-old gourmand. We arrived just before six and were told there would be a brief wait, though they were seated in the garden straight away, while I picked up refreshments at the bar. Having left the city a few years ago for the Westchester hinterlands, may I just take a moment to extoll the virtues of bartenders who know what they are doing and encourage those of you who live in the city to reflect upon your good fortune libation-wise? Unlike the swill schlepper in one of the finest and priciest establishments in Bedford--owned by Richard Gere and patronized by Martha and other beautiful people--the barkeep at this modest joint in the east river backwater of Vinegar Hill not only had heard of a sazarec, but built a damn fine one. Miss P. had one of her signature cocktails-Davy Jones or Barnacle Bill or somesuch and it was equally tasty.
                      For starts I ordered a grilled sardine. It was quite nice, though the peach compote mentioned on the menu was pretty spartan and what was there, was pretty perfunctory--i.e. it made the dish sound elaborate, thuogh it really wasn't. Still a nice fish! Ms P ordered a savory tart that was simply prepared and sublime. For a main course I went with the chop, which was lauded on the Food Network for it's meticulous and lengthy brining and I must say it did not disappoint. It was beautifully charred in the big open-fire oven that they seem to use to cook almost everything. Ms. P ordered pasta with a ragout that she said was very deep flavored; all I can say is that she rated it above the malfatti at Al Di La, which is heady praise in our family. (Don't worry; we are sharing all along with the youngster, who amused himself during what was a lengthy wait for the main courses by picking ripe fruits from the big and lovely espalier grape vine.)
                      I finished the evening with a cup of coffee that was decent but not totally hot. Ms. P got a salted caramel pudding dish, which she found too salty but that I was glad to relieve her of. The young grape picker ordered a desert of sweet little strawberries swimmign in yoghurt that was, in turn, floating on a cloud of merangue. We were glad they teach that "sharing is caring" at his pre-school.
                      VHH reminded us of all Brooklyn has to offer: Soulfull little restaurants run by well-trained, caring and innovative people who just plain try harder while charging less than their counterparts across the river. We'll most definiltey be going back!

                      -----
                      Al Di La
                      248 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Poindexter

                        Wait times don't seem to have changed. Saturday night probably wasn't the fairest time to judge the restaurant. Maybe if you have masochistic tendencies (or have stranded yourselves there, like us) you would waste the effort going to Vinegar Hill House on a weekend. We showed up at 7:30 when there was a two hour wait and stood on the sidewalk for an hour or so. Cars kept unloading diners. Eventually, we headed inside to try to order a drink at the crowded bar (about as many people drinking at the bar as eating at the tables). After ten minutes we still hadn't been able to order a drink but then the flakey waitress in charge of tables somehow couldn't find anyone for a four-person table that had been sitting empty for twenty minutes in plain view of everyone. We got it! Afterwards we noticed that there is another seating area on an outdoor patio that we could have waited in far more pleasantly (it was a balmy night for late October), but no-one mentioned this. In general the service was harried, unfriendly and forgetful.

                        Food varied from fine to good. Tasty: charred octopus appetizer, short-rib pot-au-feu. Fine/average: dull cast-iron chicken. I don't know why people get so excited about the chicken, it's just not that special. It doesn't come with any veg - it's just a plain half chicken with a salty gravy. Not as good as Locanda Verde's chicken or Barbuto's chicken and certain does not hold a candle to the holy grail of restaurant chicken at Zuni Cafe. Overall, this is a perfectly good neighbourhood restaurant with very charming decor, but overhyped. It felt a bit like Freeman's 2.0, mobbed and a little fake-seeming, somehow. Probably not worth the schlep.

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                        Vinegar Hill House
                        72 Hudson Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11201

                        1. re: johannabanana

                          We have been there recently, but just for brunch. We always get there as soon as they open at 11am, and haven't had a problem getting seated. But even when it's empty the service isnt' very good. We always wait a long time for entrees, drinks, etc. Some of the brunch options are great, some just ok- love the pancake, frisee aux lardons, beans on toast. reuben was 'ok', as was an egg dish, but i can't remember what it was. the side of pork sausage is very good. Definitely a great place to have in the neighborhood, but wouldn't bother to travel there.

                          1. re: twiggles

                            Waiting time at 6:30 PM on a Thursday evening in December: 1 hour 45 minutes.
                            The hostess keeps a list of names, but underestimates waiting time.
                            You can leave your name and walk to ReBar for a drink, or, to a new cafe called Baco Cafe on Jay St., right around the corner from Front St. for a cup of coffee or tea. Very attractive cafe with good tea selection and excellent service. From your warm seat here, you can call the hostess at Vinegar Hill House for an update on your table.

                            Was the wait worth it? I think, for the food and the experience, it generally is.
                            Roasted octopus salad and pan roasted monkfish were excellent. Most diners go the hard-core carnivore route here, though. There's a Priorat from Alavaro Palacios on the wine list that runs $47 and is outstanding. We had no big problem with service, however.

                            -----
                            Vinegar Hill House
                            72 Hudson Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11201