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Dec 8, 2008 06:53 PM

Vinegar Hill House

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.

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


    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.

    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.

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

    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.


    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.


      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'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 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.