I am constantly on the lookout for good neighborhood restaurants. The kind of restaurants that treat me like a regular even if I'm not; where the host greets me warmly even when it's really crowded; where the food is consistently serious and reasonably priced; and, most of all, where I feel well taken care of at all times.
So when I read <em>Kindness & Salt
: Recipes for the Care and Feeding of Your Friends and Neighbors</a></em> by Doug Crowell and Ryan Angulo, who own Buttermilk Channel and French Louie, two terrific neighborhood restaurants in Brooklyn, I knew they'd be great guests to have on Special Sauce. And I wasn't disappointed.
Both Doug and Ryan fell in love with restaurant work right away. For Ryan it was antidote to high school; he started washing dishes at a country club when he was sixteen. "I hated high school," Ryan says, "I wasn't into sports. I got into the kitchen, and I felt right at home."
On Doug's first day in a kitchen, he was asked to go through a crate of live lobsters and separate the bodies from the claws. "So I never had seen that done anywhere else before, but it's not easy to take a lobster's claws off while they're still alive and it's a pretty messed up thing to do," Doug recalls. "And they were flopping all over the place and snapping at me. That was a trial by fire...But I loved it."
When they decided to open a restaurant in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn together, they had a specific kind of restaurant in mind. As Doug says, they wanted it to be "sort of a hub of the community as well as being one restaurant for all occasions. So a place where you can go with your kids and also come back for a fancy dinner. That's when I know we've really succeeded, is when see those same parents who came in with a high chair and they're back for their anniversary."
And while that may seem like the perfect definition of a neighborhood restaurant, I asked Doug to expand on the idea, and he said, "I think it's a place that if you live near the restaurant, that you can come back to multiple times in a week and have different experiences from the menu and from the service, and from the drinks and everything. You can come in and have dinner by yourself; you can come with your family, you can come with your kids. Because a neighborhood restaurants means that you get a lot of people from the neighborhood regularly, and they can't really do that if it's just a tasting menu restaurant or it's a steakhouse."
There's lots more to dive into in this week's episode of Special Sauce, like the secret (or non-secret) of Ryan and Doug's superb fried chicken, so I hope you tune in.