The amusement over Brooklyn’s cultural explosion is no longer a subject for headlines, as most people in NYC and around the world are well acquainted with the borough’s emancipation. Brooklyn’s experimental nature has always attracted artists, musicians, and creative types of all sorts, but most recently its culinary movement is making Brooklyn a top destination for restaurateurs as well.
Michael Callahan has been part of the New York restaurant scene since the opening of Indochine in 1984. Through multiple partnerships and connections in the arts and literature worlds he was able to build a mini empire in Manhattan. Now, 30 years and 18 restaurants later, he came across the opportunity to open a place in his native Brooklyn, where his only partner is the landlord.
“I found this place through a friend” said Callahan, admitting to like the “word of mouth” way of Greenpoint.
“This used to be a chocolate factory, and is right next to the music venue Coco 66, so we spent a year renovating it and decided to keep the name Coco, it made sense.” Callahan’s Indochine, Bond St, Republic, and Kitichai all have a lot in common, from the cultural inspiration to their architectonic nature, but Coco is different.
“It’s my baby,” says the restaurateur. Callahan plans to sound proof and insulate the venue next door to create a place for local bands to perform, with the intention to bring in a more music-oriented crowd.
As you walk through the dimly lit hallway past the 12-seat steel bar, an open kitchen with glass windows invites diners to witness the process of what chefs Julie Farias and Joseph Capozzi call “elevated home cooking.” The restaurant’s layout and setup is in perfect harmony with this philosophy – simple, clean, and with a Brooklyn charm. You will feel at home as soon as you see the vinyl collection, tufted white booths, and tall wooden tables. The chefs periodically come out to talk about the dishes and are happy to share stories about the process of finding the best ingredients. According to Capozzi, what attracts him to the Brooklyn Culinary Movement is the emphasis on utilizing only local and seasonal produce, from the wine, to the bread and cheese. “The secret is to use simple recipes with extra loving,” says the chef as he comes over with a platter of grilled oysters with bourbon butter and seaweed beans. The flavors are exquisitely combined and of course, you feel the extra loving. The $5 bacon cheeseburger is already a favorite, revealing the importance of having something for everyone.
Capozzi is also a veteran in this industry with 11 Madison Park, Ruschmeyer’s, and The Fat Radish under his belt. One can’t help but wonder: what is it about them that makes it work? Looking at these restaurant veterans, it’s clearly not only about the food; it’s the atmosphere, the consistency, the location, and most importantly, how you treat people.
Coco had its first soft opening this weekend, serving only specials and a bar menu to those lucky enough to pass by and venture inside. A complete menu with items such as a grilled pork chop with cherry peppers and escarole and a root vegetable casserole with be available this week, along with a full bar.
Coco is located at 66 Greenpoint Ave (between Franklin & West), Brooklyn, NY 11222. Open Tuesday-Sunday from 6 p.m. until late.