A while back, New York magazine profiled the Greenpoint Coffee House with the backhanded compliment that it “remains the best place to get a decent cup of coffee in Greenpoint, but it falls short of being a dining destination.” We’re here to tell you that’s no longer accurate. With a renewed commitment to quality eats, the GPCH has elevated itself to destination dining status, its rebirth the work of one man. Earlier this summer, we profiled local chef Jonathan Meyer (he lives across the street) whose experimentation behind the grill turned t.b.d.‘s beer garden into the perfect getaway on a balmy Brooklyn night. It turns out Meyer is a man of all seasons, transforming GPCH into a cozy hub for winter comfort food to go along with its steaming pots of coffee.
Don’t be fooled by the “Est. 2003” emblazoned on the storefront window. The mahogany wainscoted interior with tin ceilings and majestic oak bar call back to a time when the nearby docks were still teeming with shipbuilders and headlines announced allied advances across the Atlantic. And the food is just as transporting. Meyer, who chopped and braised in the kitchens at Fatty Crab and Diner, took into account the winter weather when renovating the menu. “We aim for developed, robust flavors. We’ll be doing a lot of roasting and braising, and we’ll serve plenty of pasta, beans and polenta,” says Meyer. “We’ll use more brown butter and red wine, and reach for more assertive, warmer spices and herbs.”
Last summer, unbeknownst to him, Meyer was being watched. The managers at GPHC must have read the Nymag profile and decided it was time to legitimize their menu. After seeing the creative flourishes he brought to old standbys like corn on the cob (basting it in apple butter) and banh mi sandwiches (homemade pork sausages) they were convinced he was the man for the job. He was losing his job to the increasing frigidness of Mother Nature, and leapt at the opportunity to impose his vision of humble, recognizable, and affordable food with the best ingredients available on a blank slate kitchen. “We don’t use luxury ingredients like say, rare fish or expensive cuts of meat. Instead, we try to cook attentively and carefully. Everyone who works in this kitchen cooks because they love cooking, and places a premium on producing food they can be proud of,” says Meyer.
Food they can be proud of includes one of the best new burgers in Brooklyn. Featuring a thick, flavorful natural beef patty from Painted Hills in Oregon, it’s cooked to perfection on a cast iron pan (Meyer’s improv in a grill-less kitchen) and topped with grafton cheddar, and sandwiched between a fluffy bun from Amy’s. The result is extremely satisfying ($11). Another standout winter combatant is Meyer’s crispy buttermilk fried chicken with apple cider Glaze, and a house-made buttermilk biscuit ($14). Spaghetti and meatballs ($13), mac & cheese ($9) and this week, a Rueben sandwich with house-made corned beef is also available. As part of the brunch menu, Meyer offers up among other staples, hearty omlette with caramelized onions, manchego, and house-made chorizo ($11).
To compliment with these proven favorites, Meyer’s constantly-changing menu offers up more unusual fare. Squash, pumpkin and apple soup with brown butter, crème fraiche and nutmeg; chicken liver crostini with Lillet, pickled black currants, and beet greens; sirloin steak with salsa Verde, fries and a watercress and watermelon radish salad. “We don’t follow a particular rubric,” says Meyer. “Our menu is determined by the products available to us each week.” His staff is a rag-tag group of passionate cooks. Meyer and his resident pastry chef Will Griffin met at the memorial service of a mutual ex-girlfriend, who was killed last summer in a bike accident. Meyer asked Will to join him at GPCH, who accepted the offer and relocated to Brooklyn. Ben Flanner runs the rooftop farm in Greenpoint over the summer, and has decided to cook with Meyer until the spring, when he’ll return to farming. And John Petry, the resident butcher is also a sous-chef at the Fatty Crab. The union of their sensibilities and passion for food is what makes the food here so special. You can taste the love.
Greenpoint Coffee House, 195 Franklin St., Brooklyn, NY, 718-349-6635