Jell-O Shots & Ricotta Dumplings: Hill & Dale Opens in LES

The specialty at Hill & Dale, new to Allen Street, is a peach and vodka Jell-O shot called the “Dot & Dash.” Our waitress told us it was the house signature, so I suggested we all take one together. She declined, saying she didn’t like the feel of Jell-O in her mouth, and neither do I, so instead of the Jell-O shot, I drank just about everything else, and just about everything else was lovely.

A whole daisy came floating in the “Floozy,” one of eight other cocktails (all $12) fashioned by co-owner Elliott Carlson of Le Bain, which mixed muddled strawberries with Ketel One. Drinks like the Bourbon Negroni and The Berliner (rye, sweet vermouth, cherry, and Ramazzotti bitters) were plenty aromatic, and didn’t mask quality liqueurs with needless sugar. “Flip the Frog,” made with Plymouth Gin and St-Germain, sees its highball glass stacked with half a dozen cucumber slices. I approved.

Décor is themed around early home audio systems: an old brass phonograph rests atop a shelf behind the bar, and kitschy radios line a beam across the dining room. The 1920s-speakeasy thing treads lightly at worst. Beatles tracks played over the PA for a solid hour, with no dips into that “Hello! Ma Baby” schlock. Behind a metal grate in the back, a 30-person lounge with cushy sofas and potted ferns is well suited to quiet sipping.

Hill & Dale calls itself a “gastrolounge,” meaning they serve dinner. Ricotta dumplings are served with a mushroom medley, and a very juicy wild boar sausage wraps around three fantastic cabbage salads. Fried things come in all shapes. One of my housemade chicken nuggets (brown meat) had the form of a heart, while another looked like a man holding a basketball between his legs. For those keeping score in the New York pickle game, Hill & Dale’s current versions are golden baby beets, spring onions, celery, and cucumbers.

The Jell-O shots are not pickled.

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New York Openings: Preserve24 and Parker & Quinn

While food etymologists were losing it last week over the cronut, a subtler move was taking full effect: pickles no longer means pickles, as in pickled cucumbers. Order the house-made pickles at a New York restaurant, and you’ll get ramps (Betony), or cauliflower and okra (Battery Harris), or stringy white mushrooms (Lavender Lake). At the newly opened Preserve24 on East Houston, you’ll get carrots, red onions, ramps, and jalepeños (be careful with those). Cucumbers, meanwhile, have become the red velvet cupcake of the pickle world.

Aside from the pickles nouveau, most everything else at Preserve24 takes inspiration from 19th-century styling. The subterranean dining room’s reached via an artfully distressed spiral staircase. Liquor bottles are nestled in a bar made from hollowed-out old pianos. Antique doors and stiff wooden booths fill the rest of the upscale Mark Twain-Disney-esque space. The food is rustic. Oysters come raw, fire-roasted with garlic butter, or fried and settled into bacon sliders. Truffle fries are topped with generous shavings of Ouray cheese. Hearty entrées like the fennel-crusted veal chop or the organic roasted chicken pair perfectly with roast vegetables, which come hot in cast-iron pots. It’s all comfort food, down to the ice cream sandwiches for dessert.

Old-timey themes are also at play at Parker & Quinn (pictured), a 1920s-styled American bistro in the otherwise mod Refinery Hotel. Jockey-sized busboys in plaid newsboy hats shuffle around a sprawling honeycomb-floored dining space, which sees a wraparound bar as its centerpiece. Rumors of a roaming cocktail cart have been squashed, but they will let you keep bottles of liquor in special VIP lockers.

On the kitchen end, chef Jeffrey Forrest sticks to what American fare’s all about—fine ingredients, buttered or fried. The conch fritters, with their fluffy-chewy insides, could make a meal on their own. Fried oysters don’t skimp on the batter; soft-shell crabs don’t skimp on the browned butter and capers. A sprawling menu is divvied up by food source (baby back ribs are “from the pen,” Natchitoches crawdads are “from the water,” and bacon grits are “from the mill.”) “Shared plates” is the preferred angle, to make maximum use of the giant bar and the elevated pub booths. Speaking of bar fare, be sure to order the house-made pickles. They’re made from cucumbers.

[Related: BlackBook New York Guide; Listings for Betony, Battery Harris, Lavender Lake, Preserve 24, Parker & Quinn, Refinery Hotel; More by James Ramsay

Beer Buckets & Jerk Spice At Battery Harris, NYC’s New Cocktail Yard

In keeping with the neighborhood, the former filling station at Frost and Lorimer has switched to a trendier ethanol with the arrival of new cocktail yard Battery Harris. A cavernous sky-lit interior, a la fellow sub-BQE spot The Exley, abets a lovely yard that seats plenty more. From the vantage of a colorful beach chair, the hum of the highway is not unlike the ocean – if you use your imagination and order the right drink, of course.

Head bartender Saul Ranella puts a premium on shaken cocktails for the summer (plus a “frozie,” with chicha morada and passionfruit, once the blender’s in). The Lionheart has lime juice and mint shaken with bourbon and joined by a refreshing slice of cucumber. On the thicker side, the Desert Heat blends 7 Leguas tequila with egg white, agave nectar, and passionfruit. There’s also a jalapeño slice to bite into, at your discretion.

Heat seems to be a theme across the board, with the kitchen putting out a handful of snacks and proper dishes with a jerk spice that really kicks. Smoky slaw, jerk chicken legs, and spicy fries get more dangerous with a few drops of “XXX” hot sauce, or less so with a mug of housemade pickled okra and cauliflower (highly recommended). All orders are plenty substantial—no fear of the “small plates” grift here, even with a bowl of plantain chips, which is another wise remedy for the heat.

As the season comes on, Battery Harris should make a comfy alternative to overcrowded spots like Union Pool. Wallet-friendly pitchers and buckets of beer serve those allergic to swanky cocktails. And if the beach chairs aren’t colorful enough for you, check out the glass ashtrays. Smoke ’em if you got ’em, Billiamsburg.

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Photo: Thrillist.

Betony & The Fourth Open, Cardamom Ganache & Herbal Beers Hit NYC

Betony, the new haute-earthy tenant in Brasserie Pushkin’s former space, didn’t entirely do away with the ornate. The chandelier is still there, as are the plush velvet banquettes. The back dining room’s concrete ceiling is etched with abstract Latin geometry, as if one of the construction workers had a Good Will Hunting moment. (Eamon Rockey, the general manager, said it came at the owner’s discretion—“he likes very opulent things.”)

The decorative posturing, which at least is tempered by some potted foliage, is more than backed up by Eleven Madison Park vet Bryce Shuman’s creations from start to finish. Pure pleasers, like the light and vinegary fried pickled ramps, or the cured pink snapper on a basil pesto, abet more challenging dishes. Flavors come in appropriated forms: cardamom is housed in a milky foam over dark chocolate ganache, tomato juice is turned to ice and “snowed” over gooseberry compote, and an asparagus pappardelle tastes of the plant with an intensity that goes far beyond the amount of spears actually in there.

Rockey, also of Eleven Madison Park, matches Shuman’s care behind the bar. An orange rind treated for two weeks with oleo-saccharum sugar tops the ice on an orange julep (“a sipper.”) An extensive beer list pulls in some beyond-rare gypsy beers, like Stillwater’s white sage Saison “Cellar Door”: an ornate herbal brew with a name like velvet.

Downtown also gains an elaborate new hang with the arrival of The Fourth, an American brasserie at the new Hyatt Union Square fit for townies and tourists alike. In keeping with the hotel theme, a helix of dangling bunk bed frames by the artist Brinton Jaecks fills a 25-foot tall dining room. Downstairs, a South American restaurant called Botequim with an open kitchen is set to open later this year. The co-ed restroom, which made for some fun exchanges, shares a door with the Hyatt’s gym. Don’t steal the towels. 

Del Posto vet Michael William Davis serves both classics—bi-coastal oysters, shellfish cioppino, a wonderfully juicy pink salt, roasted-brick chicken breast—and more creative fare. A thick piece of hake comes surrounded by tender chunks of pork cheek. The Fourth’s burger arrives on a tomato bun with a sunnyside up egg. For dessert, the Fuller’s London Porter ice cream is as crisp and frosty as a mug of the good stuff. Fennel-sage chicken meatballs and a poached egg are available for breakfast, if the night took you upstairs. Don’t steal the shampoo.

New York Opening: Cull & Pistol

The time has come to start picking out summer destinations. By way of methodologies you could do worse than throwing darts at the oyster list from Cull & Pistol, the new sit-down spinoff from The Lobster Place in Chelsea Market. How about Mirichimi Bay, New Brunswick, home of the Beau Soleil oyster? Or Malpeque Bay, Prince Edward Island, known for its cottages, piping plovers, and the crisp finish of Indian Creek bivalves? Maybe you’d prefer the west coast, where the rugged shores of Cortes Island, British Columbia, abet rugged blue shellfish? If all else fails, there’s always Chelsea.

The Market’s din is kept well out of Cull & Pistol. A narrow dining room (near identical to that of neighboring Friedman’s Lunch) fits a long stainless bar topped with craft beer handles from locales as exotic as the oysters (The Bronx Brewing Company excepted). Stained wooden banquettes would seem as welcome in the cabin of an old fishing boat as in downtown Manhattan. Per the New York M.O., seating’s a bit tight. Go easy on the french fries?

Chef Dave Siegal, who helms both sibling seafood spots, has gone decidedly upscale here. Tender cuttlefish sit on a nest of squid ink “fideos negros” noodles (a neighboring diner suggested they looked like twigs; they’re not twigs). The menu is topped by a clambake dinner for two, with a luxurious mix of lobster, clams, mussels, and chorizo in a classic steamer pot. In honor of Seigal’s neighboring flagship, lobster rolls come two ways: hot and buttered, or cold with mayo. Speaking of neighbors, the adjacent L’Arte del Gelato cart makes a special orange Creamsicle for Cull & Pistol. Oh, gelato. Italy would make for a nice trip. Though again, there’s always Chelsea. 

[BlackBook New York Guide; Listings for Cull & Pistol, The Lobster Place, Friedman’s Lunch, L’Arte del Gelato; More by James Ramsay]

New York Opening: Charlemagne

Charlemagne, a porn-shop-turned-French-brasserie in the West Village, does a suckling pig dish that reminds me of an old tale. My cousin Robert, who went “vegetarian” a few years ago at his girlfriend’s behest, treated himself the other week to a suckling pig at the Breslin when his lady left town. Out it came in all its porcine glory, with the bowls of sauces and the apple in its mouth. A few bites in, who showed up but his girlfriend’s roommate, who’d eat her tote bag to avoid meat. “Robert!” she gasped, “what in the world?” Robert dropped his silverware. “Can you believe this?” he replied. “I order an apple and look how they serve it!”

At Charlemagne, the pig (Chourcroute) comes diced and laid on a bed of bacon sauerkraut, so if you find yourself in Robert’s situation, you can say you don’t read French. Otherwise, enjoy yourself—the menu’s a grand tour of proteins. A bi-coastal oyster list (with special regard for the Montauk Pearl) sits on a bed of ice adjacent to the wine bar. The steak tartare, with a quail egg and Catalan garlic aioli, is safe to eat and then some. Muscovy duck breast and leg match juicy flesh with a crispy skin. If meat’s off the agenda, the wild mushroom fettuccini tastes much, much better than a tote bag.

I can’t attest to the décor of the old sex shop, but Charlemagne sure looks classy. Honeycomb tiles, which sat beneath the former tenant’s flooring, have been lovingly rebuffed. A massive iron chandelier hangs from a shiny tin ceiling, and 19th-century spherical bulbs dangle above each table. Whatever you order, it will be lit up in all its glory. How do you like them apples?

[BlackBook New York Guide; Listings for Charlemagne, the Breslin; More by James Ramsay]

New York Opening: 180 Neapolitan Eatery

Between gelato carts and waiter statuettes jutting out into the sidewalks, Little Italy is hardly subtle when it comes to self-promotion. But 180 Neapolitan Eatery, a new pizzeria on Hester Street, lacks a proper front door, let alone a sign. A scuzzy glass door leads to a generic elevator, and on the second floor, a little dining room stares down at pizzaiolo Salvatore Olivella’s thousand-degree wood-burning oven. There are some flowers in the windows. Otherwise, it’s all about the pizza.

“We only want the right people to know about it,” the general manager, Vincenzo Auriso, told me. Among them: three guys with Riff Raff-style haircuts who went for the gorgonzola, pear, and walnut pizza at the behest of Riff Raff 1 (“You sold it so well,” said Riff Raff 2.) It’s been said that New York pizza owes its renown to the local tap water, but in this case Olivella’s house-made fior di latte (fresh mozzarella) and sauce made with uncooked San Marzano tomatoes deserve as much credit. The San Daniele sees prosciutto (from San Daniele), thick-grated parmesan, and heaps of arugula topping the pie.

The aforementioned pear and gorgonzola affair—the Agrodolce Maria—comes white, without sauce. Olivella’s true signature is La Vesuviana, which takes any pie of your choosing and folds half of it over several scoops of ricotta to make a half pizza, half calzone mashup that feeds four easily. Knock one back with a round of craft Italian beers (the Almond ’22 Pink Pepper IPA is tops), and if you can, save room for a Nutella zeppole. Just don’t break the elevator on your way down.

[Related: BlackBook New York Guide; Listing for 180 Neapolitan Eatery; More by James Ramsay]

New York Opening: Los Americanos

Between the likes of Bubby’s and Kitchenette, there’s a healthy selection of unhealthy selections in the triangle below Canal, but none is more rico or suave than Los Americanos, a pan-Latino comfort food spot from the folks behind neighborhood favorite Macao Trading Co.

Red leather banquettes, two-toned green tile floors (specifically, the tones of the Blue’s Clues guy’s shirt), and wood-paneled walls are vibrant enough to feel like the diner goes to Habana. A backlit selection of top-shelf tequilas and mezcals adds just enough modern swank to remind those waiting for a table that it’s still Tribeca. Also a reminder—the guacamole and plantain chips, which are a must to start, run a good $12. The top half of the menu offers a tour of Latino street fare, hitting pupusas, empanadas, and tacos. Another must is the pabellon arepa, with its shredded beef and rich maduros between two slices of a fried and crumbly Venezuelan corn cake. A generous goblet of poached octopus highlights the ceviches, blended with sliced red potatoes for added density.

The cocktail list deserves a thorough picking-over, but the house favorite, Under The Volcano, is a master blend of aroma and bite, thanks to its mezcal, rosemary, and jalapeño. Bottles of beer come from exotic locals—pop a Cristal from Peru—but our waitress insisted they’re safely refreshing (“The bartenders say they all taste like Bud Light.”)

The real glory of Los Americanos has to be its late-night menu. According to the owner, Billy Gilroy, “one guy in the kitchen” continues to crank out the aforementioned arepas, plates full of churros, and what has to be the best Cuban sandwich on the island of Manhattan, steadily until 4am. It may not be the cheapest of spots, but as one Gerardo Mejia once said, it’s the price you pay for being a gigolo. Rrrrrico.

[Related: BlackBook New York Guide; Listings for Los Americanos, Bubby’s, Kitchenette, Macao Trading Co., Subscribe to the New York Happenings email newsletter; More by James Ramsay]

The Stadium Was Shea, The Record Was Blowout: The So So Glos and Shea Stadium Records’ Debut

Two weeks ago, the celebrated Canadian high punk trio Metz (not a play on the baseball team) played a sold-out show at Brooklyn’s Shea Stadium (a play on the ballpark), and if the nomenclature was purely serendipitous, it still felt like an event meant to happen. Bassist Chris Slorach came out in a paper mache Mr. Met helmet. You had the usual Metz followers—shout out to the Mosh King in the blue hat—along with the chain-smoking kids in leather jackets that seem to grow out of Shea’s dance floor like asparagus. The mosh pit almost took out a wooden pillar holding up the ceiling. Per frontman Alex Edkins’ request, fallen bodies were promptly lifted, and I’ll be damned if he didn’t thank us all for showing up. But was there anything better to do on a Tuesday?

Shea Stadium, East Williamsburg’s finest all-ages DIY venue going on four years, wasn’t supposed to be so. Adam Reich, Shea’s co-founder and a current guitarist for Titus Andronicus (Titus members often work the door), told me that they intended the space as a recording studio first. 

“I always wanted to have shows, and I wanted to record shows and keep an archive of them,” said Reich. “But I thought it would be more of a recording studio that would be supplemented by shows.”

Since 2011, the website has operated as a best-of archive of live performances, with full sets from the likes of Future Islands, Oberhofer, and Screaming Females. Reich told me they’re inspired by the bootlegs he grew up listening to—quality wise, they sit somewhere between blasted-out YouTube recordings and more polished Tiny Desk concerts.

“That’s a lost art,” said Reich. “Sonically painting the picture. It’s like listening to a baseball game on the radio. You know its context, but you can make your own picture. It was always a big thing that was driving this archive project. I wanted a way to paint the picture for people who weren’t there, and I think Shea Stadium Records is going to be a vehicle for getting a lot of that music out there.”

And so it comes to Blowout, Shea Stadium Records’ debut release from Shea co-founders and native Brooklyn punks The So So Glos, whose previous album and EP were also produced by Reich but released on the Warner subsidiary Green Owl.

If Shea Stadium’s just four years old, Blowout’s been a long time coming. Two singles were released over a year ago: “Lost Weekend,” and the cheeky anthem “Son of an American” (The So So Glos hail from Bay Ridge, which boasts among the highest amount of lawn flags of all Brooklyn neighborhoods. And a lovely still from Saturday Night Fever is posted to the bar at Shea, in honor of the end of the R line). But the ten other tracks on Blowout have been completed for a year as well. Why the wait?

“It was about doing it responsibly,” Reich told me. “One of the issues that the band and I had with Green Owl was that there was this sense of rushing. Things just weren’t as well thought out. We made an effort this time around to make sure that we had things in their right place before the album got released.”

At last Monday’s sold-out record release show, it seemed the waiting was worth it. An all-ages mosh pit (“rock ‘n’ roll’s for the kids,” says Reich) lost plenty of water weight dancing to sides A and B straight through. After side A, frontman Alex Levine solicited the crowd—“What are the reviews so far?” Well.

If you need to categorize the record itself (you don’t), just call it damn good rock ‘n’ roll. The So So Glos are decidedly punk in form and function, but most tracks on Blowout are laced with juicy melodies you won’t hear on a Pissed Jeans album. Oi ois are replaced with ooohs and aahs. The track “Xanax,” as an indie pop gem, might be the farthest departure from their mean—Levine does his cleanest singing over a dreamy Darlene Love sample, and if the title’s not enough of a giveaway, the song just feels good. More often, the vocals lean toward a hip-hop cadence (noted: guitarist Matt Elkin put down some riffs over Wu Tang songs during their set-up like he’s done it before). “Wrecking Ball,” a slam on senselessness circa 2001 (“Raised in a country—demolition company/ See that plane fly like a missile in the sky”), is appropriately rapped. But harmonicas, piano riffs and glockenspiels pump most of the songs into happy territory—“Dizzy,” a bookending round-the-campfire track (“Yo DJ spin me round!”), ends a euphoric album on a euphoric note.

And the album sounds surprisingly clean—they recorded in Philadelphia with Kyle Johnson at Fancy Time Studio—though live energy’s still at the heart of it. Either way, Shea Stadium Records cedes all ownership of the music to the band, so there’s little concern of tampering with or disabling their tracks. I asked Reich if that’s how a typical label works. 

“We don’t function in the ways that a typical anything works,” he said. And that’s no lie.

[Photo: Maverick Inman]

[For all the great live music spots, check out the BlackBook New York Guide; Listing for Shea Stadium; More by James Ramsay]