Gowanus: Freek’s Mill + Ample Hills

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the dining room at freek’s mill

Brooklyn is no big secret these days, but Gowanus is a part of Brooklyn that still feels undiscovered. I ventured out there for the first time last week, and I felt like I was discovering a whole new world where the streets were broad, ice cream parlors came with rooftops and shuffleboard clubs were trending. It’s nowhere near as developed as Bedford Ave and has more in common with low-key locales such as Bushwick and Red Hook–lots of space and warehouses along the water. There is a pretty good restaurant scene in Gowanus, the most well known one is probably The Pines, and now Freek’s Mill, a seasonal, small plates restaurant on Nevins St, is a new addition that continues to bring the average up.

the charred radicchio with burrata, walnuts and currants
the charred radicchio with burrata, walnuts and currants
wood roasted oysters
wood roasted oysters

I’m a little over the whole seasonally driven small plates trend, but after my dinner at Freek’s Mill, I’m having a change of heart. In fact, the small plates concept actually worked in our favor, because that meant we could try more things on the menu, and since everything was so good, we definitely wanted to (and did!) add on to our original order. The charred radicchio, which came with a sweet and creamy burrata, was truly a pleasure. It’s like they broke all the rules regarding leafy vegetable prep, weighing it down with liquids and cheese and testing the limits of its frailty by charring it, yet somehow they came up far, far ahead.

octopus with fingerling potatoes and salsa verde
octopus with fingerling potatoes and salsa verde
dry aged duck with refried cranberry beans and rosemary honey
dry aged duck with refried cranberry beans and rosemary honey
the stracci pasta with lamb, olives and ricotta
the stracci pasta with lamb, olives and ricotta

I also had a lot of love for the grilled octopus. This is a small plate that’s been so overdone, appearing as an appetizer on so many menus, and the prep being nearly the same, but the one at Freek’s Mill, with its tenderness and meatiness, and the airy lemon aioli, manages to keep it fresh. The dry aged duck caught my eye, mostly because I didn’t know one could do this with waterfowl, and let’s just say that this duck aged pretty well. The cranberry beans that came with it was an interesting choice, I’m not sure if it was quite the right accompaniment to the duck, but the way the beans were repurposed as a hash as opposed to something boiled and stewed was something different. We were on such a roll that we ordered the stracci, a creamy ricotta pasta served with lamb, and this last minute gamble was a big win.

ample hills creamery
ample hills creamery
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two giant scoops

Afterwards we walked over to Ample Hills Creamery, which specializes in crazy, fun ice cream flavors like Ooey Gooey Butter Cake, which is amazing, and Snap, Mallow, Pop!. You can eat your cones upstairs on the roof deck, which is the best way to consume ice cream, and something you could never do in space constrained Manhattan. You really can’t ask for more on a perfect summer’s day. Some people summer in the Hamptons, I think I’m going to summer in Gowanus.


Freek’s Mill
285 Nevins St (between Union and Sackett St)
Brooklyn, NY 11217
(718) 852-3000

Ample Hills
305 Nevin St (between Union and President St)
Brooklyn, NY 11215
(347) 725-4061

California Dining at Genuine Roadside

Is California the new Brooklyn? Genuine Roadside is the third California concept restaurant that I’ve reviewed this year. This casual cafe, which occupies a space in Gotham West Market, is meant to evoke the coastal roadside diner experience, only this trip is much more airbrushed. The space looks like an architecture firm’s idea of what a California diner looks like–clean and airy, with interesting consumer relics from the 80s like cassette players and mix tapes artfully placed on wood shelves. It’s a far cry from the Denny’s and Carrows that I frequented on our family road trips, that’s for sure.

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the ordering counter at genuine
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a walk down memory lane in the 80s

Similarly, the food is a highly sanitized and refined rendition of California diner grub. You’ll find fish tacos and ahi burgers, but they’re much healthier (and pricier) than something you’d find in the deep fryer or the grill of a hole-in-the-wall joint. I tried the ahi tartare tacos, which went too far down the path of healthy editing that they had been stripped entirely of flavor. The fried chicken suffered from a similarly unfortunate edit. All the trappings of a good chicken sandwich were there–juicy, tender, a perfectly breaded crust–but they were arranged and bound by a bland sauce, which is key for creating that chemistry that leaves you wanting more. When I heard the shrimp and grits was one of Genuine’s strengths, I was a bit skeptical, as I’m sure the soul would have gone missing from this archetypal soul food dish.

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ensalada baja with chicken
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classic burger
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sweet potato fries

The restaurant succeeds when it cooks something that truly resembles diner food. The classic burger was delicious in a traditional way, reminding me of the burgers at Shake Shack and In-N-Out. This being airbrushed diner food, the burger of course wasn’t nearly as fatty and greasy as the ones from the latter, but it would satisfy you just the same. The healthiness of the sweet potato fries actually worked in their favor. They weren’t overburdened with grease, they were crisp and willowy, and somehow you didn’t feel bad for eating half the basket, which is a big win.

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six scoop sample at ample hills

After eating my ensalada baja chicken salad, which was quite filling and wholesome, I was feeling healthy, but all those fresh leaves and jicama and orange slices left me hungry. So of course it made total sense to walk over to Ample Hills, also in Gotham West Market, and split 6 different scoops of ice cream with our friends. No road trip is complete without an ice cream pit stop. If you want to know which flavors to get–the butter pecan, amazing, the strawberries and cream, superb, and the blueberry sorbet, refreshing.


Genuine Roadside
600 11th Ave (between 44th and 44th St)
New York, NY 10036
(212) 582-9351