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.
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.
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.
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.
285 Nevins St (between Union and Sackett St)
Brooklyn, NY 11217
305 Nevin St (between Union and President St)
Brooklyn, NY 11215