Brooklandia: Eugene & Co. Fuels Swanky Late Nights in Bed-Stuy
Meat loaf sandwich
All photos by Bradley Hawks for the Village Voice
Around ten o'clock each night at Eugene & Co., an invigorating scent wafts over the dining room. Dulcet and fog-thick, the commingling aromas of flaky biscuits and milky sausage gravy overwhelm any nostrils within a two-table radius of where they land. The Southern staple — served as a trio of leavened quick breads drenched in thick, tan gravy suffused with bacon, herbs, and boulders of crumbled wild-boar sausage — rightly stars on the restaurant's late-night and brunch menus. (The kitchen closes at midnight, but if you ask nicely, there might be an extra biscuit lying around to help soften the evening's bad decisions.) Reassuring in its doubly porky splendor, it has fast become a signature dish at the cozy gastropub, which opened in December along a stretch of Tompkins Avenue near the lower edge of Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Pork belly with watermelon salad
Pork also shows up as crisp, lacquered belly tossed with lettuce and watermelon seasoned with basil, mint, lime juice, and jalapeño. Sure, it's a throwback to Zak Pelaccio's salad days at Fatty Crab, but here chef Savannah Jordan assembles it with finesse. Served on a spongy roll, Jordan's meat loaf sandwich is a down-home hunger-banisher. The pork, veal, and beef are ground in-house; slathered with a sweet barbecue sauce and topped with pickles, the soft slab rests upon a layer of creamy coleslaw that soaks up the savory juices.
Crispy chicken sandwich
The pork belly will run you $13. The sandwich, which comes with a well-dressed salad, costs $14 — same as a platter of smoky salmon rillettes served with crudités, and a buck more than a kale salad with figs, golden beets, and fresh ricotta. Add chicken and those greens will run you $18. That's Soho pricing. Other trendy produce gets its due, too. Beneath ribbons of raw shaved carrots, a cross-section of roasted cauliflower "steak" has its nuttiness amplified by feta cheese and cashews, while brussels sprouts receive plenty of char before being glazed in maple syrup and tossed with spicy almonds. Only the "Shellfish Fideo" pasta plate underwhelmed. The "toasted spaghetti" was overcooked and chewy, as were the clams and shrimp, outshone by a lone, gently seared scallop.
Roasted cauliflower steak
Yes, the neighborhood is changing. For confirmation, just pop into a Brooklyn Community Board 3 meeting and witness the groans over liquor licenses and closing hours. But Eugene & Co. feels right for Bed-Stuy, provided Jordan and owner Tara Oxley stay within the parameters they've established: $11 cocktails, $6 glasses of wine, modest-size entrées that peak at $17. Did I mention they don't take credit cards? One millennial reclining on a nearby tufted leather banquette described the restaurant as "a special-occasion place," and despite sharing design ideals with half the borough — exposed brick (check!), dimmed spotlights (check!), antique aesthetic (check!) — the high-ceilinged room possesses a proper sense of place. Patrons sit on mismatched barstools arrayed beneath a theatrically drippy resin chandelier. (The décor is the province of Oxley, a first-time restaurateur whose résumé includes an eight-year stint as design director of the restaurant group BR Guest Hospitality. She named the place for her paternal grandfather and credits him with inspiring its look.) They snack on roasted potatoes dipped into tart lemon aioli at dusk and tackle pillowy milk buns bulging with fried green tomatoes and pimiento cheese during lunch. Soups change daily, as does a market vegetable board heaped, in our case, with watermelon radishes, beets, and shaved brussels sprouts. This is New Brooklyn done mostly right.
For the most part, Eugene & Co. makes itself approachable, but a few menu items clash with the cash-only policy. Order that kale salad and put a bird on it, pair it with an $88 bottle of Domaine Jean-Luc Colombo Cornas, and finish off your meal with an $8 carrot cupcake (big, dense, and very nearly overwhelmed by cardamom cream-cheese frosting) and you might need to hike to the bodega a block away to hit the ATM.
A Bed-Stuy resident for a half-decade and counting, Oxley has witnessed and contributed to the neighborhood's creeping transformation. Jordan, who arrives at Eugene & Co. after kitchen time clocked at, among others, Le Bernardin and Mary's Fish Camp, also lives nearby. The two aren't Kings County pioneers by a long shot, but they have given the area's growing community of twentysomethings a locally minded, greenmarket-driven restaurant that's largely affordable and relatable. While Williamsburgers join their kickball leagues and skipping clubs, I'll be over here stuffing my inner child's face with crunchy oatmeal cookies studded with chocolate chips and pecans. "You have a choice of milk," chirps our server, then ticks off whole, 2 percent, and almond. Graham cracker and ricotta cheesecake parfait, as silky as cannoli filling, comes topped with fig compote. They're uncomplicated endings to uncomplicated meals — the kind every neighborhood deserves.
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