A few blocks east of Ft. Greene Park, the General Greene and its ice cream cart are a prominent fixture of the DeKalb dining scene.
The General Greene came out of the paddock at a trot last August, then vaguely disappointed everyone with interesting-sounding food that was often poorly executed. When I checked the place out at lunch a few months ago, I lamented: “The pulled pork sandwich…organized something like a Cuban sandwich, was a colossal disappointment, since the pork had been rendered into small crisp shards that didn’t seem much like pork. The biggest question, was why did the plates arrive so unadorned? Even a diner puts a sprig of parsley on the plate.”
Now, a new chef has taken over (Julie Farias, formerly of Ici and Beer Table), and the reduced and reformed menu is coming out of the kitchen with far more persuasion and polish. Folks who didn’t mind the place before will be delighted that some of the smaller bar snacks have been retained, including excellent deviled eggs, bacon dates, and the elementary-but-wonderful radishes with sea salt.
Some of the dishes on the new menu have been reformulated. A formerly lackluster beet salad that smothered the painfully purple vegetable in horseradish sauce is now configured as shaved raw beets mixed with mounds of cooked beets, with a few other salad accoutrements, representing a vast improvement. New to the menu is a tofu entree that matches a quavering block of soft tofu with boiled and fried fava beens–the former going “squish” and the latter going “crunch.”
The dishes are still divided into cold and hot plates, ranging in size from small to almost-substantial. “Two dishes per person makes a meal,” quoth the waitress; in practice, my date and I found we needed three apiece, and still craved dessert. (We never pretended to be dainty eaters.) Our favorite dish was a stack of pork ribs arranged like logs in a campfire. The ribs had been cooked to a fare-thee-well, painted with a sweet glaze whose most prominent feature was cracked peppercorns–I’m a sucker for spicy and sweet. I also liked a simple butter lettuce salad decorated with toasted almonds and yellow grapefruit, though my date thought it a big yawn.
Farias has invented a chorizo salad, which lays two big planks of delicious grilled sausage atop greens and roasted potatoes. The chef was born in a Mexican-American family, and once advised me in writing a story about San Antonio Tex-Mex for the Gourmet website. Nevertheless, I was able to dine anonymously by keeping my head down until the meal was over, but as I walked by the kitchen on the way to the bathroom, she pulled me aside and told me about dishes she was working on, including a Brooklyn barbacoa. I’m hoping Farias does some puffy tacos, too, at the General Greene someday.
The General Greene has fielded a line of ice cream this summer, in the restaurant and in a cart out front. It’s described as Philadelphia style, with no eggs. What ice cream has eggs in it, I wondered, other than Wisconsin-style frozen custard? The salty caramel has garnered the most enthusiasm, and we tried it, along with a scoop of coffee. “This tastes a little chalky,” my date said of the latter.
The best dessert was a peach cobbler for two that reminded me of the one my mom made, with a well-browned crunchy topping, tasting slightly of butter and salt, and a big pool of peaches–and this has been a very good year for peaches at local farmers markets. There was a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, too. Heck, the cobbler alone is enough to make me want to go back. 229 Dekalb Avenue, Ft. Greene, Brooklyn, 718-222-1510
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 24, 2009