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Monica Byrne admits that she just might be a control freak. She’s the kind of chef who, while cooking in the tiny kitchen of her Red Hook restaurant, Home/Made, also takes the time to observe diners from a stove-side window and ask the waiters: “What’s going on with that couple? Is it the food, or are they fighting?”
She’s the kind of control freak that insists on offering patrons free coffee while they wait for their brunch table, the kind who demands that her dining room be a retreat, “a vacation” from ordinary life. In other words, the best kind of control freak.
Byrne’s pantry is wonderfully hodgepodge and full of fragrant, beat-up jars of spices and heads of garlic. Originally a pastry chef, Byrne’s cooking leans toward the savory and simple: She can slap a piece of house-made dough on a grill, brush it with olive oil and scatter it with bacon, summer peaches, grated cheese, and make you
never want to eat a composed plate of food again.
After almost four years in the neighborhood, Byrne will be the first to tell you that owning a restaurant in Red Hook isn’t easy. To overcome the small local population and the practically nonexistent public transit, Byrne employs what she calls “the great underestimation factor.” “If we can get them here one time,” she says, “they’ll keep coming back.”
293 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn