After stints in the early 2000s at Manhattan restaurants like Gramercy Tavern, Polo Dobkin crossed the East River into Brooklyn, where he ran the kitchens at Dumont, Dumont Burger, and then the Dressler, where he worked for six years, netting the restaurant a Michelin star while he was at it. He met his wife Stephanie at Dumont, and a couple of years ago, the couple began exploring the idea of opening a restaurant together. “We decided that after working in this industry for so long, we should work together,” says Stephanie. “We’ve been married since ’07, and we have a great partnership. We wanted a restaurant with that family feel so we could pass that on to the guest.”
After hunting for spots, the pair landed at a familiar address — they took over the Dressler space to install Meadowsweet (149 Broadway, 718-384-0673).
The Dobkins decided to open up the space and give it an airier, brighter feel. They worked with a local wood shop to install whitewashed pine reclaimed from a factory in Kentucky, and they enlisted BK Grange to design a 17-foot hanging herb garden that will feed the cocktail program. Banquettes line the walls, and a mosaic of tiles covers the floor.
Polo is cooking what he calls “contemporary American food with a Mediterranean current. I let the ingredients speak for themselves, and it’s about execution over elaboration. It’s as seasonal and local as you can possibly make it.” He cites dishes like the plancha marina, a collection of seared fish and shellfish served over aioli and roasted peppers, which was inspired by a trip the couple took to Basque country in Spain shortly before they opened. He’s also doing a ricotta raviolo with peas, chicken with dumplings, and the same crispy artichokes he’s done for years. A fairly extensive oyster program is coming soon.
Stephanie, who managed Al Di La Vino, is in charge of beverages, and she says that approach to food is mirrored in the cocktails, some of which hold special meaning. The Mighty Quinn, she explains, is named for a friend who worked at the Bronx Botanical Gardens and was responsible for getting currants back in the U.S. after they’d been outlawed decades ago because of a blight. That tipple is made with vodka, Hudson Valley currants, honey, and fresh herbs.
Meadowsweet also has a bottled beer list, which Polo says is changing frequently. “We’re also looking to bring in some ciders,” he says. And Stephanie adds that the wine list is focused on smaller producers and smaller runs. “There’s a lot of Spanish and Austrian influence,” she says. “We’re supporting younger wineries.”
Ultimately, the couple hopes Meadowsweet will become a true neighborhood restaurant. “We wanted to make sure it was the kind of space you’d feel comfortable whether you came in casually on a Tuesday night and sat at the bar or had an engagement party or celebrated an anniversary,” says Stephanie.
“The neighborhood has been so supportive,” Polo adds. “We want it to be a neighborhood joint.”
Meadowsweet is open for dinner Monday through Thursday from 6 to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 6 p.m. to midnight, and Sunday from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. The bar is open an hour later than the kitchen.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 20, 2014