Freek’s Mill feels primed for its rapidly changing neighborhood. Service is polished and genial, gratuity is included, and bread with bright-green ramp butter comes gratis. Not long after it opened in April at a hushed, industrial intersection, a massive luxury apartment complex (with waterfront esplanade and impending boat launch) welcomed its first renters across the beleaguered Gowanus Canal. Soon they’ll cross the sludgy surf to feast on roasted oysters that thankfully aren’t too local.
Freek’s Mill, which takes its name from a post–Revolutionary War structure that once stood in the area, connects with that older Gowanus, too, through its wood-fired oven. Quails are stuffed with cheesy brioche filling, browned in chef Chad Shaner’s domed furnace, and sauced with a jus made from their wings. Duck, its flavor intensified through dry-aging, has crisp skin to match surprisingly tasty refried cranberry beans. And in one of his most inspired moments, Shaner embeds medallions of smoked kohlrabi confit in buttery grits; it’s the vegetarian counterpoint to that jowl, and just as powerful. — Zachary Feldman