When the pit master behind one of the most popular barbecue restaurants in New York City opens a new restaurant with a burger as its signature menu, of course it generates a ton of hype. I certainly had some mixed feelings about the whole experience at Hometown Bar-B-Que despite its excellent meat dishes (see my review of the place here https://kenscale.com/2018/01/31/hometown-bar-b-que/), but that was not going to dissuade me from visiting Red Hook Tavern that Billy Durney opened, especially when the restaurant does take reservations. Of course it was nearly impossible to secure a reservation through Resy for prime time, but my wife Jun and I actually didn’t mind going early as we typically eat around 5-6 p.m. on weekends when checking out restaurants anyways. So how good was the burger at Red Hook Tavern? I’m ready to call it one of the best in the entire city!
When the burger first arrived, Jun was slightly puzzled as it didn’t have lettuce or tomato that she likes to add between the buns. Only American cheese and white onion accompanied the dry aged beef patty, ostensibly as a homage to the burger style that Peter Luger drew fans for. While I didn’t get to eat a burger at Peter Luger (and given the recent controversy around the steakhouse’s negative review on New York Times, didn’t plan on visiting anytime soon), there is no denying that Red Hook Tavern does a fantastic job emphasizing the quality of meat while also carefully making sure that the overall flavor doesn’t overwhelm it. Jun, who also liked the burger at Au Cheval’s New York branch (see my review here https://kenscale.com/2019/04/29/au-cheval/), remarked that this burger is just a different type; while Au Cheval is more juiced up in flavor to give a decadent feel (especially with the addition of bacon and egg), according to Jun, Red Hook Tavern offers a cleaner taste so diners can focus on the meat itself. It’s hard to tell whether one style is more superior to the other but suffice to say we made a quick work of this wonderful dish. If you feel a bit guilty with the meat-centric menus at Red Hook Tavern, romaine wedge salad is one of the vegetable dishes you should give a try, with sourdough crumbs and buttermilk herb dressing giving it an addictive flavor. While not on the menu, we were also offered a ribeye steak with creamed spinach (at $75), and it was a wise choice to order this one. The meat was prepared perfect medium rare and the overall flavor was balanced if you remove small salt particles sprinkled in some parts of the steak.
As noted above, getting a reservation at Red Hook Tavern can be a challenge if you are looking for a prime time dinner table; do plan in advance or try your luck at the bar which is available on a first-come first-served basis. There is a full bar with a rather intriguing wine list and a list of potent cocktails suitable for a tavern-like environment. The retro-looking décor and ambiance adds another positive element to the dining experience. In a city already saturated with many outstanding burgers, Red Hook Tavern is a newcomer that you should definitely check out if you are a burger aficionado or are just looking for a soulful traditional American meal with thoughtful execution in a casual vibe.
KenScale: 8.25/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.25/10)
- Creativity: 7.5/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
- Value: 8.0/10
Address: 329 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231
Telephone: (917) 966-6094