Why has Brooklyn become such a hotbed for foodies? You could chalk it up to the neo-rustic attitude engendered by the recession, or the fact that many of Brooklyn’s residents are artists whose creativity inevitably has multiple outlets, but why be pensive when you can simply binge? From Mast Brothers Chocolate to menu-a-day farm-to-table restaurants to house-cured pickles and grass-fed steak, the Brooklyn food movement is quickly changing from a trend into a pervasive DIY culture in which every person with a kitchen and a will to sauté can earn some culinary distinction.
This author has no interest whatsoever in learning how to butcher a pig herself, but she’s more than happy to venture out into the Brooklyn food scene and taste test a few notable items. For this piece, I decided to visit one old Brooklyn favorite and one new one, and the choice as to which picks would be the best ultimately hinged upon coolness factor, so of course I went to the establishments that boasted the longest wait times. First stop was Di Fara Pizza (the old fave) in the decidedly unhip neighborhood of Midwood. I had heard legends of people waiting eagerly for a slice in lines that wrapped around multiple blocks, so I went for lunch on a Friday, thinking many people would be at work. The line was confined to the inside of the store, but I still waited ten minutes in the dripping August heat for a single $5 piece of Sicilian. Outside, the neighborhood’s denizens –– mostly Orthodox Jews –– ran errands pre-Shabbos, and I pitied them that they never would sink their teeth into what I found was a juicy, messy, thick piece of ‘za, every bit the legend I had hoped. Di Fara magic is undoubtedly in the hands of Dom DeMarco, the somewhat surly proprietor of the joint and sole maker of every single pie served there. In a more traditional design sense, Di Fara is nothing to write about –– it’s interior is not great design at all, but ugly, rather, with a shiny brown laminated floor and walls decorated with dusty thrift store paintings and framed photos of Tony Bennett (and other celebrities Italian-Americans really dig.)
Fette Sau is the clear winner in the interior design department. With its pink neon sign outside, faux-primitive wooden communal dining tables, and diagram of cuts of meat drawn on the wall for the uninitiated, it’s a more aesthetically typical nouveau- Brooklyn food Mecca than Di Fara. The name of the game here is indulgence, specifically carnal indulgence, so order liberally: pork ribs, cheeks, beef brisket, sirloin tips, and hot link sausages complemented by pucker-worthy pickles, mustard potato salad, and growlers of beer, locally brewed, of course (they also have a fantastic whiskey selection.) All the meat is dry-rubbed –– sauces are up to you, not wholly recommended by anyone, even the establishment –– and served on pieces of butcher paper. The menu, as well as the design, features more buzz-worthy Brooklyn brands and foodie words than Di Fara does: “organic,” “small family farmed,” “raw whiskey,” and the like.
So which pick is a better option for a food-related Brooklyn hajj? I’ll take pizza any day, but you could do worse than pounds of smoked pork meat and glasses of white whiskey But really, though, why choose? Even though you’ll have to take somewhat of a circuitous route, you can still leave Di Fara at four, when they close for lunch, and make it to Fette Sau in time to beat the crowds.