Farm-to-table dining has long-swept the restaurant landscape in Manhattan. Likewise, it has been quickly expanding its reach to other boroughs over the past few years. (Brooklyn, I’m looking at you.) Being a Brooklynite myself, I recently grabbed brunch at Alice’s Arbor, a farm-to-table restaurant nestled in Clinton Hill. Owners Dimitri Vlahakis, Eric Goulange and Chef Mike Franzetti have designed a rustic and comfortable spot that felt like “the new Brooklyn” in a location that doesn’t have too many sit-down restaurants—yet.
The service matched the ambiance, relaxed and casual, all-in-all very homey. With repurposed wood, lighting fixtures made from wooden branches, and banquettes constructed from old wooden doors, the aesthetic is comparable to eclectic restaurants you might find in Williamsburg or Fort Greene. According to their website, their products come from 13 local purveyors and pastries are made at their sister restaurant, La Gamelle. Brunch is reasonably priced; you can order an entrée, bloody mary or mimosa, and coffee or tea for only $19.
I for one love a good Bloody Mary on the weekends, especially spicy, heavily seasoned and thick bloody marys—the ones that are essentially a meal in a glass. Their version was too sweet and thin for my taste, but that could be just my personal preference. However, I did enjoy the cocktails ($12 each). The Bad Hombre, made of Hornitos Tequila, jalapeno and cilantro-infused syrup and fresh lime juice, was a great mix of heat and sour flavors; don’t let its green color turn you off. Their tweak to a French 75 was quite refreshing and served in a coupe glass; they replaced the sugar (called for in the traditional recipe) with sweet elderflower St-Germain for an extra splash of sweetness.
For entrees, I highly recommend the Carolina Benedict, which proved to be a creative alternative to a traditional eggs benedict; their version is built on top of a crumbly buttermilk biscuit, versus an English muffin, and is slathered in a tangy and slightly spicy pulled pork with BBQ sauce—all topped with poached eggs and smoky chipotle hollandaise. I loved the originality and full robust flavor of this dish—my only qualm was that part of the egg whites were runny. The eggs could have been poached for just a bit longer.
The quality of the Certified Angus Burger was stellar! Served on a brioche bun, with a green tomato and spicy cowboy fries on the side, seasoned with Cajun spices. Your choice of blue cheese, swiss or cheddar was an extra $1; I went with blue and it was delicious. While the quality and flavor of the meat was noteworthy, I couldn’t help but take note that the burger was overcooked. It came out medium-well, when I had asked for medium-rare.
The Brioche French Toast topped with sweet berry compote featured blueberries and strawberries and maple syrup, sourced from Catskill Mountains Sugar House in Grahamsville, NY. It certainly satisfied my sweet tooth, an important element of a New York brunch. Overall, I was surprised that Alice’s Arbor didn’t list where their products came from on the menu. Perhaps they don’t include this information as a way to remain casual, but I would have liked to see more pride and knowledge about the ingredients used. It’s what many patrons come to expect when they dine at a restaurant that is farm-to-table.
Alice’s Arbor is located at 549 Classon Avenue, 718-399-3003, www.alicesarbor.com and is open weekdays for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and weekends for brunch and dinner.
Hours of operation: Monday-Thursday 9a – 11p, Friday 9a – 12a, Saturday 10a – 12a and Sunday 10a – 11p.
Photos by Sha Savage.