The General Greene was always one of those places I read about in the New York Times and somehow assumed was too popular, or too trendy, to even bother trying to get in. So when I finally went there a few weeks ago, I was surprised at the lack of a line for a table and the mellow vibe of the restaurant. Granted, this place has been open for a number of years now, but at its core, it’s really nothing more than a good, neighborhood restaurant. I went there with my friend Corned Beef Hashette to bid her farewell before her move to Gettysburg, PA where her fiancée is taking a tenure-track teaching position at Gettysburg College. I don’t know a lot about Gettysburg, but from what CBH told me, it seems safe to say there aren’t many consciously-sourced, locavore restaurants like The General Greene there. To me, this is a good thing and a bad thing, depending on how overloaded I feel with the Brooklynness of things at any particular point in time.
CBH and I took a table outside and were the only ones there as it was hot enough for most people to choose air conditioning. We scanned the menu and decided to order an assortment of dishes to share. CBH is allergic to seafood, so that ruled out options like the chicken-fried oysters and the Prince Edward Island mussels and toasts. (I took note to order these during a future visit.) First came the deviled eggs, which were silky and smoky, infused with Spanish paprika. Next we tried roasted cauliflower with raisins and pinenuts. The cauliflower was coated in a basic, but tasty, pesto, which added interesting color and melded nicely with the pinenuts, while setting off the sweetness of the raisins. The dish was one I could easily make at home but would probably never have thought up.
For our next dish, we knew we couldn’t not order the thick-cut candied bacon. I mean, who could resist? This shot of the profile of one of the three pieces delivered to our table should be enough to demonstrate that this was no ordinary bacon. Indeed, it was exceptional— smoky and sweet and perfectly cooked so that the edges were slightly crisp and the fat melted in our mouths. Eating these was like eating slices of heaven, especially for a couple of nice Jewish girls. After the bacon came a green salad with spritely, local-seeming greens, candied pecans and fried shallots. It was a perfectly tasty and refreshing dish, but I did feel a tad bit sorry for the salad for having to follow the bacon.
At this point in the meal, CBH and I realized we were being eaten alive by mosquitoes. (So this was why no one else had opted to eat outside!) We grabbed our plates and glasses and headed into the restaurant, apologizing to our youthful waiter on the way. He kindly found an empty table for us, just in time for our final course to arrive. For the pièce de résistance, we ordered the General Greene fried chicken with sweet potato-andouille hash and braised collard greens. We had asked our young server what he thought of the dish, and he seemed to hesitate a bit too long before saying it was good. While this didn’t give us a ton of confidence, we ordered it anyway, and boy were we glad we did. The chicken was well seasoned and perfectly crispy on the outside, while still remaining succulent and tender on the inside. The greens and hash were only OK, but they were entirely ancillary; plate-fillers playing courtiers to the kingly chicken.
CBH and I ate as much as we could, but we couldn’t even finish off every bite of the dishes we ordered. Dessert was simply not in the cards, but perhaps I should have found room: I learned when I got home that Nicholas Morgenstern, one of General Greene’s owners, was a pastry chef at a number of top New York restaurants, including Daniel and Gilt. At the time, though, it seemed impossible to consume anything more. As I look at it, not eating dessert leaves room for another set of tasty surprises to unfold the next time I visit.
The General Greene
229 DeKalb Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11205