Vinegar Hill is a tiny Brooklyn neighborhood, nestled between the Brooklyn Navy Yard to the north and DUMBO to the south. Like many recovering neighborhoods, there are lovely blocks and others that look like a disaster area.
Then there’s Hudson Avenue between Front and Water Streets, where you’ll find elements of both side-by-side. As I was walking to Vinegar Hill House, I first encountered the dilapidated building on the left, below. I thought, “Surely I must be in the wrong place.”
Next door, I found the restaurant, which occupies a former carriage house and movie set. It’s a bit gussied up (though not much) since chef Jean Adamson (ex-Freemans) and her husband (who also live in the building) opened the place late last year. There’s a lovely outdoor courtyard where they’ll be serving food when weather permits.
Though the walk to get here isn’t pretty, diners have had no trouble finding the place. The 40-seat dining room was about 2/3rds full by the time I left at 7:00 p.m., and a party of 11, most wearing sport coats and nice dresses, was just arriving.
Adamson keeps the menu simple, with a frequently changing list of about eight appetizers and five entrées, many of which exploit the large wood-burning oven that you can’t help but notice in the open kitchen. The choices aren’t adventurous, but there isn’t a “bail-out dish” either—no burger, no strip steak.
I especially liked the Wood Fired Tart ($9; above left) with mushrooms, crème fraîche and thyme. The same ingredients seemed to re-appear in a house-made Tagliatelle ($14; above right), which seemed more pedestrian, but perhaps I should have realized the similarity before I ordered.
Service was friendly, and there seemed to be an ample number of staff for the small space. It does not strike me as a destination restaurant, but I’d be more than happy to return if I am in the neighborhood again.
Vinegar Hill House (72 Hudson Avenue between Water & Front Streets, Brooklyn)