I’ve long since given up on making it to all of the great Brooklyn restaurants I read about. Most of them don’t fit into my schedule, are too far away, don’t take reservations—or all of the above.
Char No. 4 is one of those places: mention whiskey, and you have my attention. But I haven’t made it over there, and I’m not sure I ever will. Thank goodness there’s Maysville, a new restaurant from the same owners. It takes reservations and I can walk there after work. Sounds good so far.
The two restaurants are similar: Southern cuisine, with more whiskeys in stock than you’ll try in a lifetime. The owners wisely hired a separate chef, rather than trying to run two places with the same staff. Kyle Knall, an Alabama native and former Gramercy Tavern sous chef, runs the kitchen here.
The menu is concice: raw and chilled seafood platters, plus half-a-dozen appetizers ($12–16) and an equal number of entrées ($23–28). It’s largely free of clichés. There’s nary a fried chicken or barbecue rib platter in sight, though they’d surely be best-sellers if the chef offered them.
In fact, although I wouldn’t call the meny edgy, there’s really no bail-out dish for the unadventurous customer that most Manhattan restaurants have to accommodate. If you check back in six months and there’s still no basic green salad or cedar-plank salmon on the menu, then you’ll know the strategy has worked.
The bread service consists of small cornbread muffins (above left). Three of us shared an appetizer, the Brussels Sprouts ($12; below right) with crisp pig ears, quail eggs, lemon and buttermilk dressing. This dish was so good, we were still talking about it three days later.
Coincidentally, all three of us ordered fish entrées. I tried a bit of each one, and they were all just about perfect, especially at these prices. I’d order any one of them again: the Striped Bass ($26; above right) with mushrooms, squash, and crab; the Grilled Sturgeon ($27; below left) with roasted cauliflower, capers, and veal jus; and the Whole Smoked Trout ($24; below right) with watercress, charred red onions, and pickled mushrooms.
(If we’re being picky, I could have done with a bit less of the watercress leaves, which smothered the trout. They were easily shoved to the side, but I didn’t need that many of them.)
The meal rounded off with a bit of peanut butter candy (right).
I arrived before my guests to find the bar packed, probably with an after-work crowd. It thinned out considerably at about 8:00 pm, so we decided to eat at the bar, where service was just fine. I drank only cocktails, mostly re-interpretations of bourbon-based classics.
The name, by the way, is inspired by Maysville, Kentucky, which is said to be the birthplace (or one of many birthplaces) of American bourbon. The restaurant would probably be a destination for its bottle spirits alone, even if the food menu were no more than potato chips.
When you add a chef who knows what he’s doing, you’ve got a winner.
Maysville (17 W. 26th Street between Sixth Avenue & Broadway, Flatiron District)
Food: Southern-inspired, not at all cliché, and very well done
Service: Professional, competent, and friendly
Ambiance: Smart casual, dominated by a 60-foot bottle wall behind the bar
Why? Every dish we tried was excellent; plus a first-rate whiskey list