You can walk for a fair stretch beyond Third Avenue in Gowanus, and find yourself sharing sidewalk space with only the occasional streetwise cat. All other sentient beings, it seems, have been magically transported inside of Freek’s Mill—an oasis of exposed brick, white marble, and oysters sputtering over wood, with a dead-on view of a brass and copper factory, enclosed within a chain link fence.
You might think it an unnecessary sort of pilgrimage for ubiquitous small plates, until your fork collides with a rectangle of barbecued kohlrabi—thumbing its nose to local pitmasters, whose smoked meats overwhelmingly perfume the area. Roasted to a high luster with a veil of North Carolina-style sauce, it’s as sweet and yielding as a quarter pound of pork flesh, not to mention an ideal conveyance for sopping up grits so creamy, it’s hard to believe they’re actually individual grains.
It begs to be paired with a peachy, honeyed Georgian amber (made from Rkatsiteli grapes aged in clay pots); an outlier on a wine list that obdurately favors light-bodied, fruity Beaujolais and acidic and apple-y Chenin Blanc. However there is enough diversity amongst the appellations to find an ideal playmate for most anything on the menu, which currently includes chicken and biscuits; a gravy-thickened lagoon of dark meat layered with a crisp-skinned fan of white; and pappardelle amassed with rabbit ragu and guanciale—this might sound heavy but their modest proportions render them sprightly enough for spring.
More directly in tune with the season is a duo of soft shell crabs, lashed with cashew butter, sambal and bok choy. While just a touch clumsy within their puffy tempura cloaks, they’re tempting enough to disappear in a few bites; in fact, a nearby table placed three consecutive orders, before they’d had their fill.
So our sincere condolences to those itinerant cats; we’re predicting regular advances on their turf.
285 Nevins Street, Gowanus
Image via Freek’s Mill Instagram