Willow may have barely lasted a year inside of its queerly-angled Franklin Avenue headquarters, but that hasn’t kept a new eatery, Hart’s, from taking a chance on the pint-sized former tax office, crouched below the elevated apex of Bed Stuy’s C and S trains.
And it could well prove the ideal starter home for Brooklyn wunderkind Nick Perkins, who—after years spent steadily climbing the ranks at Diner, Roman’s, Reynard and Marlow & Sons—has undertaken a next-level career leap as both chef and co-owner. Although instead of Andrew Tarlow, his seasoned partner in the venture is Maiden Lane founder, Nialls Fallon, who also had a hand in opening Bushwick’s recently debuted Ops.
Drawing on their shared affection for Italian fare and seafood, the pair has developed a dinner and beverage program that trawls the coast of the Mediterranean—teaming Basque-style cider and Manzanilla sherry with tahini-slicked turnips, sticky squares of date cake, and fish stew teeming with pollock, wild mussels and squid.
And while the menu references regions that bolstered Brooklyn’s obsession with small plates (generally associated with two-bite portions and alarmingly escalating bills) there’s nothing precious or dainty about the clam toast at Hart’s; a teetering dome of garlic and pancetta-gobbed mollusks, oozing garlic, brine and olive oil into slabs of She Wolf sourdough bread. And glutted as the neighborhood is with discounted fast food burgers, $15 seems a reasonable ask for a grass-fed lamb patty (which for two dollars extra can be anointed, surf and turf style, with a row of marinated white anchovies).
Still, as the dearly departed Willow can attest to, it’s easy to be pegged a fine dining interloper, when surrounding businesses specialize in dollar pizza and donuts. So while Hart’s pursues its long game of wooing locals, it’s up to destination eaters to keep it afloat in the short term, via an effortless commute on the C-train.
506 Franklin Ave., Bed-Stuy
Photos by Max Branigan