If the duck heart, lambs tongue and pigs head-based dishes at Taste Talks’ All-Star BBQ drove home one thing, it’s this—that chefs just looove offal. Not that that’s a new thing; nose-to-tail cooking has been a longstanding culinary tradition in most resourceful societies; from Scotland and their haggis, to stewed chicken feet in China, and fried, cumin-dusted liver in the Middle East. But it’s a tad surprising to see offal emerge from outside of the ethnic realm, to become commonplace on restaurant menus of all sorts, from the local-seasonal charcuterie at Mayfield, to the hip izakaya lineup at Bar Chuko. So here’s where to chow down on tasty, tasty organs right now, in eateries all over Brooklyn!
Bar Chuko: Specializing in Japanese bar bites, this new offshoot of the ramen haven, Chuko, offers a whole range of yakitori (skewered and grilled tidbits). And yes, you can play it safe with a range of smoke-kissed veggies, or standard cuts of lean chicken breast or fatty thigh. But when it comes to the farm-sourced poultry at Bar Chuko, almost everything but the beak is available for the eating, including liver, gizzard, heart, skin, tail or even cartilage (the crunchy, caramelized connective tissue found between the bones)!
552 Vanderbilt Avenue, Prospect Heights
Whiskey Soda Lounge: Listed right under those infamous Vietnamese fish sauced-chicken wings, it’s kind of easy to miss the infinitely more challenging (but no less delicious) Tom Saap Mu; a traditional, long-simmered, hot and sour soup from the Isaan region. Fragrant with lemongrass, cilantro, galangal and lime leaves, and boasting a fair amount of heat from whole, crushed Thai chilies, thin, raw slices of pork are layered into a clay pot with a pile of mineral offal; generally liver and tripe.
115 Columbia Street, Columbia Street Waterfront District
Pacifico’s Fine Foods: Marrying her farm-to-table ethos with her Brazilian background, it’s no surprise that grilled chicken hearts have become a mainstay on Shanna Pacifico’s menu (they’re a staple of South American churrasco spreads). And those jalapeño jam-daubed pork nuggets aren’t made of shoulder, belly or loin; Pacifico culls her piggy bits from the head, trotter and shank.
798A Franklin Avenue, Crown Heights
El Almacen: While Pacifico makes great use of the greenmarket at her Brazil-influenced spot, this Argentinean steakhouse is (appropriately) all about meat. So on the list of Almacen’s traditional grilled items, such as rib eye, skirt steak and chorizo, you’ll also find mollejas—veal sweetbreads served with salsa criolla—and morcilla sausage; hand-formed links stained scarlet with pigs blood.
557 Driggs Avenue, Williamsburg
Ferdinando’s Focacceria: Still serving old-guard Italian fare on a rapidly changing corner of South Brooklyn, this beloved Sicilian staple one of the few places in the borough where you can still find vastedda. Peek under the pillowy bun, piquant shards of caciocavallo, and creamy clouds of ricotta to find the raison d’être of the sandwich; a few funky, squeaky slabs of spongy calves spleen. What to pair with it? A classic antipasti of stewed tripe of course; honeycombed frills cooked into tender submission in a green pea-laced tomato sauce.
151 Union Street, Carroll Gardens
Mayfield: Essentially a poster child of New American Brooklyn restaurants, Mayfield serves a requisite organic chicken liver mousse (yes, it arrives in a jar, accompanied by some variable seasonal accoutrement). But that—and the shredded kale salad—aside, the menu’s not without curveballs; such as the a pink-tinged pinwheel of thinly-sliced house corned beef tongue, plated with sauerkraut, dots of creamy whole grain mustard, and hearty triangles of rye toast.
688 Franklin Avenue, Crown Heights
Caucasus Garden: Cue the ball jokes here. Yes, this Azerbaijani joint in Sheepshead Bay serves the dish so innocently referred to as lamb fries—i.e., testicles—drizzled in white wine sauce and heaped with sautéed onions. And that’s only the tip of the animal as far as organ offerings go… try the beef tongue with horseradish or lamb tongue kebabs, gamey goose liver pâté, or seasonal “Hash Soup,” bobbing with boiled cows feet.
2715 Avenue U, Sheepshead Bay
Rico’s Tacos: The signage at this Sunset Park taqueria is of a smiling pig, happily lounging in a bubbling pot. But it’s his bovine brethren that, evidently, have so wholly given themselves to the cause, so that we might indulge in floppy, saucy tacos, overflowing with tripa (tripe), lengua (tongue), cabeza (head), and buche (stomach).
505 51st Street, Sunset Park