Tag Archives: outdoor dining

King’s CLAM BAR with Chef Bill Seleno: GRAND OPENING

18 Sep

For this story, we need to travel back to 12/12/12.  I had been chronicling Chef Bill Seleno on his quest to open up a new restaurant, The Keys.  Eater was posting about the story, and even made it “of note” in the most anticipated openings of the season.  On December 12th, there was paperwork. It looked like it was going to happen.  And then it didn’t.

The financial burden that the space was going to bring with it turned out to be much more than any new restaurant should take on and Bill just didn’t feel comfortable bringing anyone else into a space that started out with that much burden. The more they tried to make it happen, the more skeletons fell out of that closet, to the tune of likely doubling the anticipated debt. So Bill had to make the very tough decision to move on, even though he still believes in the concept and what it could have been. (And as far as I can tell, the space remains closed with no new tenants…)

I have been missing a location to have Chef Bill’s awesome food and was hoping for a triumphant return.  And now… it’s here:


Sure that blue taped sign behind security bars doesn’t look like much, but there was magic brewing inside. Chef Bill invited me for a friends and family menu tasting a few weeks ago to check out his new venture, King’s CLAM BAR.

Bill returned home after a whirlwind adventure around the country traveling, consulting, and cooking.  When he needed a place to crash, his old friend Anthony Casagrande, whom he worked with at Guastavino’s 15 years ago, offered him a place to stay.  Anthony’s cousins lived upstairs and owned a local dive bar that needed some help. It took a few months to put the pieces together, but a concept of a casual clam bar seemed perfect for the space, so Bill met up with Steve (the current owner) and decided to make it happen as chef and partial owner.  Bill brought along Heather Carter, who was going to be part of The Keys project, and just a few weeks later I am walking from the Barclay’s center to check out Bill’s new restaurant. Heather will be running the beer and wine program for the restaurant.

With King’s CLAM BAR, Bill plans to make the food he loves to make.  It will be primarily sea food and will be as local and as sustainable as possible.  He is using Sea to Table as his sea food supplier and they are right at the Brooklyn docks, with the goal of having everything that arrives on your plate caught within the last day.  It’s a bit more expensive to go this route, but Bill’s commitment to “True Food” is a very important part of the restaurant.

The concept is to serve the fish barbeque style with a menu that allows you to check off what you would like.  The fish will be portioned into specific quantities (quarter pound/4 ounces) and then you can order as much or as little as you would like).  Bill plans to cook the fish itself very simply with salt, pepper, and lemon in a banana leaf so the core of the fish dishes allow you to truly taste the flavor of fresh fish.  Then the idea is to mix and match and create whatever flavor profile you would like by combining any number of the 6 sauces (hot and cold) and 6 salads (potato, cole slaw, etc.) available.  Some sauce ideas right now are Smoked Yogurt and Whole Grain Mustard Sauce, Pepperoncini and Tomato Scampi Sauce, Spicy Ginger and Cilantro Sauce, Black Garlic and Dill Cream Sauce (YES!), and Charred Jalapeno Tartar Sauce.

The menu will also have a section from the kitchen (which, by the way, consists of 2-3 induction stoves, a double tack oven, and a smoker outside… no easy task) which will include (my favorite) mussels with black garlic and charred rosemary, a shrimp, chorizo, and pepperoncini scampi, and seared scallops with potato and bacon.  There will also be the clam dip (which I really enjoyed, and hope they serve with bagel chips!), shrimp and lobster rolls, and a few fun things from the smoker, such as a pig roast and clam bake.

The entire meal is meant to be family style and very casual. The waiters will be casual but very knowledgeable, knowing the source of all their products, including their beers.

Bill served up some great food that night, including an incredibly flavorful shrimp cocktail (with homemade sauce), Granny’s New England Clam Chowder (made with a very old fashioned recipe that involved boiling the chowder so the bottom rises to the top), mussels (which were a version of the mussels that made me fall in love with Bill’s food in the first place many years ago at Albert Hall Tavern, which is sadly gone), a potato salad (which was incredibly delicious with bacon in it), ceviche, clam dip (awesome), and then some smoked pig butt sliders.








It was all the Chef Bill food I absolutely loved.  Fresh, flavorful, with a little something special.

Tonight they will do the soft opening for the neighborhood to iron out some kinks with the system.  Most notably, Bill’s small, all-electric kitchen can’t necessarily pump out a ton of food all at once, so the food will come out as it’s ready.  Today will allow for the mishaps and the experimentation that is needed to allow it to be as good as it can be.  And then tomorrow will be the Grand Opening:

They will be serving dinner only at first and then expand from there. They will also have some special events like a patio pig roast and clam back with beer specials while the weather is nice.

The space is getting there. I’ve been watching their evolution on their Facebook page and cannot wait to drop by this weekend to see what they’ve done:

The patio out back:

Chef Bill at his newly painted red grill on the patio:

I cannot wait to have a home base to try all the food that Chef Bill is so passionate about. I have never been disappointed by a Bill prepared meal and I’m really looking forward to trying out his new restaurant.  Very excited for him.

The location is 622 Washington Ave between Pacific Street and Dean Street in Brooklyn. It’s four blocks from the Barclay’s Center and very close to the Clinton/Washington Street stop on the C train and all of the other trains that go into Atlantic Terminal.

See you there!

(For the menu and the first review of the food from Opening Weekend, check out the review here)


North River Lobster Company – Almost…

2 Jun

I have been struggling to find time to blog these last few weeks (as is embarrassingly evident) and each time I sat down to squeeze in a post I realized that my blog editor just would not work.  I couldn’t type anything.  So while I love sharing my pictures, doing so without words I figured would not be a great way to review restaurants.  Today, I finally had the time to scrape through the help forums to figure out how to fix it.  As it turns out, a Plugin was not updated and had shut my WordPress editor down entirely.  Of course, it was the one that began with “Z” (in an alphabetical list) so it took me a few hours to turn them all off and on individually to find the culprit.  But here we are… we’re back! And just in time to post about our less than ideal adventure to Pier 81 on West 41st Street right on the river (just below The Intrepid) to visit the new North River Lobster Company.

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(view of The Intrepid from the entrance to the pier for the North River Lobster Company)

It was Memorial Day, and a gorgeous weather day as well, and we had some time to kill.  We had received some discount coupons in the mail so we decided to brave my concerns about it being a Frying Pan-style crowded shit-show on a holiday.  It had some resemblance from what we knew about it… a floating bar with food, outside, on the river.  Every time I’ve been to The Frying Pan with very good intentions I wind up leaving hating humanity, not nearly as drunk as I want to be, and typically thirsty and hungry after giving up waiting for hours on end for beer and food while being pushed and shoved by my least favorite brand of New Yorker: rude 20-something men and the women that want to feel temporarily loved by them. (Sorry humanity) But this was lobster… on a boat… just blocks from my apartment. We had to check it out.

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A long line of buoys, that reminded me in a delightful way of many summers in Maine, lead the way to Berth 1.

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There were a number of red stools lined up facing a dock with some picnic tables… but no floating restaurant that I could see.

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Just a duck.

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I looked around for where to go and then spotted this sign:

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It wasn’t until then that I remembered that not only was it a floating restaurants, but that I read somewhere that it mentioned something about the boat actually going out on short sails.  I guess we showed up at the perfect time for the boat not to be there.  Luckily, it was about 3:30, so we figured we could wait the 15 minutes for the boats return. And then right on schedule… in it came…

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We got onto the boat in short order and I was filled with excitement. The bottom floor was basically empty (signaling a low level of probability of pushing and shoving).  Could this be everything I want it to be? Could this be a place on the water (that, while brown, I feel is totally underutilized as an attraction in this city), with outdoor and indoor (air conditioned) locations, that had available seating, Maine beer, and lobster?

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We walked around the boat, which featured at least 3 bars on 3 different decks, and a lovely row boat filled with raw seafood.

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On the top floor is an open deck. It was super sunny out, however, and this fair skinned weenie decided it was safer to sit at the bar under the overhang so we could enjoy the fresh air without the sun burn.

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And look at that… two open seats!

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We quickly ordered some Maine beers from Belfast Bay Brewery (one of our favorites) and toasted to what was looking to be a great place.

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We weren’t overly hungry, but we skimmed the menu and decided to go Maine style and get steamers and lobster rolls.

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That was when we got the bad news… turns out, since this place is still new they are working out some kinks.  A big kink happens to be that when they go out to sea, they lose WiFi connection, which is how they place orders to the kitchen.  Since they had just returned, there was a huge backup of orders, apparently, and our bartender said they couldn’t put in new orders for about 30 minutes while they sorted out the kitchen. But we had beers and good weather and a breeze… so we could wait 30 minutes!

Except 30 minutes became an hour.

And then we heard the chef had to leave the boat to get more food, and maybe there was a problem in the kitchen, but no one was really sure.

And another 30 minutes went by.

It’s now 5:30 and an announcement comes on that the boat is about to leave for the 6pm sail, and if anyone wanted to get off, now was their chance.  We asked our apologetic bartender if he knew if food would be available to order before the 6pm sail and he very dejectedly informed us that he hoped so but doubted it.

Soooooo… dejectedly we went down to the raw bar and spoke to the lovely man behind the boat.  He didn’t have much left at this point but we had to get something. I noticed some lovely looking crab claws so I went up to the bar next door and ordered 4 of them.

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He was nice and must have taken pity on our lobster-less sad faces and threw in the rest of his crab claw stack.

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We solemnly ate our pretty delicious claws and bid adieu to the boat just before they took off for their 6pm sail.


Huge points for the concept and the potential, and for the fact that it wasn’t super crowded and annoying (who knows for how long), but we have no idea how good it could have been.

And I’m still craving a lobster roll…

Birreria- Eataly

2 Sep

I kind of love Eataly.  Well, I love the concept of Eataly.  An entire building (it takes up a full city block) dedicated to good food. And at the helm is Mario Batali.  What’s not to love?

Well… the fact that everyone else loves it, too, is definitely an issue.  Almost every time I have been there, the wait for their restaurants is about 2 hours. And Birreria, the beer garden that opened recently on the roof, was known for that going over 3 hours of wait time.

Which is why when my coworker told me that he had a reservation there to bring our clients, I was skeptical.  But, low and behind, I made it to Birreria.


Our group arrived about 45 minutes late for the reservation, and while the staff couldn’t make any promises, we were sitting within 15 minutes. Impressive since the wait for non-reservations was over 2 hour at the time.  We had drinks at the bar while we waited, which was outfitted with some fun casks behind the (very busy) bartenders.


We started off with a board of salumi, which featured speck, sopresatta, mortadella, cacciatorrini, and coppa.  It was all very good, but it seems I now have a new expectation on salumi after the meat we had at Blue Hill just the week before.


We also got a cheese plate with ricotta fresca, robiola bosina, parmigiano reggiano, pecorino romano, asiago fresco, taleggio, and gorgonzola dolce.  They were all good, but I really liked the gorgonzola.  It was a great, full flavor.


They served the cheese with fresh honey, which was awesome and paired well with every cheese.


We wound up splitting everything with the group, and while we were worried that we didn’t order enough, we wound up leaving entirely satisfied.

There was a special that day of a kale salad with citrus pieces.  This was awesome.  Perfectly balanced with bitter, sweet, and the citrus. Really fresh and delicious.


They also had an heirloom salad special that day.  Beautiful AND delicious.


There is a section of the menu for mushrooms, and they all sounded great.  We got the shiitake fritti con salvia which was fried shiitake mushrooms with sage.  This was my favorite dish of the night, amongst some very strong contenders.  They looked like they would be heavy and greasy, but they were light and the shiitake mushroom flavor was fantastic.


We also ordered the bratwurst.  This was a close second on the list of favorites that night.  Awesome flavor and simply cooked.


This normally would have won my heart, since it was pork shoulder with beer and apricot. And it was as good as it sounded, but it was just that the mushrooms and brats were that much better.  This was perfectly tender with great sauce and great flavor.  Yum.


I have to say, I was impressed.  Every bite was great.  The homemade beer (I had thyme beer!) was delicious and even the bottled selection was fun and tasty.  It’s always nice to be on a roof in NYC, and this place did not disappoint. I want to go back and order more dishes, especially more mushrooms.  Worth the wait, but I would suggest that you plan early and make a reservation.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10