4033 Goldfinch Street, Mission Hills
Full disclosure: I developed the initial craft-beer draft and bottle lists for the new Mission Hills eatery, Brooklyn Girl. I did it free of compensation and have zero vested interest in the restaurant — I’m merely a fan of good beer and believe it should be available in local restaurants. Still, I can understand certain readers’ doubts that any commentary I offer on Brooklyn Girl might be tainted. My solution? Pull a page from dearly departed Reader food critic Naomi Wise’s book and, to ensure a lack of bias, assemble a “posse” of knowledgeable foodies. This proved an effective and, thanks to the restaurant’s convivial vibe (it’s no wonder Brooklyn Girl has been packed since opening in late April), enjoyable venture.
People eat with their eyes first, and the expansive, high-ceilinged location at the corner of Goldfinch and Fort Stockton is both inviting and sexy; it’s the type of place that appeals to a variety of diners. Chandeliers domed by birdcages, portraits of notable Brooklynites, aprons hung on hooks, subway tiles, and signage punch up the dining room. Scattered throughout the space are reclaimed wooden tables, elementary-school chairs, a chalkboard art mural, and quaint quotes and sayings. This eclectic style deserves its recent San Diego Architectural Foundation Orchid award nomination.
Brooklyn Girl’s menu consists of comforting dishes built on local, sustainable ingredients, while the majority of the starters are contemporary takes on classic global Everyman fare. A number of these scored high marks.
Plump Carlsbad mussels ($12), served in a coconut broth flavored with Thai basil, lemongrass, and bright red chilies, left us yearning for something to sop up half a bowl’s worth of broth. To see it carted back to the kitchen was heartbreaking, when some crusty bread (perhaps in place of the small portion of fries the mussels are served with) would have done the trick.
A plate of soy-dressed shishito peppers ($7) was sweeter and more vegetal than spicy; probably a good thing for capsaicin-challenged eaters wanting to avoid blowing out the taste buds during round one. A bowl of grits ($12) was delectably corny, and, with the addition of shrimp, chorizo, and tomatoes, reminiscent of jambalaya. It won high marks for creaminess from our table’s Carolina transplant, who also detected a hint of cinnamonlike earthiness.
Oyster sliders ($12) were gobbled by all, notably, given that our group included both a vegetarian and, until trying this dish, an oyster-hater. I’ve never been big on bread-on-bread sandwiches, but oyster po’ boys are the exception —there could be less bread on these sliders, but the oysters are crispy on the outside, juicy, not briny, inside. Some of us, myself included, felt that the grainy mustard aioli dominated, but having had the dish before with too little of the condiment, more is better.
Our vegetarian also sampled the shrimp-and-pork meatballs ($11), wrapped in bacon and lacquered with a ginger glaze. Consensus on this dish: sweet and smoky equals yum, although the raw-tasting, mostly flavorless cabbage, billed as a kimchee, needs to be either funked up or 86’d, since the dish doesn’t need it.
When it came time for entrées, our herbivore ordered a bowl of spring veggie risotto ($15) that had no business being so rich and creamy, considering that it’s made with barley in place of traditional arborio rice. A heaping spoonful of mascarpone turned it into one of two surprise hits of the night, the other being a meatless offering as well, the Margherita Classico pizza ($10). Dough proofed over a three-day period produces ample sturdiness to support the solid layer of cheese. The pizza was fragrant with basil and sweet, tasty cherry tomatoes — much better than the usual beefsteaks and hot-housers.
A free-range duck was roasted whole in a wood-fire oven, glazed with honey, and served butchered into eighths. The fowl was cooked to juicy perfection, and the honey made for a nice, light accent, but the dish needed another flavor complement to justify the $42 price.
A swordfish steak ($23) was served with spicy Italian sausage and a zesty “blackened” aioli, lending more flavor than usual to that noble fish. An exquisitely cooked and seasoned rib-eye ($23), with a halved femur sporting a mother lode of warm, unctuous marrow, scored higher still. Tender beef short-ribs ($17), clinging to wisps of molten fat and connective tissue, and served atop pillowy gnocchi, made for a surprisingly light and well-portioned dish.
Such offerings are worth the crowds and the wait, which can be trying at times. The staff is accommodating, if a bit overwhelmed. Speaking of waiting, until window treatments are installed on the upper west wall, it’s best to eat in the dining room after sunset, as blinding rays of sweat-inducing heat can make a misery of any meal, no matter how delicious.
My advice: wait out the sun from the three-sided bar, preferably with appetizers and a beer.
4033 Goldfinch Street, Mission Hills, 619-296-4600; brooklyngirleatery.com
Hours: Daily, 5:00 p.m.–12:00 a.m.
Fare: Farm-to-table, reimagined global street-fare starters; wood-fired pizzas; comfort-driven entrées
Vibe: Cool, casual hub for foodies and those seeking quality craft beer and cocktails