July 12, 2009


Simply put, this might be one of the coziest and most satisfying restaurants I've ever been to. Unsure of where to dine on a recent Monday afternoon, we stumbled upon Madiba quite haphazardly. We decided to walk to Dekalb Ave in search of some brunch - Autour du Monde was closed, and most of the other restaurants were crowded. We went into Madiba because it was considerably less crowded and the tables and umbrellas outside were cute and inviting.

Unfortunately all the umbrellas were taken, so we had to settle for inside. Luckily, however, we got to enjoy two musical artists warming up for that night's performance. They were absolutely fantastic and very nice. Also, the inside of the restaurant is adorable, with its wooden tables and old glassware, as well as the awesome coke bottle chandelier hanging from the ceiling. The restaurant is named after Nelson Mandela; Madiba is the honorary title South Africans gave him. Therefore, the entire restaurant is decorated in his honor.

As for the food, the restaurant has quite a collection of comfort food and spicy delights such as curry. A few of us jumped at the offer of Sangria, while Laurel went with coffee. Laurel and I both went for the Meal in a Pie - chicken on bottom, mashed potatoes and gravy in the middle, and a flaky crust on top ($10). It definitely lived up to its name. I was unbelievably full afterward. Davis went for the Fatcake with the savory mince. Yes, it looked as unhealthy as it sounds (pictured above). He seemed to really dig it, although I didn't get to try a piece.

Definitely give Madiba a taste if you're in the neighborhood - or take a special trip out to Fort Greene just for this little South African gem. - Jennifer

I have to agree that Madiba is super cute and from my experience, pretty tasty. I ordered the same thing as Jennifer, which we don't normally do, but it looked too good. And it was good, the mushroom gravy was especially delicious. I practically licked my plate and was pleasantly full.. but not too full to pass up dessert. I ordered Koeksisters to share, twisted little buttery pastries with a sugary lemon-ginger sauce. They were rich and light at the same time, and deliciously sweet. My coffee came with adorable little jar containers of milk and raw sugar, and was nice and smooth. My stomach was happy when we left, as was the rest of me.

The prices are reasonable for brunch (standard), and can get a little pricier for dinner, but I would be willing to venture that the price fits the quality. The wait staff is friendly and the atmosphere is airy and festive. They have lots of events and music, so I'm sure we'll be coming back to check that out as well as more of the menu. You should too. -Laurel

Address: 195 Dekalb Ave. between Carlton and Adelphi (Fort Greene, Brooklyn)

Payment: Cash, Cards

Delivery: Yes

Open Late: Yes

Large Group Friendly: Yes

Bar/Happy Hour: Yes

July 8, 2009

Bocca Lupo

I've been to Bocca Lupo several times over the years, as my aunt and uncle live a stone's throw away. We went here a few times during visits, and I rediscovered how much I liked it upon moving to NY. Jennifer and I have gone a couple of times together, so I'll stick to those experiences.

The first visit was a Sunday afternoon, and we needed a quick-ish meal between visiting my family and going to the movie. They were uncrowded and the wait staff was super friendly.The menu consists of several bruschettas that change seasonally, cheese plates, meat plates, paninis, sides (mostly veggies), and one daily pizza, pasta and risotto. We ordered some bruschetta-- butternut squash with hazelnut, tomato, mozzarella and basil, poached pear, and a sausage one. They were all delicious, but note that they are difficult to split (i.e., cut in two). The standouts were the butternut squash (nutty, lightly sweet, so good) and the sausage (salty porky goodness), but they were all worth trying.

We also ordered the banana and nutella panini for dessert to go. We were in a rush, so we ate it as we walked to the theater. Picture this: each of us stuffing pieces of said panini into our mouths while walking briskly down the sidewalk, powdered sugar EVERYWHERE, us both incomprehensibly mumbling about how freakin good it was. Yeah, we got some looks. But if we had been run over by a bus, we would have died happy in that moment.

On the next visit, the bruschetta menu was totally different, and we were disappointed. I ordered a sausage and broccoli rabe panini and we split a side of zucchini with almonds. The panini was definitely good, a stand-by for my uncle, but a little overly salty. The zucchini was a nice side, enough for two.

Probably the best part about Bocca Lupo is that it is a small neighborhoody place. The menu is dependable and has just enough options. Great place to take a date or a small group. -Laurel

As Laurel said, the first time we went to Bocca Lupo, we were amazed. From the moment we sat down and looked around at other people's plates, I was itching for some good food. The woman to the left of us was eating asparagus, and I instantly convinced Laurel we must have some. Glad I did. Lemony and cooked just right - not too squishy and not too hard - the asparagus was a great compliment to our many bruschettas.

Speaking of which, the bruschetta. All of them were supremely delicious. The butternut squash was my favorite - sweet and not at all stringy like a lot of squash can be, and the hazelnut was a great touch. The pear was the perfect amount of sweet and salty, the sausage was the perfect amount of unhealthy, and the tomato, mozzarella and basil was the perfect amount of...um, tomato, mozzarella, and basil. We ate one at a time, each going in a different order and ranting and raving about how good they were. Ambiance wise, The wait staff were helpful and patient, and the people dining there were nice as well.

Of course, the nutella panini was off the charts delicious, especially when walking fast down a street and laughing about the intense amounts of whipped cream, chocolate, and powdered sugar all over our faces, clothes, hands...everywhere.

The second time wasn't terribly disappointing, but I was very sad the menu had changed. The bruschetta we had before was sooooo good, and I couldn't eat a lot of the options they offered second go around because of one or two leafy ingredients. And the asparagus was also gone.

We quickly searched for a substitute for the asparagus, and decided to go for the zucchini with pine nuts. Unfortunately, the zucchini was cold. It was also slightly limp and had almost no flavor. Sad. As for the panini, I desperately wanted the sausage, but I couldn't have broccoli rabe. Now that I think about it, I guess I could have asked for it without the rabe, but I remember how I wanted to preserve the flavor. That was dumb. Either way, I chose the Triple P (ok, plus M) panini: proscuitto, porchetta, piave, and mascarpone. Pretty good. Wasn't blown away, but it definitely fulfilled my appettite.

And of course we got the nutella panini. Must admit, not as good in a civilized fashion...on a table, with a fork. I actually prefer to have my food all over my body. I think it tastes better. -Jennifer

Address: 391 Henry St (Brooklyn)

Website: http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/Bocca-Lupo/

Payment: credit or cash

Delivery: no

Open Late: 2 AM on weekends

Large Group Friendly: better for small gatherings, does not take reservations

Bar/Happy Hour: full bar

July 3, 2009


Jennifer had been to Beast once before for drinks and dessert, and was impressed enough to try the full menu. She was nice enough to let me tag along for dinner one Sunday, and it was pleasantly uncrowded. The front is flanked by a large bar with small tables, a large back area has lots more seating, and when the weather is nice there are a few sidewalk tables as well.

The menu is tapas-style, but with heartier fare, largely American in style and includes seafood. The prices are on the upper end of moderate, with the starts/snacks running $3-18 and proper small plates running $7-14. You're going to need at least one and a half per person, get two or include a dessert if you're hungry like we were. The wine list has a nice variety, with quatrinos (1/3 bottles) and full bottles offered at reasonable prices.

Jennifer will talk about what she ordered, but I tried it and it was delicious. You should order it. I ordered the Sweet Onion and Ricotta Tart, which came with a pear salad (pictured above). The tart has a nice light texture and a pleasant taste, but wasn't overly memorable. The pears were nicely cooked and a good compliment. All-in-all a solid vegetarian dish, but nothing to write home about. We also shared a burger, which was a solid meaty dish, and one of the better bargains on the menu. We of course ordered dessert, which was a caramel-y rich bread pudding. Very sweet, but gooey and tasty.

Check out Beast if you're looking to splurge just a bit and have some drinks and share foods with friends. Like me, for instance. -Laurel

The first time I went to Beast was after a Target First Friday at the Brooklyn Museum. The lot of us were absolutely starving and looking for cheap drinks, and stumbled into Beast after an unsuccessful search down Vanderbilt for an empty bar. This place wasn't all that empty either, but reasonably less crowded, possibly because I assume most people are a little freaked by the outside. First of all, the place is called "Beast." Secondly, the front doors are large wooden doors you would see outside of a castle or fort. Not necessarily inviting. Surprisingly nice door man, though.

We waited around for a while for a table, and it was far too crowded for the bar, so three of us were standing by one of the exit doors that leads to a small amount of street seating, directly by the kitchen, which is open into the bar. The smells and sights of the food were making all of us absolutely famished. We finally got a table, to find out they had just stopped serving dinner. The staff was absolutely fantastic, however, and after sharing my obvious disappointment at the lack of food, brought a dessert menu.

Davis and Amanda chose a raspberry cheesecake, while I automatically ordered the Bread Pudding with a Pecan Praline in it. The person I was sharing it with was completely unsure about my choice. However, after the first bite, he was hooked. Everyone at the table then dug their spoon in, and the entire table was filled with "hmmmmm," a.k.a. pure happiness. The pudding melted in our mouths and the sticky pecan praline was a nice addition to the smoothness of the pudding. Definitely a must have.

As any good restaurant should do, Beast's menu changes every so often. So when Laurel and I ventured back to try a few things I had picked out from the menu last time we went, they were no longer on there. However, they were replaced by a multitude of other scrumptious sounding foods. And of course, I had to make her try that Bread Pudding, which I was glad was still on the dessert menu.

While Laurel stuck with her tart, I chose the roast with potatoes, corn and green beans. I made a joke that I would get 3 green beans, and then I did. However, it was absolutely delicious. Small, but delicious. The meat was tender and the perfect compliment to the mashed potatoes and corn in the middle. And the 3 green beans were nicely cooked as well.

Still hungry, of course, Laurel and I ordered the burgers. They were pretty standard and I devoured them quickly, still hungry. And then we moved on to the heavenly dessert. Not quite as heavenly as I remember, but still virtually perfect. I was in a food coma at that point and forgot to take a picture, so just close your eyes and picture bread pudding that has been stabbed in the heart with a pecan praline lightning bolt and covered in sugar.

A good place to go with a large group of ravenous, slightly well to do, companions who like to drink and watch movies Sci-Fi/Action movies on USA Network. Because that's what they show in there. - Jennifer

Address: 638 Bergen St at Vanderbilt (Brooklyn)

Payment: cash or credit

Delivery: no

Open Late: bar open until 3 AM on weekends

Large Group Friendly: yes

Bar/Happy Hour: full bar
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