Let me make one thing perfectly clear: I love Brooklyn Bowl. I wasn’t sure I would. A combination concert venue/bowling alley/restaurant sounded a bit gimmicky at first. But from the moment I first walked into the place in March, I was a fan. The place brings a true sense of New York City cool to the otherwise middle-America Linq.
I love the industrial décor, which reminds me of the decade I spent living in Brooklyn. I love the heavily tattooed staff. I love the fact that the three operations blend together seamlessly, so that someone enjoying a late lunch or afternoon family bowling session might get the chance to check out the sound-check of a world-renowned band. Honestly, even if the food here sucked, this would be one of my favorite openings of the past 12 months.
But the food here most certainly does not suck. And it shouldn’t. It’s being provided by Bruce and Eric Bromberg. They’re the brothers behind the prestigious Blue Ribbon bar and restaurant chain, which has 11 operations in New York as well as Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill in the Cosmopolitan.
At Brooklyn Bowl, the Brombergs’ menu leans toward gourmet comfort food—admittedly not an original concept. There are a few nods to Brooklyn, but southern cuisine is far more prevalent. Appetizers include adobo corn, Cajun shrimp cocktail and pork rinds. There’s a line of perfectly prepared French bread pizzas that come off like Stouffer’s on steroids. Sandwiches include catfish, chicken muffaletta, barbecue pork sliders and an oyster po’ boy. And the entrée section features mac and cheese, blackened salmon and pulled pork. There’s also a brunch menu on weekends from noon-4 p.m.
Then, of course, there’s the fried chicken. It’s a staple of Blue Ribbon restaurants, and will undoubtedly emerge as Brooklyn Bowl’s signature dish. But those who know it from the Cosmopolitan should be forewarned: This is not the same recipe. Given the Sushi Bar & Grill’s Asian component, the brothers Bromberg tweaked the recipe for Las Vegas, adding the Japanese spice mix togarashi to the batter and serving it with wasabi honey. What you get at Brooklyn Bowl is the original recipe. Which you prefer is a matter of taste, because they’re both among the best fried chicken in town. But it’s worth sampling both to appreciate the subtleties of each.
Another standout item here is the pulled pork, which I enjoyed with pickled peppers on one of those tremendous pizzas. The barbecue is smoked in-house and infused with a rich flavor. And the knish appetizer is brilliant! It’s a deconstructed tribute to the Brooklyn classic: two miniature knishes served “open face” so the dough isn’t overpowering, topped with a delicious mixture of potatoes and caramelized onions, and accompanied by sour cream and spicy deli mustard. Speaking of potatoes, don’t miss the mashed potato side dish, topped with one of the best gravies in the city. Hell, even the humble chicken burger is good here, thanks to the chef’s decision to use only dark meat to give it more fat and more flavor.
There is still room for improvement, however. The smoked fish spread is too mild for my taste, and a little too thick to spread easily. The catfish, which I had on a sandwich, is perfectly cooked but incredibly bland (making it a great candidate for the excellent house-made hot sauce you’ll find on every table). Finally, while I’m told the smoked barbecue wings are a house favorite, they play into a pet peeve of mine: drowning out a barbecue dish’s smoky flavor by slathering it in sauce.
Those minor complaints aside, Brooklyn Bowl’s food is head and shoulders above what you’ll find at any restaurant or bar that’s even half this cool. Did I mention I love this place?
In the Linq, 862-2695. Open for lunch and dinner 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Sun-Thu; 11 a.m.-4 a.m. Fri-Sat. Dinner for two, $30-$75.