Does Brooklyn finally have its own Spotted Pig? That’s been the speculation ever since it was revealed that the gastropub’s former chef de cuisine, Nate Smith, had signed on at Dean Street, the Prospect Heights successor to Tavern on Dean, which expects to open within the week. There are certain similarities: Owners John Longo and Rob Gelardi have enlisted Smith to collaborate on a casual neighborhood bar with great food — the textbook definition of a gastropub — and Smith describes his style as simple, fresh, and unfussy, a legacy of sorts from the Pig’s April Bloomfield. But Smith is his own man and Dean Street its own beast — one where Smith plans to offers his LaFrieda-blend burgers with or without cheese (and bacon!), and where his wife, baker Sophie Kamin, is responsible for morning scones and muffins plus the same terrific savory hand pies she introduced at Gowanus’s Four & Twenty Blackbirds.
Though originally from Santa Cruz, with stints at San Francisco institutions like Hayes Street Grill and Farallon, Smith has lived in Brooklyn for a decade, and, as befits anyone who pickles his own cucumbers and cures his own sausages, has become quite attached to the place. In fact, before he joined the Dean Street team, he spent four months cooking at Roman’s, the Fort Greene restaurant Smith calls his favorite place to eat. On the topical subject of Manhattan versus Brooklyn cuisine, Smith is circumspect: “It’s too bad that it’s such an ‘us and them’ thing. Manhattan has a lot of heavy hitters. Manhattan’s awesome, and I was obviously really happy to have worked with April there. But I never really saw myself as a Manhattan person.”
At Dean Street, Smith will cook his food, with few concessions. “I’ll do fried shrimps, but they’ll probably be head-on — that kind of thing,” he says. From a gastropub standpoint, “I’m not going to not put things on the menu because I’m not English or Irish, but I want it to feel approachable.” That translates to items like a Caesar salad, Spotted Pig–style (whole leaves, anchovies, and Parmesan, with white vinegar and white peppercorns), fish cakes with tartar sauce, fresh pasta like chard ravioli with walnuts and sage, and bar snacks like gentleman’s relish, a savory blend of roasted garlic, anchovy, and sherry vinegar served with a soft-boiled egg.
“It is a little awkward to come out of the Spotted Pig and know that people are probably gonna be like, ‘Oh, Brooklyn Spotted Pig!’ concedes Smith. “The food that we cooked there was so heartfelt, if I’m being labeled a Brooklyn Spotted Pig that’s a huge compliment to me.” Click through for a look at the opening menu and a peek at the renovated space.
Dean Street Opening Menu [PDF]
Dean Street, 755 Dean St., at Underhill Ave., Prospect Heights; 718-783-3326