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“Jack the Horse Tavern”

  Occasion: Cuisine: Area: Cost: Rating:
  Night Out New American Brooklyn Moderate Great

Some restaurants are the darlings of buzz. They rev the blogs, flutter the twitters, and grace the glossies even before the lease is signed, heck even before the chef is on board. Others are more stealth in their approach. They open quietly, without a word of press. They develop a following with their neighbors: the family down the street, the guys around the corner, the girls upstairs. Those neighbors continue to come, and when they realize what they’ve found, they come again and again, but they keep word close to the chest. Who needs crowds and waits? Who needs cross-borough traffic?

That seems to be the case at Jack the Horse Tavern, a terrific little gem flying well under the foodie radar in Brooklyn Heights, a neighborhood with an abundance of breathtaking architecture (and Bugaboos) and a startling dearth of quality dining establishments, other than Noodle Pudding, Henry’s End, Teresa’s, and, of course, Lichee Nut. But Jack the Horse is truly special, and would be even if it weren’t located in a culinary wasteland.

Craig and I found it on one of our late afternoon strolls with Emily. There it was, tucked into a sleepy nook on the corner of Hicks and Cranberry. White lights twinkled along the moldings and a bench outside offered passersby a place to rest. It was a charming sort of vision. And you’ll find it filled nightly with the crowds of regulars who commune for the delicious and honest food, who chat in the warm glow of the restaurant’s amber lighting, who drink and snack on platters of charcuterie—a hefty triangle of country pate studded with pistachios, and an abundance of bresaola, sopressata, chorizo, and pickles with slices of warm baguette ($10)—at the friendly bar.

The restaurant, named after a lake in northern Minnesota where the chef (Tim Oltmans), and his father and brothers used to fish, has the feel of an old friend: cozy, inviting, welcoming. There are two rooms, and as you walk from one to the next the wooden floors slope slightly and show their age. It’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one. There are weathered brick walls hung with old clocks and wooden shelves stacked with books—almanacs, dictionaries, that sort of thing. A wall of banquettes is invitingly strewn with throw pillows. In the front bar room, thoughtfully prepared cocktails are assembled from good brown spirits and bitters, served in antique tumblers and ... [more, click below]

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