“How’d you find out about us?” Brandon Chamberlain wondered. After all, the new restaurant he owns along with Matt and Nathan Ricke (with whom he also shares a bar in Williamsburg, The Exley) had its soft opening on Tuesday with little fanfare.
But Esme is hard not to notice as the replacement of the louder looking Papacitos in Greenpoint. Esme shares the same large picture windows looking out onto Manhattan Avenue, but none of the border-town diner vibe. Now there’s an understated decor of reclaimed church pews, weathered wood, and muted colors.
The menu is dominated by what Matt Ricke describes as “straightforward American bistro” offerings: flatiron steak, a burger, veggie burger, mussels, and chicken wings. But there are some surprises as well, like the Borscht Salad (Brussels sprouts, potato, pickled beets, horseradish, and dill).
“Basically we checked out all the other neighborhood places and worked our way backwards,” Matt explained. He and his brother Nathan live around the corner and know Greenpoint well. “We wanted it to be an everyman’s neighborhood place, the spot where you can grab a burger and a beer straight off the subway when you get home from work.”
If bistro fare doesn’t exactly spark a fire in your loins, Esme’s cocktails menu offers a bit more adventure. The Arabian Spring has Arak (anise flavored liquor from the Middle East), vodka, lemon, honey, yogurt, and salt. “When you combine that with a steak, for example, it really becomes a part of the meal,” says Matt.
The Good Soldier attempts to capture the “flavors of fall” with a mix of Becherovka (the Czech cure-all and digestif that resembles a more herbal Jagermeister), lemon, cinnamon, and bourbon infused with sweet corn.
By next week, Esme will add the increasingly popular draft cocktail element to its menu. Adam Volk (one of the chefs along with Paul Myers) saddled up to the bar and took his turn describing the two cocktails the restaurant has developed for the tap: the Chinese Five Spice Rum with lemon oil and ginger will be a “lighter, brighter take on a Dark ‘n’ Stormy,” and Thick As Thieves is Esme’s take on a gin and tonic, with the addition of Cocchi Americano and house-made quinine tincture.
Ok, so we’ll definitely be back for last call in hopes of sticking our heads under those spouts.
Something else to look forward to is Esme’s backyard, though unfortunately guests will have to wait until next spring to dine and booze outside. For now, there’s plenty of room inside for close to 50 people.
Esme, 999 Manhattan Ave., nr. Huron St., Greenpoint, Brooklyn; open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.; bartenders keep pouring until midnight.
Click for a better view of the menu below.