Mon-Thu, 6pm-11pm; Fri, 6pm-11:30pm; Sat, 11am-3pm and 6pm-11:30pm; Sun, 11am-3pm and 5:30pm-11pm
F at York St.
American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
Vinegar Hill House is named for its neighborhood, an anachronistically ungentrified precinct of Belgian-blocked streets abutting the Navy Yard, just north of Dumbo but nearly bucolic in comparison. The restaurant’s ambience and food are a good match for its setting (never mind the obligatory anti-gentrification gripes on neighborhood blogs). The 40-seat space is the embodiment of warm and cozy, quirky but not off-puttingly so. It’s Little House on the Prairie crossed with Freemans, the relentlessly hip Lower East Side restaurant where the couple who owns Vinegar Hill House first met on the job. Like Freemans, but in a subtly different way, Vinegar Hill House is a period piece, with vintage-y wallpaper, rough-hewn-wood furniture, and old-timey lanterns giving off a soft, warm glow (and—watch out!— a trail of dripping candle wax). For no particular reason, a Colonial flag adorns one wall and part of a pipe organ hangs behind the copper-topped bar, where a pewter samovar dispenses free hot cider until the liquor license arrives. Rich cream-cheese-frosted Guinness cakes sit on shelves by the open kitchen, an autumnal version of the windowsill pies of summer.
No one knows why, but dramatically presenting something to the table in the sizzling hot pan in which it was just cooked usually ups the pleasure ante of any dish, and the “Cast Iron” chicken is no exception. Minutes before its arrival, your flannel-shirted, stocking-capped waiter will plunk down in front of you a thick cloth trivet that looks like it might have been knitted by a team of Amish women. Onto the trivet goes a cast-iron pan and with it the obligatory warning that the pan is hot—not that you would be tempted to pass this steaming metal inferno around the table like a medicine ball. Cooked and presented in this quaint log-cabin manner, even an old moccasin might trick the mind into thinking it tastes good. But this half-chicken is truly exceptional—moist and meaty with a parchment-crisp skin, not to mention remarkable flavor. Equally satisfying despite being served in a mere bowl is a tender clump of braised lamb shoulder mingled with black chickpeas and melting fennel bulbs. Accompany either of these dishes with a side of roasted Brussels sprouts or horseradish-enhanced mashed potatoes and you have a feast fit for a Navy Yard rear admiral, if not a brooding Vinegar Hill artist.Reservations
Reservations are accepted on a limited basis; Sunday through Thursday for dinner for parties of four or more, and on Saturay and Sunday for brunch for groups bigger than six.