It’s usually not a promising sign when a restaurant’s outdoor patio is enclosed by a fifteen-foot-high barbed-wire fence. At Pies-N-Thighs, though, you might say it’s part of the charm. The makeshift southern-style kitchen that operates out the back of Williamsburg’s Rock Star Bar has an air of what might politely be called a rough, postindustrial outer-borough chic. In other words, it’s a dive, but a dive in the best sense of the word. Stephen Tanner and Sarah Buck, two refugees from nearby Diner, cook the kind of honest home-style vittles you might hope to stumble upon while tootling along some southern backroad. He oversees the pit-smoked pulled pork, the fried chicken, the juicy burgers, and the spicy macaroni and cheese. She bakes the breads, the biscuits, and the type of picture-perfect double-crusted pies that, when customarily placed atop a windowsill to cool, hoboes find hard to resist. All of it can be gulped down at a slim counter inside the greasy kitchen nook that formerly served as a beer closet. But down-home cooking of this caliber is best enjoyed amidst the barbed wire and weedy plants, or what the locals cheerfully refer to as out back in the prison yard.
351 Kent Ave., entrance on S. 5th St., Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 347-282-6005
The Little Owl
Last seen cooking at the Harrison and Pace, chef Joey Campanaro has swapped expansive Tribeca spaces for an intimate corner of the West Village, where his new Mediterranean-influenced restaurant seats a mere 28 diners (plus five at the bar). Campanaro takes a seasonal approach in dishes like asparagus soup with fried soft-shell crab, and halibut with ramps and lemon crème fraîche; wines, too, move on and off the list in concert with Campanaro’s fare and show up in cocktails like the Duke of Bedford, a blend of port, sweet vermouth, and orange bitters.
90 Bedford St., at Grove St., 212-741-4695
Shopping at Fairway is one of those transformative New York experiences: To be jostled by speeding carts pushed by the world’s most fearlessly aggressive septuagenarians, to breathe in the dark-roasted vapors in the coffee department, to cadge raw-milk samples in the obsessive company of fellow cheese freaks is to know what it means to shop and eat in New York. The last eleven years have seen the Upper West Side landmark in expansionist mode, opening offshoots in Harlem and on Long Island, and on May 17, the city’s least hoity-toity fancy-food store colonizes Brooklyn, with 52,000 square feet of retail space in a gorgeous old pile of an antebellum coffee warehouse in Red Hook. (Upstairs are kitchens, space for a yet-to-be-leased restaurant, and three floors of luxury loft rentals.) The neighborhood has fretted about the 300-car parking lot and ensuing traffic jams, but alternate routes include New York Water Taxi’s weekend ferry service ($5 each way; nywatertaxi.com).
480500 Van Brunt St., Red Hook, Brooklyn, 718-694-6868