Do I Love This Restaurant, Or Is It Just Not Crowded?

Clam toast, natural wine, and available seating.

A sunlit, still brunch.

If you’re not eating at Hart’s, I feel sorry for you, but I’m also relieved. It means you’re one more person who doesn’t know a very delicious secret. This won’t last. It can’t last. This is Brooklyn.

When I leave New York, I often marvel in the stress of overcrowding melting away as “sure, we have a table outside” is freely and sincerely spoken at 8pm. “Oh no, you don’t need a reservation, just come on by,” is a sweet nothing in my ear from a high-school aged host saving her paychecks for a Prius. Gone are the “are you fucking kidding me” faces that scorn each step I take toward the front door of some delightful, but publicly lauded dining experience from the faces of crusty, bitter hosts saving their paychecks for the subway fare it’ll take to get to their second job. “Yes, we have the best burger in this hemisphere. Don’t even think about ever having one, peasant.”

Hart’s is a restaurant in Bed Stuy a friend introduced me to a few weeks ago. About halfway through dinner I realized that I was enjoying the food, the wine, and the atmosphere in equal measure. I was enjoying being at a restaurant. I wasn’t rushed, I wasn’t perpetually elbowed in the back. No one was knocking my jacket off my chair every 45 seconds. The restaurant was full, but not crowded. I was happy to be at a restaurant I was paying to be at. The feeling was foreign and strange. I wondered if perhaps I was being filmed for a prank show. I wasn’t, it’s just that no one knows about Hart’s yet.

This fried chicken will change you.

It’s the New York culinary middle finger. If something is good, people will find out about it, and if people find out about it, you can’t enjoy it. Great for business, bad for people who want to go to dinner at a restaurant without chicken fingers on the menu. “This place is amazing, but you’ll never get in” should be on the welcome sign as you drive into the state.

The food at Hart’s is, FYI, outstanding. Innovatively spiced versions of dishes you’re familiar with, but haven’t the imagination or za’atar to make yourself. I’ve been three times within the last two months. I haven’t spoken to my best friend three times within the last two months. Hart’s is a relatively new establishment, to my knowledge hasn’t been written up a ton, and is therefore still like…a place you can go. I’m terrified that this will change. I love Hart’s, but Hart’s is amazing. Someone is going to fuck this up.

My clam toast, my love.

I pay good money to eat in restaurants not because I can’t cook, or don’t like to, but because it’s an experience. I’m trying things I’d probably never try at home, drinking wine I probably don’t have access to, in a space that’s supposed to be a lovely change of pace from the wobbly Ikea table in my kitchen. But I ask you, what kind of experience can you have with 50 people huddled near the door glaring at how long it’s taking you to navigate your way through an asparagus dish?

New York has it’s charms, we all know this, but I marvel at how easily that charm turns into a rotting pumpkin once I step foot on the uncrowded soil of another place. Normal cities don’t have to deal with this crap. If you’re in a place and it’s crowded you’re either at a major league sporting event or Trader Joe’s.

I swear this place does have people in it, I just tend to get there right when it opens.

I don’t know why I share news of Hart’s with you now. Call me generous, call me an idiot, call me a writer with free time on a Sunday morning. You were going to find out about this place at some point, so it might as well come from a genuine fan and not a restaurant writer paid to have an opinion on risotto viscosity and hummus texture.

You’ve got this information now, and do with it what you will. I ask only one thing, as you sink your teeth into flavors and delights that could inspire poetry, if not trips to the gym. Do me one favor, I beg you, dine, drink, enjoy, but also… shhh…don’t spoil it.

NPR once called me a humor essayist, let’s go with that. Host of A Single Serving Podcast. shanisilver[at]gmail