11/06/2012 10:30:00 AM

First Bites: Skytown Opens in Bushwick, From Smorgasburg Vets

While half of Manhattan struggled with no power, last week most of Brooklyn thrived as restless eaters bombarded restaurants with weekend-like business every single day. With the influx of sales and the inability to get fresh deliveries, many restaurants ran shortened menus, and soon the phrase, “Sorry, we don’t have that right now,” became the mantra of wait staff across the board.

Such was the case when we stopped into the two-month-old Skytown on Friday night. Run by Smorgasburg heroes Ian Cronin and Sabra Saperstein, this Bushwick eatery is their first brick-and-mortar establishment. But, instead of their Italian tuna sandwich or their Skybowl, a do-it-yourself mixture of daily sautéed greens, beans, grain, cheese, or fried egg, they had a special, three-item menu, which the bartender/server handed to us with apology.

Given the choices of roasted fingerling potatoes with chipotle yogurt, kielbasa on a roll with red cabbage sauerkraut, and delicata squash with jewel beets, purple carrots, kale and goat cheese, well, we opted for one of each. Next, we ordered drinks, but unfortunately, they were out our first two desires, wine (no delivery) and Shock Top beer. That left us with hard liquor and a jumbled, hand-written drink menu to decipher. But, once we figured out that most drinks ran about $6 a drink, suddenly it didn’t matter that we could barely read the chalkboard.

All orders at Skytown are done at the bar, and once you have paid for your food and got a jelly jar filled with a drink, you are free to take your pick of any of the rickety card tables littered languidly around the space. We sat at a long table that was coated in what might have been a curtain. It felt kind of like being at a makeshift dinner party in an artist friend’s warehouse somewhere in Bushwick. Oh wait, we were in Bushwick.

Located in what used to be another location of Beauty Bar and before that, a burger joint called the Black Bean Grill, Skytown is on the border of Bed-Stuy and Bushwick right under the elevated train tracks. This means despite the already loud music pouring out of the stereo, every time a train goes by the noise escalates for a second. Not that this appears to bother the patrons, a quarter of whom sat across from a glowing blue screen typing away at what could only be the next great American novel.

Speaking of books, another service Skytown offers is their in house library sprouting up from various spaces like literary flowerbeds. Next to our table and against the exposed brick wall was a line of books including Knut Hamsun's Hunger, Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan, and Marisha Pessl’s coming of age novel Special Topics in Calamity Physics. You can’t take them out of the joint, but you can read them over a cup of coffee, when they have it, or a plate of rosemary-rich roasted fingerling potatoes.

This cues the arrival of food, along with yet another apology from the over-worked Don, who appeared to be the only one running the joint save for a solo cook in the tiny, makeshift kitchen. Gratefully, we dug into the steaming plates of food before us, all of which comes out of a tiny, portable oven and a couple of hot plates in the back. Oh yes, this whole concept stemmed from a food stand at a market, it made perfect sense.

In fact, all of Skytown made sense for what it is, where it’s located, and what they are trying to do, which is make cheap food and drink, and bring like-minded people over to their house, which just happens to also be a restaurant.

Skytown: 921 Broadway, Brooklyn, New York; 347-921-2911


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