Brooklyn’s restaurant scene is the most cohesive in town. The borough’s hyped food destinations all share the same earnest ethos and scruffy aesthetic. Prime Meats—the Germanish sibling of beloved Court Street trattoria Frankie’s Spuntino—was clearly designed to run with the pack.
The restaurant bears all of the hallmarks of a second-wave hot spot, with generous portions of fuss-free food, locavore sourcing, and a cultish appreciation for the butcher’s and charcutier’s arts. The salvage-lot look features scuffed mirrors, worn-in booths and retrofitted 19th-century gas chandeliers. The beer list includes the full line from Sixpoint Craft Ales, brewed—as the blackboard boasts—less than a mile away. The barkeep, in suspenders and plaid, takes his sweet artisan time stirring up fine potent cocktails. In fact, with its languid but amiable service, the restaurant on the whole seems to be in no kind of rush. Though the place opened for business way back in January, for months we heard it still wasn’t quite done. A more ambitious menu was coming, but when it would get here, no one seemed to know.
Well, Prime Meats finally seems to have become fully operational. The kitchen has certainly had plenty of time to find its footing—and it shows in the simple, confident food. It’s not a groundbreaking repertoire, just top-notch ingredients that speak for themselves. A groaning board of cured meat—the Vesper Brett—features an offbeat selection of Bavarian cold cuts including rustic tea sausage and silky house-cured bacon. Wild mushrooms sauted with spring garlic in another simple starter don’t need anything more than the rich yolk spilling from the poached Amish egg nestled within them. Those same forest fungi are tossed with delicious buttery spaetzle in a must-order side dish that’s as solid a match for meat as for fish.
Meat is, needless to say, the restaurant’s marquee draw—the dry-aged Creekstone Farms steaks have great, funky flavor and a beautiful char. Still, the only fish option, butter-drenched filleted trout, is also expertly cooked, with crisp skin, sweet flesh and fresh-grated horseradish showered on top. Though you’ll find this sort of honest fare all across the borough—and across the East River, too—rarely will you find it as solidly executed or as reasonably priced. In fact, for the value alone—a gorgeous New York strip served with bright chimichurri is just $19; a heap of fragrant choucroute with pork belly, tongue, and plump knockwurst and bratwurst is only $14—the restaurant is well worth a visit.
The menu highlights a half dozen farmstead cheeses from up and down the Eastern Seaboard. Served with nuts and honey, they’re a more noteworthy finale than the understated desserts—like decent jammy linzer torte and creamy mocha pudding.
While Prime Meats is not a full-fledged destination restaurant yet, it’s certainly much more than just a good neighborhood spot. Although it may not be immediately evident, the restaurant is still in transition. A larger dining room and adjoining butcher shop will make their debuts sometime this fall. There’s really no telling how the food will look then.
Drink this: Prime Meats features some of the city’s most reasonable handcrafted cocktails. The long list includes a delicious house punch ($5) ladled into teacups from an old-fashioned bowl. The Good Word ($12), made with whiskey, chartreuse and maraschino liqueur, is a refreshing concoction that goes down too easily.
Eat this: The Vesper Brett (cured meats), poached egg and mushrooms, New York strip, choucroute
Sit here: Until the larger dining room opens, seating is in short supply in the long, narrow space. While the weather holds up, if you want to avoid sharing a booth with another party, you might try to snag a table outside in the tiny backyard.
Conversation piece: The restaurant takes its name from a battered 19th-century mirror emblazoned with those words, which hung in a defunct German butcher shop nearby. Suspended on a brick wall across from the bar, it now greets diners as they enter.
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