Yes, new businesses are still opening during the pandemic. High Low Beverage Company, located at 295 Wyckoff Ave in Bushwick (which first opened back in May), joins a handful of new concepts thrust into the realities of socially-distanced hospitality. The sparkling emerald all-day bar and café comes from Shriver Tran and Jaime Hodgkin, who first met working in different departments at Stumptown Coffee—the concept is loosely Vietnamese-influenced, a nod to Tran’s family heritage.
“When I moved to New York, there were the standbys for decent pho and banh mi—but to now see places like Di An Di, Hanoi House, etc, approach classic dishes with a fresh and elevated take (as well as introducing lesser known dishes), it's been refreshing and exciting to see,” says Tran of the growing new-wave of Vietnamese restaurants in New York. “And while we're not claiming to make true Vietnamese food at High Low (there certainly are no baked pandan donuts in traditional Vietnamese cuisine), we are definitely looking to lean on those familiar flavors in the greater context of the modern café/bar.”
The elusive Matthew Tilden—who garnered intense fanfare with his SCRATCHbread bakery in Bed-Stuy (before it shuttered back in 2015)—has been drumming up press in recent months for hints of a Brooklyn return with a project he’s calling Seven Grain Army. While details of Seven Grain Army remain underwraps, Tilden has been consulting on various projects, including for High Low (he also helped develop the menu for Bed-Stuy’s Maya congee café-meets-general store). Tilden, who first connected with Hodgkin back at Stumptown, has developed a Vietnamese-inspired pastry menu for High Low (such as a pandan and lime baked donut; a baked donut with sour cherry lime leaf jam, rolled in lime leaf sugar; a banana muffin baked in a banana leaf; Vietnamese coffee cinnamon rolls; miso scallion scones; chocolate chip cookies with tahini and candied ginger; a chocolate mochi coconut dulce de leche cookie, among others) as well as a roster of bar snacks (including a clam dip with fresh horseradish, chives and dried chili alongside shrimp crackers or beef jerky with sambal) and larger savory portions still forthcoming. Though Tilden has become known for his baked goods—such as that SCRATCHbread pecan sticky bun—he maintains that he doesn’t “identify as a baker” because so much of his work relies on savory, health-forward and plant-based substitutions to morning time sweets. His food philosophy is what he calls “purpose-based eating” and it will be a foundational concept for his future Seven Grain endeavors.
On the drinks side of High Low, there are natural wine bottles and beers for sale as well as non-alcoholic drinks such as a Thai chili agua fresca and a sparkling lemongrass green tea. For cocktails, you’ll find a lime leaf slushie with a lime leaf-infused gin base with cucumber, lime, dry vermouth and cane sugar as well as the “The HiLo Hello” with mezcal, Thai-chili infused tequila, passionfruit, lime and cane syrup, among several other boozy options.
On the coffee side, you might find their take on sua da: Vietnamese-style iced coffee prepared here with Sey Coffee cold brew concentrate and coconut-sweetened condensed milk as well as espresso drinks.
“We initially intended to be a beer bar and we have sixteen taps that we aren’t able to hook it up just yet. But, also, natural wine is huge in the neighborhood,” says Hodgkin. The team wants to show that natural wine can go just as well with a Vietnamese-influenced menu than a more Eurocentric type of cuisine. “Fresh and lively flavors particular to natural wines such as crisp white, goes well with spice and bright herbs we’re trying to show,” he says.
Currently, the team is just excited to be able to host customers in their pleasant environment in a safe, socially-distanced manner. Their backyard will open in the coming weeks as well as outdoor seating that’s already been developed out front. You can order walk-up service or pre-order items on their website. Currently, the High Low space is open on Wednesdays and Thursdays (8am-9pm), Fridays (8am-10pm), Saturdays (9am-10pm) and on Sundays (9am-8pm).
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