Chef-owner Joaquin Baca made his bones in the chilly Momofuku empire, but walked away from David Chang’s dominion last year to build this extremely welcoming DIY project. Brooklyn Star is a charming Southern-fried venture that takes its front-of-house cues from the same region that inspires its menu. The iced tea flows, Johnny Cash croons, and seriously hospitable servers shuttle some of Williamsburg’s most satisfying low-country grub. There’s elbow grease in the dining room (Baca built out the simple, wood-paneled space himself) and bacon grease in the kitchen.
The appetizers skirt junk-food territory, with tender—if overly sweet—pork ribs braised in Dr Pepper and a crock of lush elbow mac and cheese with bacon. Bacon also shows up in the pork-and-jalapeo-flecked corn bread, which is cooked to order in a wood-burning oven—an annoyingly prolonged process that doesn’t yield a particularly moist loaf. But these passable preludes were overshadowed by the entres. Shrimp and grits showcased two runny fried eggs over shellfish that was seared in (even more) bacon fat, all arranged over an appealingly coarse porridge. A supremely juicy half roasted chicken offered flavors both delicate (lemons, sage and thyme; a side of verdant pea-shoots) and robust (rice, with curls of—you guessed it—bacon). What a good bourbon could do for this food we’ll never know; a liquor license is forthcoming for beer and wine only. Also in development: dessert. When we visited, the sole sweet was a seemingly improvised dish of strawberries dipped in corn-bread batter, tossed (why not?) into the deep fryer and served with a scoop of vanilla Hagen-Dazs. Dignified it ain’t, but it’s just that sort of spontaneity that hints at Baca’s promise.