If you visited Van Brunt Street in Red Hook once or twice prior to the winter of 2020, it might have seemed like the nautical hamlet’s main street was abundant with places to eat and drink. If you visited 10 times or lived nearby, you’d be well into repeat bar seats and reservations before too long. The apparent plenty was a little deceptive, but almost all of the options were pretty good. The Good Fork, at the base of a brick walkup a few blocks from the water’s edge, was among the best of the bunch.
Chef Sohui Kim and her husband Ben Schneider opened The Good Fork in 2006 and earned acclaim for Korean-style steak and eggs, chicken and waffles and croque madame at brunch, duck confit, burgers and excellent pork chops at dinner and dumplings whenever, with more overlap here and there. Significant damage during Hurricane Sandy caused the restaurant to close for two months at the end of 2012.
The next pause would be longer, about two years, due to the pandemic, though a smattering of pop-us bloomed in the interim before a full reopening as The Good Fork Pub last month. Kim and Schneider, who’s fun Korean BBQ restaurant-cum-karaoke bar Insa is a few miles away, also opened one of 2021’s best restaurants, Gage & Tollner, (with St. John Frizell, their hospitality neighbor from Fort Defiance up the block) during the break.
The Good Fork Pub’s old address is as familiar as its new moniker, with some modifications. Up front, the bar is longer, with fewer tables in the narrow, brick-lined space. It’s a good place to have a drink and achieves the public house intent. The wider, windowed patio dining room farther back is as sunny as ever, should you have hydrated enough the night before to invite the high noon rays to light your face. And the back garden’s capacity has expanded to accommodate more guests outdoors.
Kim created the menu with head chef Dan Clawson, previously of nearby Pizza Moto. It’s briefer than before but as detailed as ever, with house-cured bacon on the BLT ($19), and an actual veggie burger ($18) in this, the unending era of faux-bloody im-believable this or that.
Obvious standouts stand out. Kim is a fried fowl champion, with documented hits at the other two operations and previously under this very roof. The fried chicken sandwich with gochujang, mayo and red cabbage on brioche ($18) has an ASMR crunch and a glossy magazine-ad caliber juicy interior that reminds why we thigh. In an area that people love to claim is hard to get to (there is a bus stop one minute away), it’s worth traveling for.
Likewise the wonderful “Korean (by way of Philly) cheesesteak sandwich,” whose only petty crime is explicitly calling it a sandwich, which is implied in the city of brotherly beef but, sure, may be worth spelling out in the borough of deconstructed classics and other culinary surprises. The Good Fork Pub’s contribution to the conversation is a combination of gochujang short rib, American cheese and kimchi mayo on a hero. The understated-to-the-point-of-imperceptible kimchi purportedly present in the mayo is another misdemeanor, but the whole decadent sandwich is still rich and delicious, even in the absence of what could be that welcome element’s more assertive presence. Like a lot of life’s promises, if it hadn’t been mentioned you might not know to miss it. And at least one Philly-by-way-of Brooklyn husband approves of the finished product.
Yes, The Good Fork Pub’s menu is truncated compared to its previous iteration. The erstwhile accolades that helped make it popular also made it a little tough to grab an impromptu table. The new conceit, including the interior rearrangement, actually makes it easier to pop up to the bar and order fantastic snacks to supplement your beer, wine and cocktails. The soy and beet-pickled seven-minute eggs ($10), with their fresh flavor and creamy center, give a glow to the jarred tavern staple. Their accompanying housemade crisps also polish the potato chip form.
The bar snack to beat, one that I wish were sold in party quantities so that I could dazzle my friends and best my acquaintances at the next fête, is the kimchi beer cheese with fried wontons ($8). The dip vehicles are an accomplishment: light and crisp while standing up to the spritely, airy blend without shattering until the first bite. It's portioned to share and best to try when you have a little time to spend, as the sensational pair will inspire you to order more from the rest of the menu.
The Vibe: Carefree, comfortable and casual with drinks and snacks that will make you want to stay for dinner.
The Food: Great bar food like the kimchi beer cheese with fried wontons and larger plates like the “Korean (by way of Philly) cheesesteak” and the fantastic fried chicken sandwich.
The Drinks: Beer, wine and a full bar.
Time Out Tip: The dining patio’s a little warm on the hottest days.
The Good Fork Pub is located at 391 Van Brunt Street. It is open Tuesday–Friday from 4:00pm–12:00am and Saturday–Sunday from 12:00pm–12:00am