Last Wednesday I finally made it out to Van Brunt Street, the center of the burgeoning hipster neighborhood Red Hook. There I met A Hamburger Today founder Adam Kuban, his trusty sidekick Matty, Schnack chef/owner Harry Hawk and his aide de burgercharge Juan Carlos , Mr. Cutlets himself, Josh Ozersky, and the hamburger auteur himself, the Truffaut of this burger-loving nation, Mr. George Motz.
Ozersky had convened a meeting of this burger murderer's row to sample the hamburger at The Good Fork, which he claimed to be in the top three in NYC. I had been tipped off to the Good Fork by NY Times Culture Editor and serious food maven Sam Sifton, who true to his Brooklyn roots, now calls Red Hook home.
Everyone but me ordered burgers for their main course. I figured I would get to taste somebody's burger at the table, so I ordered slow cooked Berkshire pork on a bed of polenta. We also ordered almost all the starters: excellent crabcakes, fine pork dumplings, hot but not crazy hot chicken wings, a clean-tasting but dull gumbo, great crispy sweetbreads, and fairly limp scallion pancakes.
Though about half of the burgers were overcooked and had to be sent back (much to Mr. Izersky's chagrin, who had after all gathered us all there with his top 3 NYC burger claim). The second time around the burgers were cooked as ordered, and the medium rare burger was phenomenal; coarsely ground meat that held together nicely, really great juicy, beefy flavor, and a bun that was the right balance between chewy and soft. The burgers came with tempura onion rings, which would have been great if they had been fried just a little bit longer. My pork was actually quite delicious, albeit a little dry.
Ozersky appeared quite chagrined that so many of the initial burgers ordered by the table came out overcooked. In fact, he looked and sounded downright stricken. I would go back to The Good Fork in a second, though the lack of a subway stop in Red Hook is a little bit of a problem. Izersky offered me a ride back to a Manhattan subway stop, which I gratefully took him up on.
We stopped into this really cool liquor store across the street from the restaurant, which literally has a bathtub full of gin in it before jumping into Izersky's big boat car, circa 1990. But instead of heading to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, a five minute ride from the restaurant, he ended up taking me back to his house, which he said was just a five minute detour.
Twenty minutes later we stopped in front of his apartment building. Izersky turned to me and said, "In all your years as a food maven, have you ever taken people to a place that you really loved that turned out to have an off night when you brought them?" I told him it happens to all food explorers, that sometimes the only thing to do is apologize, pick yourself off the restroom floor and hit the streets in search of the next perfect bite.
That seemed to make Josh feel better, but there I was stuck an hour away from my house. He then offered up by way of apology for the overcooked burger and the lengthy detour, a steak. Here was Mr. Cutlets, the meat man himself, giving what is for him the greatest gift of all, a big fat slab of red meat. He felt cleansed, and if the steak turns out to be any good, I would indeed forgive him. The Good Fork is at 391 Van Brunt Street (718-643-6636). As I write this I am sure Josh Ozersky is somewhere eating a hunk of meat. If you see him give him a hug. Just don't ask him for a ride home.