The night after we ate at Maggie Brown, an unpretentious bar-restaurant in Clinton Hill, we dreamed that Justin Timberlake worked there as the host. He stood at the door, menus in his arms, and smiled, his tousled curls matching the wallpaper's swirls. Perhaps our subconscious made the connection via his song about bringing sexy back. Maggie Brown, with its small vases of orchids and deep, wide booths, exudes an appealing bohemian atmosphere, and we did see a couple making out on the back patio. Or perhaps we were recalling the singer-actor's Memphis roots, which mimic the restaurant's output of mostly southern classics. Who knows? We can say for sure that we didn't hear a JT song the whole time we were there. Thankfully. We just had good food.
The deviled eggs ($4) arrived at room temp (pro) but had clearly been prepared earlier in the day or even the day before (con). But we liked the mayo, mustard, and onion that fluffed out over the whites, even if said mix was perhaps a little too perfectly piped. Given the menu's southern leanings, we were rather surprised that these bad boys hadn't been termed "salad eggs" or "dressed eggs," nomenclature that's more common below the Mason-Dixon line.
Homemade biscuits ($4) arrived with a tiny pot of raspberry butter. Despite the buttery wafts, the buttery layers, and even the butter on the side, the biscuits were a wee bit dry. Still they gave off a good crumb, and that the raspberry butter offered a light hint of summer, as did the soft breeze coming through the back garden's ivy and ferns.
We added Andouille sausage ($4) to our red beans and rice ($10). Maggie Brown's version came covered in chopped parsley, but we tasted something else among the beans, rice, tomatoes, onions, and carrots: chili powder. You can't really screw up this elemental, concentrated concoction, but you can make it better. And Maggie Brown definitely did.
The southern fried chicken ($16) came with collard greens and mashed potatoes, a full plate of food. The chicken came out super crispy and so greaseless it could be in a Clearasil ad. The spicing, however, could generously be called subtle and less generously called non-existent. The mashed potatoes warrant special mention: some chunks of potatoes remained unmashed and unpeeled, lending the side a gratifying earthiness.
You get to the garden at Maggie Brown via two strips of screen. Do so. The bilevel patio features small tables, plastic chairs, and a border made from rebar. A sign says "air," an earnest reminder to "just breathe." Although popular for brunch, Maggie Brown seemed to be doing a good happy hour/early dinner business, with a regular bringing his young son and his bag of toy cars in for a hanger steak, a packed bar, and several couples, including the aforementioned amorous one. It's cash only, and best for: a down home date.
About the authors: Jessica Allen and Garrett Ziegler have been eating out together since 2002 and writing We Heart New York since 2006.