Apps Only: Solid Small Plates at Walden in Williamsburg
Walden is a quiet restaurant on Lorimer Street in Williamsburg. It always catches my eye when I pass it, sporting as it does many of the items on my checklist: long bar, snack-heavy menu, gentle prices. Last week I stopped in to see how the restaurant would do as a spot to grab a quick, light bite and a couple pints of beer. The verdict: it did quite well.
I love a deviled egg, and Walden's rendition ($3.50) is a fine example of one that's slightly dressed up but not too fancy, a theme that dominates at Walden. Topped with some crispy fried parsley leaves and a bit of parsley oil, the snack had a brightness that some deviled eggs don't achieve.
The Twisted Pretzel ($6) is a must-order bar snack; it's filling, warm, soft, and salty, which is plenty to make it a great thing to eat while you drink. The melted cheddar cheese on top and spicy honey mustard dip—not afraid to border on the hot side of the mustard spectrum—put this dish over the edge.
The House Pickles ($4) are a good deal, but they didn't blow me away. The variety is impressive, with snap peas, beets, carrots, cucumbers, and summer squash, and if you love pickles, you'll like these, but it probably won't be making any converts.
Eggplant Sliders are one of three varieties available in addition to pulled pork and shredded chicken ($5 for 2, no mixing and matching allowed). They were pretty darn good, reminding me of a lighter eggplant parm in miniature, with sharp grana padano subbing in for mozzarella. Tender (not mushy) chunks of eggplant in a tomato sauce are piled on a sweet, airy brioche bun that adds a richness to this sensible sandwich.
A chilled Corn Chowder ($9) was the one dish we ordered from the appetizer menu proper. It's rich and thick, with an earthy taste, and topped with a corn salsa that's a little too salty tasted on its own, but when stirred into the soup is the perfect complement.
I'm not going to tell you that Walden is the best restaurant in Brooklyn. I'm not going to tell you that you should hop on the L train right now and go, immediately. But here's something: Walden is a solid restaurant with a friendly, inviting, professional staff, a nice selection of wine and beer, and a menu of tasty snacks and small plates (and some bigger options if you're very hungry). That's increasingly hard to find, and to my mind the people who can call Walden their neighborhood joint are pretty lucky.
About the author: Ben Fishner is Serious Eats' advertising operations administrator, and he is currently planning his next meal. In addition to writing for Serious Eats, he blogs at Ben Cooks Everything. Follow him on Twitter or Tumblr, won't you?