The Vegetarian Option: Lincoln Station's Sandwiches and Salads, from the Al Di La Team
I've long been a fan of al di la, the Park Slope institution that's beloved for its hearty, sophisticated Italian dishes. So it was with interest that I followed the restaurant's team to its second venture, Bar Corvo, when it opened in my neighborhood early last year. With its Prospect Heights location now firmly established in the hearts and mouths of neighbors, the same team has opened the casual eatery Lincoln Station just around the corner.
The new restaurant follows the takeout/grocery trend established by Bklyn Larder: food is ordered by the pound at the counter up front and served up on metal trays, and shelving at the left of the expansive storefront displays luxury grocery items such as imported dates, tins of olive oil, and dried pasta.
If you're familiar with either of the aforementioned restaurants, then you'll recognize the food being served at the new location, which takes common ingredients, cooks them just right and presents them in unexpected ways: roasted asparagus spears tucked into a sandwich built upon Bien Cuit bread, or braised kale paired with fava bean purée to make yet another of the restaurant's unusual sandwiches.
Good news for vegetarians: Lincoln Station's casual menu of soups, salads and sandwiches is heavy on seasonal, meat-free dishes. An excellent way to taste a variety of them is to order up a combo plate ($7.95, pictured at top) of three sides. Roasted carrots and shallots (at left) features earthy roasted carrots and sticky-sweet, jam-like roasted shallots punctuated with spicy, coarsely ground black pepper; farro salad (center) is bright and lemony, with fluffy grains of farro mixed with spring peas, baby spinach and crisp slices of radish; and a more or less standard kale salad (at right) is nonetheless delicious, with soft leaves of kale topped with chewy dried cherries, crunchy toasted walnuts, and salty shards of parmesan cheese.
Lincoln Station shies away from vegetarian sandwich standards in favor of items like braised kale ($7.95), a thick pile of long-cooked, mineral-tasting greens atop a soft focaccia roll spread thickly with garlicky, pale green fava bean purée. It's a hearty, satisfying main dish that just happens to be served on bread.
Another strong choice, a seasonal special, is the asparagus and ricotta($7.95), which takes that same focaccia roll, adding a pillowy layer of rich ricotta and crisp-tender roasted asparagus spears.
With its deftly prepared dishes and reasonable prices, Lincoln Station is a great option for stocking up for impromptu summer barbecues and picnics.
About the author: Lauren Rothman is a former Serious Eats intern, a freelance catering chef, and an obsessive chronicler of all things culinary. Try the original recipes on her blog, For the Love of Food, and follow her on Twitter @Lochina186.