Brooklyn Bowl + Old 97’s (Sorta)

MDP and I bought tickets for the Old 97’s show at Brooklyn Bowl about a month ago. So, when the day came, I was pretty excited to get there. Although the doors weren’t slated to open until 8 pm for the show, we knew we could grab a bite at the bowling alley beforehand. I took the L train to Bedford, hopped off and made my way over to Brooklyn Bowl, which is located on Wythe between North 11 and North 12 streets.

brooklyn bowl calamari


My walk was pleasant. I hadn’t realized Williamsburg possessed such charm. I suppose I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been to the neighborhood since I was in college, and that may explain my surprise at the cute eateries and shops that lined Bedford. Anyway, I turned down North 11 Street to cut over to Wythe, and locked eyes with a gentleman who was sampling a beer in an outdoor café. He looked familiar, but I kept walking—that is, until I realized it was Rhett Miller, front man for the Old 97’s.

My internal dialogue went something like this:

Should I talk to him?

Should I bother him?

What if it isn’t him?

What if he thinks I’m crazy?

After about five minutes of hemming and hawing, I walked over to him and said, “Hey, you look familiar. Are you Rhett Miller?” He smiled and nodded, and stood up to introduce himself. “I’m Rhett,” he said. I know, I thought, but told him my name instead. “You’re awesome. I love your music,” I said, sounding 16 years old. I added that I was going to be attending his show later in the evening, and he said he was planning to sing a duet with the opening act. “I’ll be there at 8 then,” I told him and blurted out “enjoy” for some reason.

What an evening this is going to be! I thought, as I made my way over to Wythe.

brooklyn bowl fried chicken dinner

fried chicken dinner

Well, the night took an unexpected turn. Apparently, Brooklyn Bowl had a power outage earlier in the day. It didn’t occur to me until after I tried to unsuccessfully order a burger that the lack of power might affect the show. It did.

But before that realization struck, MDP and I sampled some delectable food from Brooklyn Bowl. First of all, it’s worth mentioning that this place is pretty awesome. It’s a huge space with a stage, bowling lanes and a restaurant. Oh, and the bathrooms are clean and pristine, up a flight. They have Brooklyn Brewery beers on tap, and Blue Ribbon food (whether that means the recipes or the chefs are trained a la Blue Ribbon is a mystery).

We started our meal with the fried calamari, which was crisp and delicious, and came with fried jalapenos mixed in with the octopus. It also had a lemon and cayenne mayo and an authentically included lemon wedge on the side. Fantastic!

When I learned the burger was not an option due to the down grill, I opted for the fried chicken dinner, with mixed pieces (dark and white meat). It came with the best collard greens I’ve ever had. Thick pieces of bacon were mixed in with them and they had a perfect flavor. The mashed potatoes were so-so, but the chicken was decent. The fry on the chicken was very flavorful, but I’m sorry to say that the flavor did not seep down into the bird’s flesh as it does at many other places. The dish also came with a hefty slice of white bread, which I rather enjoyed.

MDP got the fried catfish sandwich, and he seemed to enjoy it very much. I’m no fan of catfish, so I didn’t sample a bite.

We waited around for about 40 minutes until we heard through the grapevine that the show was canceled. But I happened to notice Rhett traipse down the stairs and into the back of the stage. He was carrying his acoustic guitar. Suddenly, he was gone, and I thought, He must have gone outside. There we went, and we found Rhett singing on the sidewalk of Wythe, outside of Brooklyn Bowl.

rhett miller outside brooklyn bowl

rhett miller

He played around seven songs, much to the crowd’s delight. We all sang along to “Wish the Worst” and “Big Brown Eyes” and Rhett even did a few tunes from the new album, such as the title track “Most Messed Up” and Let’s Get Drunk & Get It On.” Mostly, Rhett sang/shouted the lyrics, but he still sounded great.

“I have to stop singing or else I think I may never sing again,” he shouted to the screaming crowd of about 30.

UPDATE! Saw the Old 97’s today at Lincoln Center and got a much better shot of them!


So, definitely go to Brooklyn Bowl. But make sure the power’s working if you’re planning to see a show or bowl. It’s good eatin’, for sure, but if you’re making the trek to Williamsburg, you’re going to want to do more than eat good food.

Brooklyn Bowl

61 Wythe Ave. (bet. North 11 and North 12 streets)

Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Take the L to Bedford and walk a few blocks west then north.


Blue Collar

The only motivational thing about Blue Collar in Williamsburg is the presence of the phrase “Good job” all over the restaurant. I spotted it on the spare menu board and on one of the condiments containers, I believe. The rest of Blue Collar requires an acquired taste, most notably their poor overhead lighting and sparse seating arrangement. But, the burgers are pretty good.

blue collar burger


Blue Collar’s menu features burgers, hot dogs, shakes and fries. Unofficially, there are also floats and chicken tenders to be had. I noticed a neighboring guest eating chicken tenders, and wondered where they came from until the woman behind the counter mentioned them to a prospective customer on the phone. So, anyway, ordering is pretty simple, since the options are fairly straightforward, and the prices are quite cheap.

MDP and I each ordered a cheeseburger and our very own orders of fries. The cheeseburger was small (1/4 lb.?) and I wish I had ordered the double because it was just that good. The meat is juicy and flavorful, and its special sauce adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the dining experience. Blue Collar thoroughly toasts their potato rolls, so you get a bit of a char flavor. If the place were nicer, and in a better neighborhood, I’d suggest you go there every weekend.

blue collar fries


But, one drawback of Blue Collar is the matchstick fries. They’re wooden and flavorless, although I was so in the mood for fried food that I ate my entire bag (and some of MDP’s).

For dessert, we opted for the peanut butter shake which was rich and creamy, and tasted quite like peanut butter, as it should.

I recommend Blue Collar for a weekend lunch or a summer dinner–sometime when the sunshine is still present and you can navigate the neighborhood without the fear of getting mugged.

Blue Collar

160 Havemeyer Street (between 2nd and 3rd streets)

Williamsburg, New York

Take the J/M/Z to Marcy Avenue or G to Metropolitan Avenue, or for the fearful, take the L to Lorimer and walk south.

Campo de Fiori

campo de fiori bread

perfect bread

So, we trekked all the way to Park Slope for Italian food.

We wanted to go to Frankie’s 457, but there was an hour wait. Lacking the dedication of New Yorker foodies, we set out for other cuisine in the neighborhood. We weren’t sure what we wanted–Thai, Chinese, something else entirely?

Finally, we settled on other Italian food from Campo de Fiori. I was intrigued by their pizza offerings, as the reviews posted in the window discussed their perfect dough. In fact, Campo de Fiori leavens their dough for 24 hours–a long time for pizza dough. Very interesting, so we tried it. The food was delicious; sadly, I can’t say the service was nearly as good as the food.

Campo de Fiori prides itself on being a pizzeria and an Osteria Romana, which, according to their website, has something do with Roman hospitality. They serve pizza, salads and various pasta dishes, and have a nice wine list (though the wines we ordered were not available that night).

I should begin by discussing my “thing” about Italian restaurants: I seldom go to them. Why? I am Italian-American, after all. Shouldn’t I like Italian food? Oh, I do, believe me. I make it all the time. That’s precisely why I don’t like going to Italian restaurants. My thinking is that if I can make it at home, it’s probably not worth trying out. Now, I’m no chef, but I am a pretty good cook, so if I can cook it up, it’s probably at least as good as what some restaurant is going to serve.

That may sound conceited. It’s just honest!

campo de fiori mozzarella di bufala with roasted peppers

mozzarella di bufala with roasted peppers

Once we ordered our food, a server brought us a little bag filled with bread. Now, this was no ordinary bread. It was at once chewy and crisp–exactly the way bread should be. You can see it in the above photo (click to view full size). Don’t drool too much all over your keyboard.

We opted for the roasted peppers with mozzarella di bufala for an appetizer. They way they plated it was interesting–the roasted peppers must have been put into a dish and then flipped onto the plate, with the thinly sliced mozzarella di bufala splaying out around the peppers. What I liked best about this dish was that the roasted peppers were hot. Most of the time, for an appetizer, roasted peppers will be served cold or at room temperature. I liked that they tasted like they were just out of the oven. And the mozzarella was perfect. Highly recommend this dish.

campo de fiori contadina pizza

contadina pizza alla pala

For our entrees, my dining partner ordered the Contadina pizza, which was served with very thinly sliced potatoes atop mozzarella and San Marzano tomatoes, while I ordered the Rigatoni Carbonara. I tried my dining partner’s pizza and the crust was truly spectacular. Like the bread, it was chewy and crisp at the same time. My dining partner said he would have liked for the potatoes to be a bit thicker, but he was overall satisfied with the pizza.

My Rigatoni Carbonara was pretty good, but not fantastic. The pasta was cooked perfectly al dente, which was nice and a surprise. Many times when you go to Italian restaurants, they actually don’t cook the pasta al dente–either too hard or too soft. This was just right. Carbonara involves bacon (or pancetta), egg yolks and cream. Instead of going with the pancetta, it seemed like they used regular bacon, which is worth noting since it was slightly fatty. The sauce itself was pretty good–not entirely flavorful, but not bland either–and shredded parmesan cheese was amply spread across the top of my dish. One thing  that I didn’t find awesome about the pasta was that they used way too much black pepper on top. The pepper overrode the flavor of the Carbonara sauce.

campo de fiori rigatoni carbonara

rigatoni carbonara

After we finished our food, we must have waited 30 minutes for someone to finally take our plates away from us. When we arrived at the restaurant, it was nearly empty, but, over the course of about an hour, the place started to fill up. I guess they were too busy tending to other tables, but why does that make our plates less important to pick up? Finally, someone came over to our table and asked if we wanted dessert (yes, cannolis, which were fine but not made with the typical cannoli cream found in most cannolis). Then, our waiter mistakenly brought our check over (he clearly hadn’t communicated with the man who took our dessert order), and then we waited 10 more minutes until our cannolis were brought to us.

So, the food is pretty good at Campo de Fiori, but don’t expect to get out of there quickly. I would recommend this place if you’re in Park Slope and are in the mood for Italian food, but don’t feel like waiting an hour at Frankie’s

Campo de Fiori

187 5th Avenue

Park Slope, Brooklyn

Take the R to Union Street and walk a few blocks.

Turn yr radio on, the program is a’startin’


Any band that sings a song called “Jesus Wore Flip Flops” is my kind of band.


Alex Battles & the Whisky Rebellion, photo from whisky rebellion website

So when I first experienced Alex Battles and the Whisky Rebellion on July 4 at the Brooklyn Museum, I knew it was love at first listen.

Self-described as “roof-shaking joyful hodgepodge of honky-tonk, jump blues, and rocknroll,” the Whisky Rebellion plays bittersweet ballads punctuated by irreverence and a familiar old-fashioned feeling that keeps your toes tapping and head nodding.  Their band consists of six mainstay members, but every now and then, other players show up or drop out–depends on what night you see ’em. Lots of guitar, a drum, bass, washboard, fiddle, banjo, harmonica, jug, and even a prosletyzer if you’re lucky. I haven’t seen resident prosletyzer, Shafer Hall, nor do I know what views he wishes to share, but I’m intrigued and eager to listen.

On August 15, Furry and I had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Battles with parts of his band at Hank’s Saloon in Brooklyn (Alex Battles has a song about this place). The fiddler wasn’t there, but the music was definitely on.

It’s a Love Story

A band you won’t want to miss live. Upbeat songs such as “It’s Raining in Brooklyn” and “Pennsylvania,” crowd-pleasers at both venues, showcase the harmonica player’s prowess. Shaky Dave is the finest harmonica player … in the five boroughs. (Honestly? I don’t have much to compare to. OK, I can probably speak for NJ.) It’s Shaky Dave’s incredible range and his fun bridge solos that set the tone of each song.

Alex Battles, from his website

Alex Battles, from his website

Alex Battles, guitarist and lead vocalist, delivers lyrics with a deep, charming voice that sounds like smiling. There’s something playful about him: he’s having a good time, so you will too. The man loves the stage almost as much as he loves himself (from the look of his website). With his shit kickers and ten gallon hat, Alex Battles is definitely bringing country back to Brooklyn.

The wiry lead guitarist owns the songs. He’s the one to watch when you see them live. He slinks back and forth in his small area onstage as he dominates the complicated guitar lines. He also plays the washboard and skillfully switches between guitar and washboard (which has to be slung over his head) in seconds.

Another Record to Burn

The only problem I had with the second ABWR performance was the harmonica player. I know, didn’t I just say he was amazing and probably the shining star of the band? He is, but it was too much for me. Before ABWR took stage, another band invited Shaky Dave up to play. By the time he got around to accompanying ABWR, I felt I had heard all his tricks rendering his efforts indistinguishable song to song.

Tied Together With (or Without) a Smile

Totes smiles. Amazing live act and their studio albums are iPod-playlist worthy.

I can’t wait to see ABWR at the three-day Brooklyn Country Music Festival! They’re headlining September 19’s “Giant Saturday” filled with other awesome acts such as the Lonesome Prairie Dogs.

You know you look just like a friend of mine
He’s always drinking two dollar wine
Because he can’t afford the moonshine
Two dollar wine suits him just fine

If you feel you can relate to the above lyrics (you know you can, two buck chuck drinkers), download their albums for free here!