At least a dozen New York institutions have been glorified (though not always justifiably) in one very recent popular American TV series about the relationship between the sexes, when one of the main characters Miranda a taxi driver refused to drive into Brooklyn. Of course, she and her friends later move into this area, which proves more than just a little stressful, but also includes a turning point in the life of our leading actress.
Today, business in Brooklyn is very different.
The traditional perception of New York City through the pathos and gloss of Manhattan in recent years has moved toward a colourful and original Brooklyn, including a gastronomic component which has been evaluated by many a guru in the restaurant business. Today, Brooklyn is a collection of a wide variety of culinary stories that tell of street food, fusion, and new-fangled trends.
In one way or another, there are various people without whom the area never would have emerged from the shadows of glamorous Manhattan. Andrew Tarlow, whose name has perhaps been immortalised in the annals of Brooklyn’s restaurant industry, is just such a person.
Even at the dawn of his career, Tarlow had little care for strategies or business plans, deciding to completely surrender to his long-held dream and open a place where the food was tasty, the experience soulful, and the menu inexpensive. After studying in the Art Department at the University of Arizona for about a year, he travelled to Africa, where strangers offered him food, shelter, and friendship. “I lived off of the kindness of others,” he says, and in the same breath remembers back to 1994 when he thought about opening a small restaurant in Williamsburg with the name, simply, Diner.
Tarlow, along with his friend and partner Mark Firth, wanted to create a place for members of the arts– artists, musicians, actors –to while away the evenings, enjoying high-quality, but affordable food. The concept was simple –every dish should be served with some kind of potato. A young woman by the name of Kerelayn Fidanza, who just happened to live next door, shared Tarlow and Firth’s ideas and gastronomic preferences and was to become head chef. The opening took place on the eve of the 1999/2000 New Year celebrations – a symbolic event for many reasons, not least of which because the Diner was to become the benchmark of a new culinary era in Brooklyn.
Mark and Kerelayn have long since left Diner team ranks, however there are still those who clamour to the venue, looking to sink their teeth into one of the city’s most delicious burgers, its crispy roast potatoes, succulent steaks, and other seemingly uncomplicated dishes. The unpretentious menu continues to attract an array of fans, many of whom include sophisticated Manhattaners. If you happen to be out and about looking for Diner, you’ll want to keep an eye open for a railway dining car from the last century, which has been fitted out to meet all the needs of today. Take a seat at one of the typical train tables located around the perimeter, and enjoy your food served by tattooed waiters jiving to punk rock music hits.
Another brainchild of Tarlow’s– Marlow & Sons, appeared on the scene a little later, winning fame among lovers of sparkling wine, oysters, and baked chicken. As a supporter of farm products of only the highest quality and from only the most trusted places, Tarlow set up a small shop in the lobby of Marlow & Sons, called Marlow & Daughters, which grabbed the attention of gourmets with its array of specialities from all of the best farms. In addition to the savoury, those with a sweet tooth can indulge in a variety of desserts, from homemade pies to cakes, biscuits, and cookies.
With his restaurant businesses proving huge successes, Tarlowhas continued looking into other opportunities and working on other projects – each of which have been no less fruitful. One includes the Italian restaurant Roman’s, where Executive Chef Dave Gould showcases his culinary improvisations. And let’s not forget She Wolf Bakery, where Tarlow really gets “fired up” about baking homemade bread.
Regardless of the project, Tarlow’s ideas are almost always associated with unexpected answers to sometimes difficult questions. His search for a location for the Bakery led him to Greenpoint, for example – a space perfect for bars, pubs, and other nightlife engagements. It is here Tarlow set up the café and cocktail bar Achilles Heel – serving a variety of dishes by day, and the country’s best cocktails by night.
One of the most recent restaurants in the Tarlow dynasty has been Reynard in the Wythe Hotel, built right on the site of an old factory. Starting without a single star, and rooms numbering a very modest 70, the Hotel has since turned itself into one of the most sought-after in New York. The interior of the Wytheis quite succinct –sparkling crystal chandeliers will not be found hanging from the ceilings, and there are no rare animal skins nailed to the wall or found on the floor. Instead, the walls are paved with brick, and the floor is decorated with intricate patterns of handmade tiles. Almost everything, from the high ceilings, to the virtually invisible fittings and furniture done in soft pastels, give off a sense of space and light. To finish off the effect, wide panoramic windows frame the mirrored facades of fashionable Manhattan, as if trying to lure Brooklyners inside.
If Diner has become a favourite place for the whole of the neighbourhood, Reynard in the Wythe attracts gourmets from across the Atlantic, wherea procession of beautifully dressed people wait for their turn at The Ides, a rooftop bar that allows its visitors to admire the magnificent panoramic view over a glass or two of whiskey or the best cocktails in the city.
Despite the fact that many did not believe that Tarlow would be able to shoot through the tough walls of Brooklyn with his ingenuity, things couldn’t be better for the restaurateur. It’s all thanks to his passion for natural products, specially selected for each restaurant, his desire to find space for the people – and not just for the sake of making money, and certainly his impeccable taste, that he has found his own style of success.