366 Metropolitan Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Cuisine: American Nouveau/Bar Snacks
Our Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Cards: All Major
Hours: Sun-Thurs 4pm-Midnight; Fri-Sat 4pm-1am
Booze: Full Bar
Subway: L to Bedford Ave. or Lorimer Street.
With its distinctly small-town feel–swiveling bar seats, Denny’s-style booths, fish mounted on the wall–this bar should make any Midwestern transplant feel right at home. In keeping with its aim to be a simple, neighborhood bar, the Commodore’s drink list hails from Anywhere, USA, with classic cocktails from Tom Collins to Hurricanes, frozen drink machines and a standard lineup of beers and hooch. It’s the kitchen, though, that’s the real surprise, with Pies ‘n’ Thighs alum Steven Tanner turning out one of the best burgers in Brooklyn, excellent fried chicken and other well-priced all-American grub (from $7 burgers to $6 asparagus and ramps).
NY Mag says:
The Commodore’s current clientele seems drawn in, in large part, by the kitschy cocktails (the house drink is a piña colada with an amaretto float) and cheap beer, the weekend D.J. (recently, the funk-and-soul stylings of the excellent Mr. Fine Wine), and the festive vibe. There are video games and one of those faceless cardboard cutouts depicting King Kong and Fay Wray, popular among carnivalgoers. But for the U.G., the food’s the thing, no matter how many hoops it’s necessary to jump through to get at it, including elbowing your way to the bar to place an order, starting a tab or settling up at once, and claiming some precious real estate. (The four back-room booths—where the U.G. joined a bunch of burger aficionados, a Hells Angel or two, and a pair of grown men binge-drinking fruity pink cocktails one recent night—are your best bet.)
When that chicken arrives, it’s a looker: three substantial thighs to a plate, with hot sauce, tender mini-biscuits, and honey butter. It’s hot and juicy, with a craggy crust that crackles resoundingly when you bite into it, the way a good croissant does. In short, it’s among the best fried chicken in town. But there is much more to Tanner’s brief menu. There is, for instance, the “adult cheese” sandwich, a pimento-and-poblano assemblage of such perfect creamy, crispy texture and rich, tangy flavor that it might be too fine to waste on the neighborhood’s booming toddler population. Other elevated pub grub includes a vinegary pulled-pork sandwich, a towering, satisfying, and well-dressed burger, first-rate fries, and two soupy stews: a fragrant green-chile posole with chicken, and the “black-eyed pea surprise!,” in which a biscuit or hunk of cornbread is drowned in legumes.
Tanner must have the vegetarian-locavore constituency in mind with plates like springy sautéed rainbow chard and snap peas with hard-cooked egg. A terrific “Saltie” potato salad mingled with pimentón-spiked mayo and strewn with parsley is not particularly salty but a tribute to his friends at the sandwich shop down the block. Even the chicken tacos—swaddled in double soft-corn tortillas and garnished with onion and cilantro—make a lasting impression.
Down-home and delicious, melding southern, Mexican, and (though he might shudder at the term) New Brooklyn Cuisine, Tanner’s cooking raises the bar-food bar. Take that, Applebee’s.