A new restaurant, Rider, opened last Friday inside National Sawdust. Here’s what people are saying.
From Grub Street:
A hospitality rider is a set of dressing-room demands made of a venue by a presumably diva-esque performer; perhaps the most famous one stipulated that Van Halen’s snack bowl never be sullied with brown M&M;’s. And although the restaurant inhabiting Williamsburg’s new National Sawdust performance space takes its name from that contractual agreement, chef-owner Patrick Connolly hasn’t organized his menu around the appetites of visiting artists. Instead, he hopes to tempt the dining public with griddled mortadella draped over ricotta toast, beets with blue cheese and crispy quinoa, and clams in bacon-coconut broth. Roughly 65 seats are divided between two floors, with a marble bar downstairs, a wall of windows above, and a bench made of timber salvaged from the building’s former life as an actual sawdust factory.
Gothamist has more:
The restaurant accompaniment to Williamsburg’s classy new music venue National Sawdust made its debut performance on Friday evening. Chef Patrick Connolly (Bobo, along with restaurants in Boston and St. Louis) composed Rider—named for the hospitality contracts given to venues by musicians—a bi-level restaurant offering gourmet renditions of classic American dishes. As befits the current hospitality climate, there’s no tipping on a dinner of chicken nuggets and steak tartare.
Connolly’s menu designates the dishes are sharable; as such, it consists mainly of entree plates, though there are a few snacks like Mushroom Toast ($8) and Gougers ($6) that’d be good finger food before a show at the venue. The chef’s Chicken Wings ($14) are tastefully deboned and lacquered with a sweet and spicy sauce, his French Dip ($18) is open-faced and served with a roasted marrow bone, and Mortadella ($12) gets griddled and artfully arranged atop ricotta and sunflower puree over toast.
There’s a small bar in the downstairs portion of the restaurant, where Colby Zito presents cocktails ($15) like the Mitch Hedberg nod “Koala Infestation” (Jamaican rum, Pisco, thai basil, curacao, peanut, lime and pineapple) and “Bernie Sanders Rookie Card” (apple brandy, white rum, vanilla, grenadine, lemon and sparkling wine). Perch there on the bar stools (with backs, mercifully) or over by the large window that spans the length of the restaurant along North 6th Street.
Connolly was approached several years ago, when National Sawdust was under development. The owner of the space was looking for someone to helm the restaurant that would be adjacent to the music performance venue. The project ended up being put on hold. “We got lost for a while,” Connolly said. He and his wife moved to St. Louis, opened a restaurant and had a baby. As construction on National Sawdust began to amp back up, so did plans to open Rider, drawing Connolly back to the East Coast.
The menu at Rider, which bills itself as a “contemporary bistro,” is heavy on vegetables and shared plates. “It’s a little bit like greatest hits,” Connolly explained. “I’m not really sticking to any particular style. I’m trying to give life to this notion of an American restaurant, something that’s uniquely American that’s derived from my influences and people I’ve come across, and people I’ve cooked with,” he continued. “The main thing is it’s stuff I like to eat.”
The bi-level dining room channels a post-industrial vibe through raw wood detailing, concrete veneer and exposed brick. It was also crafted to reflect its musical partnership. Connolly enlisted the same architecture group that designed National Sawdust, and as inspiration gave them the bassline from Brooklyn native Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side.”
“It’s simple, but textured, deep and dynamic,” explained Connolly. “I wanted the first floor to represent a punk band in the Eighties on their first tour.” The upstairs space, meanwhile, is darker and plusher, representative of a green room where someone more advanced in their career — say, Keith Richards — might be put up while playing a larger venue.
80 North 6th Street in Williamsburg
Brooklyn, NY 11249