I'm a grad student in Virginia planning a courthouse wedding with my partner in Brooklyn this December with our families shipping in from Wisconsin. We feel very strongly about getting married in a state that allows all of our friends to be married, which has caused some family grief over travel and location, but we simply can't care about all of that BS. Our values, our wedding, and the fact that they support our relationship outweighs their frustrations with how we are actually signing the documents.
Here's the thing: I've only been to Brooklyn once, at least four years ago, and my partner has never been there. We are using you and my sister (grad student at Columbia and former Brooklyn resident) as our sources of trustworthy recommendations. The only things set in stone are a courthouse wedding at the Brooklyn Courthouse in the early afternoon and rooms reserved at the NU Hotel. Oh yeah, and Love & Brain will be doing our videography! We would like to keep activities in the relatively small vicinity of Downtown Brooklyn due to unpredictable and cold December weather. Also, moving a group of about 10-12 adults across the city (when only one is a Big City person) sounds stressful.
My problem is this: our families present a bit of a culture clash. Mine: urban, architects and musicians. His: rural, mechanics. We have 6 adult siblings between us, and their interests fall all over the map. The two of us are urban and veer toward trendy. Again, our wedding, our rules, but seeing as we have already asked our families to come all of the way out to NY we would like to find an activity for a December afternoon and a nice restaurant where we can treat these 10 adults (and possibly three of our nieces) to a fun experience after the ceremony.
I am looking for your help in recommending the following things:
An activity within a smart distance from the courthouse or NU Hotel for the afternoon of 12.12.12 that will be neutral enough to be enjoyable for most of our group.
A restaurant for the evening of 12.12.12 that is affordable enough (under $600 for all of us), family friendly, but also nice enough to celebrate our marriage.
Is this even possible?
I brought back my expert.
Matthew Downes is currently in Wyoming, preparing a 12-course Austrian-style dinner for 18, but he was kind enough to write up a few restaurant recommends while sitting on the plane:
I can’t think of a more robust location for dining than Brooklyn. There tends to be an overarching theme of good, wholesome, seasonal food in this borough, but it certainly comes with plenty of variety. Given the size of Brooklyn, you could traipse near and far for great eats, but Smith and Court Streets in Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens provide enough choices for those staying off Atlantic Ave. Dining anywhere in New York always adds up, but if you can stay away from the more expensive cocktails (though I’m not sure you should!), you should be able to fit the food within your budget.
Char No. 4: I think this is the perfect spot to bring a crowd from a varied background. It’s hip enough for the urbanites, but not pretentious in the least. The food has a southern accent, but this is no BBQ joint. I highly (highly) recommend the pork nuggets as a little tasting tease. Think chicken nuggets, but oh so much better! Other notables include the house cured lamb pastrami and the hangar steak. It’s definitely meat heavy, but there are plenty of vegetables to go around and a risotto in case there are any vegetarians among the bunch. It is a whiskey bar and they have a huge selection of bourbons and ryes. For the best Bloody Mary ever! Chipotle and Bourbon marry perfectly for this drink enjoyed any time of day.
(Char No. 4 by Noah Sheldon via New York Magazine)
Seersucker: Another Southern inspired restaurant, Seersucker is a great neighborhood joint. The décor is soft and simple and very inviting. You’ll find favorites like biscuits, fried chicken and collard greens with potlikker, along with delightful creations combining Southern soul and local produce and meats. Though this dish won’t be around in December, the Upstate Duck Breast, paired with sweet corn, beets and burnt sorghum, is a great example of a Southern chef cooking in Brooklyn.
Buttermilk Channel: Moving from Smith Street to Court Street, you’ll find some great options for a wedding meal at Buttermilk Channel. Like many of Brooklyn’s restaurants, Buttermilk Channel is just a great neighborhood restaurant serving up quality seasonal food. While the South has moved further north with culinary influences on many menus, including Buttermilk Channel’s (Fried Chicken and Cheddar Waffle anyone?), it’s the attention to seasonal produce that I find most appealing here. The clean approach to using amazing local products is evident in the Mediterranean inspired Warm Lamb and Romaine Salad. They also have a full vegetarian menu making it the most vegetable friendly of the group.
(Chicken and Waffles from Buttermilk Channel)
Prime Meats: Another Court Street favorite, there is nothing Southern American about Prime Meats. A great décor with plenty of dark wood and leather, this Bavarian style menu offers up plenty of meat, which might be what the doctor orders if a chilly wind blows through in December. The rustic menu isn’t fussy, just delicious, with great little spins on ingredients, such as pretzel dumplings. The wursts and schnitzel are great, as well as the spätzles. Prime Meats is definitely the most expensive of the four and can fill up fast, so definitely inquire as to what they can offer.
Finally, just a few more suggestions in the neighborhood. For a great cocktail, perhaps after dinner, hit up The JakeWalk. For something more divey and arguably the best jukebox in the city, I recommend Boat Bar on Smith St. And one more brunch suggestion, in case you need to cure the wedding hangover, is Mile End. They serve up scrumptious Montreal-style Jewish deli food. A step above Katz’s Deli, in my opinion.
(Karlsbad Old Fashioned from The Jake Walk)
Please Note: I let Matthew off the hook on the activity front (that is if COCKTAILS don't count as an activity), so please have at it in the comments.
Image at top: Trent Bailey via Brooklyn Bride