Jill: Do or Dine oozes of hip. We’re talking the kind of hip that never crosses my radar, aside from the occasional interaction with folks who happen to work at Abercrombie & Fitch’s design department. The servers wear yellow hip-huggers with tassles and drink tall boys of Coor’s Light before and after each trip to your table. The kitchen staff looks like Mario or Luigi or both. And the menu descriptions are abrupt and full of intentional misspellings that if you don’t get then we’re not going to tell you. It’s a place where everyone wears whatever replaced Urban Outfitters and American Apparel once that stuff went out of style. And it’s a restaurant that I would have felt extremely uncomfortable in had I not shown up already warmed up by a bottle of wine with Maya at Sample.
Maya: I would’ve been similarly trepidatious if this restaurant had opened in Williamsburg, say, but Do or Dine is located catty-corner from my old apartment. I obsessively monitored the restaurant’s progress while it was in the construction and renovation stages, and I’d been in the neighborhood longer than most of its arriviste hipster clientele—both of which made me utterly and misguidedly proprietary. A meal or three during the summer, before the back patio was completely packed every night and while the place was still BYOB, didn’t hurt.
The first few times I visited, I couldn’t make it past the appetizers. We’re talking stoner food of the highest order: Deviled eggs, one version deep-fried (decadently delicious), the other topped with grilled baby octopus (just a tad too salty); Nippon nachos, insanely addictive fried-to-a-crisp gyoza, topped with cheese, sour cream, and a pile of onion and tomato; the “heart attack,” a pepper stuffed with chevre, salmon and beets (the pepper pretty much overpowered the rest of the ingredients—a rare miss); the much-buzzed-about foie-gras donut, augmented with apricot preserves and powdered sugar; and my hands-down favorite, the beautifully funky lime-and-cumin laced lamb belly.
Maya: Another summertime visit produced a somewhat disappointing cold-smoked corn soup (above), dotted with balled melon, cilantro, and Crunch ‘n’ Munch; a deconstructed Caesar salad (a hunk of grilled romaine, topped with a couple of anchovies and a slice or two of cheese, pinned to a wooden cutting board with a steak knife, and presented with a little dish of dressing—not my favorite); a crabcake, served on a bed of jellyfish and carrots, all crunch and tang; and a great pig’s head terrine (below), served with pickled carrots and an amazing mustard. The head, I learned by eavesdropping on the other end of the table, was gifted by the Meat Hook, and its skull ghoulishly grinned down on us as we gobbled up its remains.
Even with the occasional misfire, I couldn’t wait to share this backyard gem with Jill. She was arriving at 10pm on Friday night, so we’d only have time for two dinners (and, naturally, a late-night arrival snack) during her visit. Do or Dine is closed on Sundays, so it was decided: Saturday belonged to Brooklyn.
Jill: First up, the restaurant’s famed foie-gras doughnut. Like a peanut butter- and jelly-filled doughnut, with foie gras as a substitute for that sticky allergen. The raspberry jam was almost overwhelming, but each bite brought about a new flavor combination.
Maya: I preferred the apricot version, but that didn’t stop me from helping myself to more than one bite. I’m a sucker for that salty-sweet combination, no matter what the Brits say.
Jill: It intrigued me to find the flavor I most associate with my dentist’s office —spearmint—conjoined with my yogurt. I’m not one of those people who fear the dentist, though, so it all worked out in the end for Do or Dine’s take on nachos.
Maya: I didn’t notice mint (I did, however, inhale my portion so quickly that the finer points of the dish may’ve eluded me), but it was obvious from the first bite that the Japanese-Mexican combination, strange as it sounds, just makes sense. This is a weirdly good plate of food.
Maya: My beloved lamb belly has since been replaced with lamb breast, but, thankfully, very little was lost in the translation. The skin is still satisfyingly crunchy, the meat just this side of gamy—perfection.
Maya: Next up, pork-and-wasabi shumai. Though not as creative as the rest of the snack and small-plate sections of the menu, there’s nothing to complain about here. A solid crowd-pleaser, if ever there was one.
Jill: Shannon, an honorary Itinerant Foodie, had this to say about the tako tacos: “I could sit here all day and eat these things. Goat cheese and octopus? C’mon.” I know this not because I have an excellent memory, but because I’ve learned that once the second bottle of wine is being consumed, it’s time to start writing notes on the iPhone. The final note of the evening? I owe Shannon $15.
Maya: We ordered two, and practically licked the plates they came on.
Maya: When my mother came up in September to help me move, we treated ourselves to a post-packing dinner here. Several gin and tonics later (thanks to Do or Dine’s newly acquired liquor license), we ordered two entrées to share: the duck and the District D9ne—head-on prawns in a clam-and-cherry-tomato-studded broth. (Get it? Eh?) The prawns were solid, nothing special, but I can’t remember ever tasting duck quite as delicious as what we were served that night. Unfortunately, Jill was still scarred from her last duck experience, and the fourth member of our party was nursing a wicked hangover, so we went with the safer-sounding Bavette’s Feast: flank steak, crispy mashed potatoes, and collard greens. Though the meat could’ve used more salt, it was tender and flavorful; the potatoes were a winner.
Jill: I can’t not order chicken and waffles. (In truth, when Maya and I are together, there’s not much we can’t not order. This is why our under-the-weather friend Shannon left her cold or flu coma to meet us for dinner. “I knew you guys would order the whole menu,” she admitted to me.) I rewarded myself for eating the tiny bit of green stuff at the top of the pile of meat and carbs. Green stuff is healthy. P.S. Apologies for the subpar photo, but I wanted to show proof that the kitchen staff comes straight from Super Mario Bros.
Jill: Pork. Apple. Cabbage. Like my traditional New Year’s Day dinner (when I get around to making it) this dish has all the makings of the perfect comfort dish. (It was this dish that prompted me to drunk dial Ben with a report on the day’s goings-on. You know, because he loves cabbage. Duh.)
Maya: I liked the pork well enough (if I were to split hairs, the apples in the gratin were a little crunchy for my taste), but I couldn’t get over the fact that it wasn’t the duck. I really wanted that duck. But hey, at least we have something to order next time around, which, let’s face it, is such a rare occurrence around these parts that it’s almost cause for another plane ticket.
Do or Dine
1108 Bedford Avenue