I don’t often make it to Gowanus. It’s a bit of a forgotten neighborhood in Brooklyn. When one of my best friends told me he would be opening his first restaurant in this area I was skeptical, even a bit worried for him. After having been several times now, I can say (without bias!) that he hit it out of the park in décor, food, and service. Since opening several months ago, Freeks Mill has received wide acclaim from NY Mag, NY Times, and Eater to name a few.
The executive chef is Chad Shaner, whom I had the pleasure of working with at Union Square Café where he was the executive sous chef for 8 years. Shaner has a killer NYC restaurant resume and pulled former coworkers of his into the new restaurant. At his restaurant you’ll find a wood-fired oven, a no-tipping policy, and an offbeat wine list.
The space is insanely beautiful. There are two dining rooms. One with a large bar and a second with a huge open kitchen. You may sit at tables or right at the counter watching the chefs. They are in the middle of the room, putting on a dinner show for their guests. There are stained wood floors, brick walls, and modern polished finishes everywhere. The space is upscale enough for a special occasion but comfortable enough that could make it your neighborhood spot.
The food is a great mix of seasonal small plates. There are tons of vegetable options, pastas, and meat dishes. The plating style is casual and they encourage sharing. Something I liked is that the dishes are small, so you can truly try 6-7 plates between two people and not leave feeling sick. One of my favorite dishes was the BBQ kohlrabi with grits and mustard greens because it was so savory and shockingly meaty for a vegetarian dish. Both of the pasta dishes, the pappardelle and the swiss chard agnolotti were the perfect texture. The dry-aged duck was made extra special with the addition of crispy fried cranberry beans. You can round out the meal with a large selection of roasted vegetables. Because the place is so beautiful and the menu is expansive, I could truly eat here multiple times a week. Here’s what we had:
Steak tartar with pickled ramps & quail egg
Dandelion salad with fried chicken livers & egg
Swiss chard agnolotti with lobster & chanterelles
Pappardelle with rabbit ragu, guanciale, and ricotta
Sirloin strip with rapini & aligot potatoes
Dry-aged duck with refried cranberry beans