This article is presented in partnership with Connoisseur as part of our flavour tour of Brooklyn. You can watch our episode on Bed Stuy here, and read about one of its iconic establishments—Berg'n—below.
It's been two years since the space opened in Brooklyn's Crown Heights, but Berg'n has finally hit a sweet spot. "We've started gliding a little bit," admits founder Eric Demby. "Each of the vendors you see here is running their own business, we just give them the space to do it. Turn over is part of the plan. If you were to come here every six months you'd see something different. It's basically an experiment in real-time."
Demby's lab is a 9000-square-foot former garage, and the experiment combines raw veg salads, wild yeast saisons, ice cream sandwiches, adobo wings, 'dirty' fries smothered with béarnaise, and a 'pig face rice bowl' full of jowls, ears, and pork belly in a smartly designed indoor market-type space.
The neighbourhood is having its moment too. Twenty years ago, the area was recovering from massive race riots when Orthodox Jewish residents clashed with local African-American and Caribbean communities. Ten years back, the divide was still healing, but more Latino, Asian, and young Americans were moving to the area. These days, the main arguments are over which craft beer is best: a Berliner weisse with grapefruit and mandarin, or hoppy American pilsner brewed with corn?
Berg'n's the place to settle these bougie scores. The long beer list and even longer communal tables have the hallmarks of a beer hall, which is matched with drinking food: smoked brisket and burnt ends from barbecue heroes Mighty Quinn, "obsessively made" pizza from newcomers Bread and Salt, "supreme grilled cheese" from Landhaus, and Filipino treats from Lumpia Shack. Unlike other markets, it doesn't depend on weekend crowds or rowdy weather, which is exactly what Demby and co-founder Jonathan Butler wanted. The duo started the Brooklyn Flea vintage markets and Williamsburg's foodie version, Smorgasburg. Berg'n was an obvious evolution.
Sensible design adds a sophisticated note to the whole affair. White-painted brick, stainless steel counters, copper light fixtures and reclaimed-wood tables nod to the building's industrial past. Part of the roof has been knocked off to create an enclosed courtyard built for (what else) sinking beer after beer on a long summer evening.
Presented by Connoisseur
Photographer: Tony Choy-Sutton