Brooklyn is massive.
Yes, it’s taken me almost half a year to figure out the obvious. NYC’s second largest borough (Queens is the largest) is 183 square kilometres and stretches North from Queens and the bank of the Hudson all the way South to the Atlantic Ocean. It takes 40 minutes to get from downtown Brooklyn to JFK International Airport, which is the same amount of time it takes to get to Grand Central in Manhattan. A walk from Park Slope to Clinton Hill takes a modest 20 minutes, on a good day that is, and if you want to take your bike from Greenpoint (Williamsburg) all the way to Brooklyn Marine Park, well you better factor in a good hour and a half for the ride. One way of course.
I’m speaking from experience.
Last weekend the Intolerants headed to Brooklyn’s deep south in a bid to discover Barren Island and Jamaica Bay parks. It was a balmy fall day, brisk, but not too cold and though the sky was overcast there was never any threat of rain. We figured the trip would take 40 minutes at most and were gobsmacked when we were still pedalling away 55 minutes later to find ourselves only 2/3 of the way there. We managed to make it to the browning Marine Park just in time to realize that we were famished and needed to eat in the next 30 minutes lest we fall off our bikes due to exhaustion. Turning into road kill right then and there.
Luckily for us, the neighbourhood of Ditmas/South Flatbush isn’t all that far from the Marine Park, so our ambition was to race up to The Farm on Adderley before they closed the doors on their lunch service. Lady luck wasn’t on our side though, however we only figured that out 15 minutes into our journey towards Ditmas. During a stop to decide which road to take we realized there was no way we’d make it to Cortelyou Road in time to devour some of the best fries I’ve had in Brooklyn thus far.
A drawback it was in more ways than one, but to paraphrase Fraulein Maria: when a door closes, somewhere a window is opened.
The place where we stopped to get our bearings – 10 minutes out from The Farm – our eyes fell upon a small makeshift diner on the corner of Newkirk Avenue in South Flatbush. Though mid-afternoon was well upon us, the place was modestly busy as several patrons brunched and lunched at sturdy wooden tables. We rolled a bit closer to take a better look inside and eye up the menu that was affixed to the window. Given that they were still serving food and it looked quite cozy we locked up our rides and decided to give it a try. I mean, I was already so consumed with hanger that I could have cobbled together a lunch from the local kiosk and been marginally appeased.
That’s how far gone I was.
And so we entered Ox Cart Tavern, a place that isn’t about frills or sophistication, but delivers on a host of other factors, good food being the most important. While Ox Cart doesn’t try to bedazzle you with a wordy menu or swank decor it does make a play to be your friend. It wants to be that jovial neighbourhood joint where you rock up to watch a game, have a mimosa with your eggs or inhale a grass-fed burger with a side of home cut fries, and does quite a decent job of fitting the bill on all counts. Settling into our booth (replete with an antique banquette) and intent on replenishing all those calories we burned racing through Brooklyn, we both went for burgers that came with a generous helping of fries.
After biding our time making small talk and eyeing up the decor (which was nothing to write home about, though it was cozy and quaint, just what you’d expect at a tavern) two hulking plates of food arrived and we celebrated by ceasing all conversation and diving in. Mr. Intolerant had nothing to say for a good 10 minutes as he relished his beef burger and let the cheese ooze from the sides of the patty and bacon grease drip over his bun, off of his lettuce and onto his fries. His fingers too.
That being said I was no Ms. Chatterbox because I was equally mesmerised by my veggie burger that was comprised of eggplant, black beans, quinoa, flax, hemp and zucchini. It had a nice kick to it and was hearty and filling, but of course I spent more time mooning over the fries, which were really nice. Hand cut, nicely seasons and accompanied with a side of mayo, I have a feeling I would have been happy with those fries alone.
Overall, the atmosphere was great and the staff were pleasant and helpful (our server double checked to make sure there wasn’t any dairy cross-contamination when it came to my order). Though we were in and out of Ox Cart and didn’t linger for too long (places to go, things to see!) it was a place we agreed to put on our “Biking Brooklyn” map so the next time we find ourselves in dire straits (read: South Brooklyn) we have a “home away from home.” A place where we can dig in. Fill up. Replenish.
And roll on.
Ox Cart Tavern
1301 Newkirk Ave
(between Argyle and Rugby Roads)
Tel: +1 (718) 284-0005
Monday to Friday: 17:00 – 00:00
Saturday and Sunday: 11:00 – 00:00