When I first walked by Brooklyn Standard I was with a friend who stopped and said, “It looks like a fancy bodega!” A man stepping out of the front door asked, “What’s wrong with fancy?”
The man turned out to be Cody Utzman founder and owner of the month old Brooklyn Standard. Utzman is also the man behind the Greenpoint Mexican food hotspot, Papacito’s, and is the founder and onetime chef of Brooklyn Label (He resigned the post in February of 2008). With his latest venture, Utzman hopes to set a new standard for the neighborhood corner store giving you, “Everything you love about your local Bodega.”
That said, all the trappings of my regular bodega are there—cold drinks, newspapers, coffee, eggs on a roll, even Advil and razors behind the counter—but kicked up a notch, evidenced first by a giant chandelier over the kitchen. Then you start to see the other differences. The products on the shelves are either made in Brooklyn or sourced locally, the same goes for the produce—featuring fruits and vegetables that are always in-season, fresh and from area farms. Many products bear the Brooklyn Standard brand name—hummus, pasta sauce, and pickles—and are made onsite. There is also a hot and cold salad bar that includes many vegan options that look and smell delicious.
However, one of the true marks of a Bodega is how well they make a sandwich. I will go far out of my way for a good sandwich, so I wondered if Brooklyn Standard was up to the challenge of serving up a stellar one.
I tried two sandwiches off the new permanent menu: “The Killer” and “The BQE”. All sandwiches are served on grilled foccacia in place of the standard hero roll. The BQE was totally vegetarian stacked with hummus, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, pickled purple cabbage and drizzled aioli. I usually avoid cucumbers, not being a fan of slimy or bland, (and they forgot to hold mine), but the cucumbers—like everything else in the sandwich—were light, fresh and flavorful.
This brings me to my next selection, The Killer, which is just that—killer. Egg, bacon, cheddar, grilled onions, dried tomatoes are stacked together and drizzled with a tomato gastrique, a thick sweet sauce to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes. The sweetness of the gastrique and the onions was a perfect compliment to the salt of the bacon and cheddar. While slightly pricier than sandwiches at other local delis, the flavors are far more complex and worth the extra couple bucks.
Don’t forget to pick-up a cup of coffee while you are there. The coffee is provided by the Portland, Oregon based roaster, Stumptown Coffee. The house coffee was quality, and the espresso drinks looked equally delicious.
According to Utzman, the Brooklyn Standard seeks to be both an eco-friendly, “green” bodega, and socially responsible to employees and the neighborhood. It is easy to see how, in the wrong hands, a deli claiming to be the new “standard” complete with vintage décor and crystal chandelier could be an eye-roller, unwelcome in the community. But not so here. The staff is cheerful, the customers are cheerful, even the landlord next door chatted with us as he wandered in and out of the store. And with its eco-friendly mission, who could ask for more? Clearly, thought has been given to becoming a part of the community and not simply changing it. Will we ever completely give up the slightly dingy corner store where we sneak in to by a Coke or a newspaper, or an occasional guilty Twinkie? Maybe not. But to answer the question posed at the beginning of this article, there is nothing wrong with a little fancy, especially when it’s done so right.