With a pink, neon sign and name that will make your mouth water, Potlikker, located on the south side of Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, invites you in for the kind of cooking you would expect from such a title: comforting and delicious, but with a flair reminiscent of the curly lettering on that bright, pink sign. Boasting “a modern take on dishes that have been around for many years,” Potlikker provides a homey, Southern vibe while fitting right in with its trendy restaurant neighbors.
Liza Queen, chef and owner, opened Potlikker in June 2012. Her second restaurant in North Brooklyn, Potlikker follows the cuisine of Queen’s Hideaway, Liza’s Greenpoint eatery that shut its doors in 2009. Though “very Brooklyn food” graced the menus at both locations, Queen describes Potlikker’s dishes as an improvement on the “simple American classics” she served at the Hideaway.
Reflecting the notions of simple and classic, the décor at Potlikker is fairly sparse. Having gone in for lunch, I found the atmosphere well suited a quiet midday break from pounding pavement on Bedford Avenue. A soothing color palette and clean design set the stage for a non-intrusive waitress to lead my party to a table in the back, where she poured water from a glass bottle left at the table.
We started off with the mixed pickle pot and quickly got acquainted with one of the restaurant’s specialties. From watermelon rinds to beets and fennel, each food gained unique dimension from the pickling process. Though the bread and butter pickles underwhelmed in such a collection, this was only due to the unexpected perfection of pickled fennel.
It was lucky we felt that way, as the taste of fennel pervaded throughout the meal (perhaps just because it had gotten all over our share plates). Since it was lunchtime, we decided to try an almost full sampling of the sandwiches. The side options offered potato in two forms (salad or fries), both of which worked well the sandwiches and deserve equal recommendation. Always a fan of curly fries, I especially enjoyed the extra spice and the not-too-crispy consistency.
Having traveled a lot within the U.S., Queen put together the lunch menu by compiling her favorite sandwiches from across the country (at least, she ones she could actually sell) and pumping up the quality. This is why you’ll find Queen’s version of a Philly cheesesteak next to an Oyster Po’ Boy on the menu.
Some of these classics fared better than others after Potlikker’s makeover. A bit too salty, the Reuben may have been best left to the deli counter, but the thick, spongy bread marked a welcome addition to the classic. I had been looking forward to the Oyster Po’ Boy with bacon and meyer lemon marmalade, for which Queen got her inspiration at a farmer’s market in LA, where she tried an oyster po’ boy padded with very thinly sliced lemon. With the addition of bacon to compliment the marmalade, Queen’s creation went a bit too far in masking the taste of oyster but otherwise successfully put a twist on an American classic that felt “very Brooklyn,” indeed. Each sandwich came with a surprising but ultimately appropriate bread choice (Oyster Po’ Boy on ciabatta—you wouldn’t have thought) and, on thick, wooden cutting boards, a well thought out presentation.
The Duck Confit Banh Mi stood out as the star of the lunch menu. Showcasing Potlikker’s knack for pickling, the Banh Mi featured pickled mustard seed to add both texture and extra sharpness to the duck croquette, shaved ham, orange, cilantro, and sweet and sour shallots. Instead of overdoing it with the add-ons, this sandwich married flavors that felt meant to be. With pink ham, yellow citrus and green from the cucumber and cilantro, it was not only the tastiest sandwich on the lunch menu but also the most aesthetically appealing.
Since I was only able to get to Potlikker during lunch, I feel compelled to head back for dinner, where heartier options and super indulgent desserts (like the “Stoner Special,” featuring peanut butter ice cream and pretzel streusel and chocolate ganache) tantalize from the online menu. With laid-back (in a good way) but prompt service and an atmosphere to match, I would like to experience what other culinary surprises Liza Queen has to offer. Check out their website at http://potlikkerbrooklyn.com/ or try it yourself in Williamsburg at 338 Bedford Avenue.