Friday, May 3, 2013

Aftertaste: Notes on Reviewing Sweet Chick in Williamsburg

Sweet Chick in Williamsburg is a restaurant that, more than anything, surprised me. I walked in and I was ready to be disappointed. 

It's on Bedford Ave in Williamsburg, where most new restaurants are either too cool for school and/or so highly concept-driven that they overlook the quality of the food, even in a town where everyone is a discerning eater. Bedford Ave in Williamsburg is a lot like Smith Street in Carroll Gardensthere are more restaurants than you can shake a stick at, and yet nothing really sticks out (though there are notable spots on both streets). 

In particular, too many of the restaurants on Bedford Ave and the surrounding area try too hard to cater to the Williamsburg clientele and loose originality and character in doing so. Trendiness breeds complacency among many of the new establishments which, like pubescent teens, care more about fitting in than finding their own niche or adding their own value to the community. We want to tell them, "just be yourself!" But they just want the Edison lightbulbs and the kale salads and the reclaimed hardwood countertops like everyone else. Puberty, in fact, is an apt description for Williamsburg's food scene right now. There's no doubt Williamsburg is on its way to becoming a landmark dining destination (perhaps it already is), but it carries a teenage awkwardness with it too right now. Gentrification causes growing pains. An evolving identity causes social discomfort. 

And so it's this puberty that makes reviewing restaurants in Williamsburg difficult, because you want to recognize the restaurants' strengths, but they can act like annoying teens. When I walked into Sweet Chick to review it for this week's Brooklyn Paper, the "Spread Love, It's the Brooklyn Way" sign above the counter made me cringe. Really? I thought. And so I thought I knew what I was in for. But, as you can read in my review above, the food was surprisingly good. For a restaurant designed around Chicken and Waffels, their version had better be good. And it is. A kale salad, a Brooklyn staple, was one of the best I've ever had, coated in a tangy sour cream dressing and topped with killer house-cured bacon. And while other dishes didn't always deliver, I left satisfied. 

In the hustle and bustle of the Williamsburg food scene, it can be hard to look past the noise and find real pleasure in a plate of food. And while I'll keep preaching "be true to thine own self" to each and every restaurant, judging by the quality of the food alone, Williamsburg has some real standouts. And Sweet Chick is no exception.  

Sweet Chick 
164 Bedford Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn 

Newspaper Clip © The Brooklyn Paper May 3, 2013

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