Most activities we played as kids don’t exactly hold up. Tamagotchis were really cool, but then we got cell phones. AIM is now Tinder. Checkers have always been the worst. But forts? Forts have always, and will always, be an exciting thing.
Pillows, sheets, chairs, and all the Oreos/Cheeze-Its in the cabinet - you used whatever you could find to build a mystical lair in the middle of your living room while the babysitter watched The Blair Witch Project. Now that you have neither a babysitter nor ample space in your living room, you can try to recreate the fort experience by camping, but that involves dirt and effort. You could “glamp,” but that requires hundreds of dollars to stay in a trailer. Or you could just replace your bed with a tent. But we’ll go to 21 Greenpoint.
The whole restaurant feels like a hideout. If you weren’t looking for it, you’d never just pass it - it’s in a townhouse almost at the water’s edge in Greenpoint. The space is long and narrow, with lots of smaller nooks and crannies for making your own. If you want to drink and eat alone, the giant v-shaped bar is your spot. If you want to meet someone for a noncommittal date, there are-not-overly romantic two-tops by some windows. If you’re looking to spread out with a crew, walk towards the back where you’ll find multiple levels of tile-and-wood tables, hanging plants, and other things you’d want to outfit your fort (or apartment) with. Even the bathroom is in an A-frame hut in the middle of the restaurant, if you need a place to camp out when your date starts to take a turn for the worst.
But one thing your fort definitely never had was food this good. 21 Greenpoint serves seasonal American stuff - but before you fall asleep just reading that phrase, know that theirs is actually interesting. Sure, you can get good pizza here, and there’s always a pasta and a burger - but there’s also super seasonal stuff (like an outstanding bowl of beets, watermelon, and goat cheese), and in the place of your standard roast chicken there’s a roulade involving hummus, bacon, and merguez. It’s the kind of menu where everyone can find something they like, or, even better - everyone can share a bunch of different things and walk out feeling like they got to try a lot.
To be clear, 21 Greenpoint is very much a grown-up place. It’s an interesting-feeling spot, with interesting-tasting food, and an atmosphere perfect for hiding from all the annoying adult things you have to take care of. That said, picking up a package of Oreos on your way home is never a bad idea.
The vegetables and smaller plates on 21 Greenpoint’s menu are all seasonal, and generally very good. Get some of them on the table to feel like you reaped the benefits of the farmer’s market, minus all the chopping. If this plate of watermelon, beets, goat cheese, and pine nuts is still available, order it - it was outstanding.
Perfectly-cooked black spaghetti coated in a garlic sauce and sprinkled with clams. If you’re a person who doesn’t like things “too garlicky,” don’t order this. Otherwise, get it on the table.
Serving pizza across the street from Paulie Gee’s is bold. Maybe even kind of dumb. But then you think about it, realize they probably get all the people who don’t want to wait hours for dinner, and you realize it’s genius. Their pizzas aren’t as good as Paulie’s (obviously), but they do the trick just fine. Our move here is to split one as an appetizer for the table.
The night we had this, they were using lamb merguez instead of ground beef, because they had a lot of it on hand. This is an example of one of 21 Greenpoint’s big priorities: sustainability. (They used to do a Sunday $21 five-course prix fixe made up of the week’s leftover food, but it got so popular that they could no longer actually sustain it.) Anyway, we this would probably be better with ground beef, but it’s a good, double-stacked, classic burger.
Give us a roast chicken and we will probably eat it. Give us roast chicken stuffed with merguez, wrapped with bacon, sitting in broth bath, and we will definitely, definitely eat it.