When Doug Crowell began plotting a restaurant in the farthest reaches of Carroll Gardens in 2008, he wanted an institution. "I look at restaurants that have been around for 30 years or more, and that's the place I want to have," he says. "It's not so much about being a hot topic in the media at any one moment as it is longevity." That meant a bistro, something that was then decidedly lacking in the close-knit neighborhood. And so Crowell drew up plans for Buttermilk Channel, envisioning a place where locals could sit alone at the bar for a meal or celebrate a birthday, a place that would become part of their lives. He built a cozy space so crammed with tables it's almost impossible not to socialize with the patron next to you, and he installed a menu that deals in American versions of bistro fare. There are griddled waffles supporting crackling buttermilk fried chicken, juicy duck meat loaf, and a warm lamb salad crowned with a soft-boiled egg. Executive chef Ryan Angulo and his chef de cuisine Jon Check entice vegetarians with a separate meat-free menu, a nod to frequent requests from diners; the restaurant welcomes cash-strapped eaters with a $30 Monday-night three-course prix fixe that showcases some of the Channel's greatest hits. The wine list includes several French wines by the glass and American wines by the bottle, and prices are generous, so diners can afford to start their meal with a civilized cocktail from a concise drinks menu. Crowell's is not a complicated formula, and it has managed to foment a following so loyal that regulars often meet regulars and become friends — or lovers. "Brooklyn is a small town," Crowell observes. "It's rewarding to connect through the restaurant."
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