When Do or Dine opened in Bedford-Stuyvesant in 2011, it may very well have been the king of fun dining in New York City. A certain lawlessness permeates the dining room and the backyard, where co-owner Justin Warner says some drinkers once perched with a keg of beer back when the place was still BYOB. The punny menu is littered with dishes like a foie gras doughnut, Nippon nachos made with wonton shells, and "chicken and woffals," a play on chicken and waffles that matches the waffle to cornish game hen liver. Founders Warner, Perry Gargano, Luke Jackson, and George McNeese (Warner's co-chef) never really wanted a restaurant. They wanted to open a neighborhood bar, but because the liquor-license process moved so slowly, they began serving food in an effort to draw people in for a lax BYOB setup. Besides the keg drinkers, the place initially attracted serious wine collectors. Flexibility meant the restaurant became a neighborhood joint in an area that was once starved for good restaurants. "We were a haunt," Warner says. "People were here day in and day out. There were neighborhood regulars who were like, 'Thank God we can get something great in the neighborhood.' And then there were service-industry regulars who would come in and slap hands." Noting that diners are now looking for comfort food over wacky creations, Do or Dine has begun to change. McNeese says the way he thinks about dishes has evolved: "In the beginning, we'd start with a pun and try to make it edible; now we start with the food." But Do or Dine is still a neighborhood restaurant, and it's still worth a trip to Bed-Stuy if you're looking for a meal that's fun.
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