When Sharon Pachter and Charles Kiely first became a couple, they talked about opening a restaurant that focused on simple, straightforward food rather than a chef's name "in flashing lights," as Kiely puts it. "We would wander around on a Sunday looking for a place with really good roast chicken, where they knew how to make rice, where they could make a well-balanced salad dressing," says Pachter. "That's what we wanted to do." They searched for a corner spot but wound up with a mid-block Carroll Gardens address, which they stripped bare of décor to give it a soothing vibe. They opened The Grocery in 1999, installing a menu that celebrated well-sourced ingredients long before that theme became Brooklyn's calling card. Their philosophy then, as it is now, was "to buy really good products, cook them simply, and make them delicious," says Pachter. And so the menu changes frequently, although you'll always find ravioli filled with creamy beet and goat cheese, as well as tender duck breast in some incarnation. Your best bet is to opt for the tasting menu and let Kiely take care of you, leading you through multiple courses of his momentary favorites and delivering many of the plates himself. He'll likely dig up an interesting bottle of wine to go with your meal, about which he'll be able to relate a personal anecdote or background story. Sixteen years into the restaurant’s run, Kiely wryly notes that the once frequent media coverage has long since petered out. "We've been around so long, nobody cares about us," he says. But dinner here is no less charming than it ever was, and it operates with self-assuredness, which makes the Grocery feel like a noble sage among buzzier neighbors.
© 2015 Village Voice, LLC, All Rights Reserved