When Vinegar Hill House moved into the neighborhood at the end of 2008, its neighbors were the Navy Yard and the Con Edison plant...and not much else. The area felt deserted, especially in contrast to DUMBO, which was burgeoning nearby. But diners came from all over the city, and they found a twinkling, cozy nest on a charming street paved with Belgian block. Owners Sam Buffa and Jean Adamson chose the location for sentimental reasons: They'd taken a walk down these streets when they were first getting to know one another. In the early days Adamson did the cooking; nowadays Michael Poiarkoff is behind the burners. He follows Adamson's lead with deceptively simple, rustic dishes that are best described as American bistro fare: Here is one hell of a cast-iron chicken, its skin shiny with sherry vinegar jus; here is a beautiful tagliatelle coated in hearty pork ragù. Do not miss the cornbread, sweet and wholesome, nor the brussels sprouts — the basil, peanuts, and maple ponzu sauce that complete the side give bacon a run for its money for best pairing with the mini-cabbage. The wine list is easy on the paycheck: Few bottles pass the $100 threshold, and many hover in the mid-$30 or low-$40 range. The interior here is mismatched and dark, ingredients are carefully sourced, service is casual, and the brunch is as good as the dinner. Perhaps most impressively, Vinegar Hill House has helped to transform Vinegar Hill. You'll find galleries in nearby storefronts and people traveling to and from their homes here.
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