Achilles Heel is a bar in Greenpoint. At least that’s what some people think.
Achilles Heel is actually a restaurant in Greenpoint (from the people behind Diner and Marlow & Sons) that magnanimously allows you to treat it like a bar. It isn’t the least bit fancy, but it’s effortlessly cool, and it’s the sort of place where you can either have a full dinner or drink some beer-shot combos until the world starts to tilt. The food is an inventive mix of mostly-American stuff that will consistently lodge itself in your memory - and yet plenty of people don’t even know you can eat here. We’ve been doing so for several years now, and it’s about time we gave you a full rundown.
We hesitated to review this place, in part, because the menu changes weekly, and it seemed kind of messed up to recommend a plate of sunchokes you’d never get to try. On any given day, Achilles Heel might have a tangy pozole, some fettuccine with a subtle arugula pesto, or a bowl of creamy stracciatella covered with what tastes like a handful of crunchy granola (but is, in fact, pepitas and shallots). Or you might wind up with a slice of fresh bread buried under a layer of sauteed mushrooms. The food here is limited-edition - but no matter what you get, it’ll be something you won’t find in a cookbook at The Strand, and it’ll be infinitely more complex and thoughtful than what you expect from a place that appears to be a dive bar for old-timey sailors in the semi-remote northwest corner of Greenpoint.
Achilles Heel sits directly across from a warehouse built in 1930 and a semi-vacant lot with a view of the Manhattan skyline. The space is about the size of your average corner store, and, with its heavy wooden blinds and chipped plaster walls, it has the appeal of a vintage watch or a baseball glove you’ve owned for several decades. In the winter, there’s a fully functional fireplace that makes the room smell like summer camp, and, no matter the season, the music is always loud and Shazam-worthy. Add all of this up, and you have one of the best first-date spots in the city.
If you want to treat Achilles Heel like a bar, no one’s going to stare at the back of your head until you order food. Just know that in order to experience the full potential of this place, you have to eat something. Despite appearances, this is a serious restaurant. We aren’t entirely sure why it took us so long to tell you this, but maybe it’s because we like the fact that we can always find a seat here. Or maybe it’s because we enjoy stumbling out the front door around midnight, smelling like a bonfire, surrounded by absolutely no one on the eerily quiet street. Now that you’re fully informed, we expect you to make that street just a little less quiet.
Like we said, most of the food here changes every week, but the dishes below should give you a good idea of what to expect.
This bowl of crispy lettuce dusted with pecorino isn’t too complicated, but it’s exactly what all small starter salads aspire to be. Begin your meal with this.
There’s usually some stracciatella on the menu at Achilles Heel. The toppings (squash and pepitas or carrots and za’atar, for example) change frequently, but we can’t imagine a scenario in which your life would be better without this bowl of creamy cheese. Take a piece of fresh sourdough, dip, and repeat.
Charred Sweet Potatoes Over Rice
Once, we were hanging out by the fireplace at Achilles Heel when we noticed a few sweet potatoes cooking in the embers. “How quaint,” we thought. Twenty minutes later, we were eating those sweet potatoes. This rice bowl is one thing that doesn’t seem to change at Achilles Heel, and, while it sounds simple and straightforward, it’s somehow greater than the sum of its parts. Warm and creamy, with aioli, smoky potatoes and a little bit of chili oil, it’s a perfect one-bowl meal.
There are so many places to get pasta in New York City, so why get pasta at Achilles Heel? For one, it’ll probably be more interesting than the last pasta you ate. This fettuccine, for example, has an understated arugula pesto and a fried quail egg. If you see it, get it.
Ah, fettuccine, rice bowls, and pozole. A classic combination. In all seriousness, we aren’t sure if this menu at Achilles Heel has any rhyme or reason, but if you want a good, simple soup with a bit of acidity and a rich hominy flavor, order the pozole. If it’s available, that is.