Walk by Chez Ma Tante, and you have no reason to believe it’s any different from any other Brooklyn restaurant. It’s an all-white spot on a quiet corner in Greenpoint, with a long wood bar and a few tables outside. The lighting fixtures are nice, but there’s no other decor. It’s not empty, but it’s also not packed. The menu posted on the door includes a roast chicken and a caesar salad.
It all sounds boring as sh*t. But it’s not. And that’s because the food is fantastic.
While lots of restaurants try very hard to make interesting food and end up with dishes that look like edible versions of tchotchkes you’d buy in an overpriced design store, Chez Ma Tante is focuses on making straightforward food taste extremely good.
The menu is mostly made up of familiar dishes, all turned up several notches. The caesar salad tastes like they took every radicchio leaf individually and made sure it was coated with an unreasonable amount of pepper, garlic, breadcrumbs, and cheese. The insanely juicy roasted chicken sits in a broth that should be administered via I.V. when you’re sick, and served with grilled buttery bread and a huge spoonful of aioli. There’s falafel that, instead of being the sad option for vegetarians, is super flavorful, satisfying, and fresh - and one of the best things here. The pancakes are left in a cast iron pan long enough to get a thick fried char on them, and are absolutely worth making a trip out of bed for any Saturday morning.
You might go to other restaurants for their theme or scene or inventive vegan take on Asian-Italian-Mexican fusion. You’re not going to Chez Ma Tante for any of that. You’re coming here for excellent food, and a simple setting designed for the sole purpose of feeding you. There are no gimmicks or distractions, so bring someone you’ve already decided you like, or want to get to know. There’s a good shot the feeling will be mutual. At the very least, they’ll realize you weren’t as boring as they thought.
Chez Ma Tante knows how to give the people what they want. And the people want caesar salads. Especially when they’re like this: super cheesy, super peppery, and super caesar-y. It should be on your table.
Related: fries as an appetizer. These are thick-cut and the perfect amount of salty. Dip in aioli liberally for best success.
Salmon gravlax served as a tartare, with rye bread for scooping up. This is a nice, light bite to start with.
Why order pierogies here, when you’re in Greenpoint, land of Polish restaurants? One, because they’re stuffed with things like ramps and snap peas. Two, because they get theirs from a “Polish lady around the corner,” and three, because they’re really really good.
On the menu, the falafel looks like a dish that got confused about what restaurant it was supposed to be in. But this falafel knows exactly what its doing. You get four super-fresh falafel, hummus, harissa sauce, and a pile of beets. It’s an incredibly tasty combination of flavors, and one of the best things to eat whether you’re here for brunch or dinner.
Ordering the roast chicken doesn’t just get you an extremely juicy half bird. It also gets you a broth bath to soak up with pan-fried bread, some perfectly-roasted vegetables, and a giant dollop of aioli, just in case you weren’t satisfied yet. You’ll wake up wondering when you can eat this again.
A giant, super-flavorful pork shoulder sitting on some brothy white beans. The chicken still wins out over this, but it’s an excellent, hearty main that you could easily split.
We are confident in our belief that these are the best pancakes in Brooklyn. They’re fried in a cast iron skillet so they have a crazy char on them, and come topped with some magical type of extra-buttery butter and tons of maple syrup. Your goal for this weekend should be to eat these.
Only on the brunch menu, this is basically a cake made out of egg and potato, with caramelized onions wedged in between the layers and topped with olive oil. This, like most things here, is both super simple and super delicious.