Dustin from Stranger Things. Your sixth-grade best friend who had headgear and read during recess. Michael Cera. Spongebob. They’re all lovable weirdos. And Gristmill is one of them.
Smack dab in the middle of Park Slope, Brooklyn, Gristmill is a total misfit amongst its suburbia-like surroundings. It's certainly cooler than, say, the child-stuffed Calexico across the street, but it's also definitely not a cool restaurant (the lighting is a little too bright and the booths have yellow upholstery). You just can’t really put a label on this place. And that’s exactly why we like it.
There are two defining aspects about Gristmill: they’re serious about their wood-burning oven, and even more serious about their local, seasonal ingredients. At any other restaurant, a five-minute rundown on the farms where every dish was sourced might be humiliatingly tedious, but our waiter at Gristmill managed to do so in a completely not-pretentious, slightly eccentric, totally endearing way. Lovable weirdo.
When it comes to the menu, Gristmill really lets its freak flag fly. It changes constantly, and you’ll see everything from kimchi & pork meatball toast to chicken liver mousse to beets served with edible flowers. We ate cornbread out of a corn husk. The sundae is topped with almost-too-peppery black pepper whipped cream. Oh, and there’s an entire section of pizzas with a wheaty, sourdough crust that’s strangely odd and addictive. Once you get used to the fact that your meal is not going to be consistent in any way, shape, or form, you settle into the weirdness. Because you realize it’s okay that nothing goes together. And because all of the food is really, really good.
So when do you use Gristmill? It’s not sexy enough for a big date. It’s not safe enough for a first date. It’s probably too out of the way for your friend group dinner. The use cases are admittedly limited. But when you get tired of all your normal spots, Gristmill is good for getting a little weird.
When will you not be f*cking thrilled about your meal starting with hot, oily, just-out-of-the-oven garlic knots? Never. The answer is never. You're going to need both kinds (everything and cacio e pepe) for every person sitting at your table. At least.
Here are some questions you might consider as you eat this: How does this look so pretty and so ugly at the same time? Why am I eating a meatball with kimchi? Why is the whole thing on toast? Stop asking questions and just eat it. It tastes good.
Just like how you felt when you saw Geeky Kevin getting low at your 7th-grade dance, Gristmill's cornbread will blow your mind. They change up the preparation seasonally (we've had it with jalapeños served inside a corn husk, and we've had it topped with apples and coleslaw), but it needs to be on your table no matter what. This is Gristmill's mic drop.
You've eaten many beets. But have you eaten many flowers? Here's your chance (spoiler alert: they taste like nature).
Sliced pork on top of beet greens and barley tossed in a tart kimchi vinaigrette. If you feel the need for an entree-sized protein, this is really interesting and very good.
In addition to the much odder stuff, Gristmill was smart to include a sizable pizza section on their menu - the pies are what make the place actually useful for 99% of Park Slope's population (children). But true to form, you've probably never tasted pizza like this: the crust is dark and sour, and the pepperoni is super thick-cut and really delicious.
Ours involved corn ice cream, blueberry sorbet, blackberry jam, and pieces of cornbread. This is the perfectly-weird way to end a meal here. Get one for the table.