Updated October 22nd, 2021
2016 was a year of iconic proportions. Rihanna’s “Work” topped the charts, Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight gave new life to the coming-of-age story, and Hart’s began making American-ish Mediterranean food in Bed-Stuy.
Today, Hart’s simple, but well-executed dishes paired with the welcoming and intimate dining experience is still worth going out of your way for.
Not very much has changed since the restaurant opened back in 2016, other than a few dishes on the occasionally rotating menu. The clam toast, a must-order dish at Hart’s, is one of the plates that has stood the test of time. It’s served on two thick, buttery sourdough slices that are swimming in a briny pool of olive oil and salty clam juice. It’s sort of like someone made a clam soup with pancetta, threw in some toast, then dumped it on your plate and said, “There, clam toast.” It’s decadent, rich, and we’re huge fans.
Another one of our favorites is the lamb burger, a menu item also available at their sister restaurant Cervo’s, which comes blanketed by four optional (read: mandatory) marinated anchovies. If you’re scared of anchovies, the juicy patty and soft potato bun on this burger will still make you want to walk over to the kitchen and offer up roaring applause.
The atmosphere at this tiny spot under the Franklin Avenue C stop is shockingly similar to a dinner party at a friend’s house (where the playlist usually involves Ja Rule and Ashanti). For starters, the whole operation is about the size of a studio apartment. Whether you’re seated at one of the two-tops, long communal table, or on one of the five bar seats, a dinner here will inevitably involve some eavesdropping and elbow-bumping by candlelight. But when that first round of 50/50 martinis hits the table and the clam toast, pork milanese, and lamb burgers come floating out of the kitchen, it might feel like you’ve astral projected to a spacious seaside home in Portland, Maine.
Considering how normal it is to have a multiple-hour wait at this walk-in-only spot, we’re clearly not the only ones who love it. It’s not impossible to get a table here on a Friday night, but if you show up after they open at 5:30pm, it’ll take over an hour. But much like Cervo’s, a wait for a table here will be rewarded with an unforgettable scene you won’t find at many other places. On a recent weeknight visit, the small sidewalk patio, three-seat bar area, and greater dining room were all full of big groups celebrating birthdays, denim-clad throuples out for a romantic date night, and someone who looked dangerously similar to a Pratt art professor we used to “shadow.” This is a pretty typical sight, but Hart’s is also ideal for a solo meal if you ever just want a piece of fish and glass of orange wine.
No matter what you order, you’re really coming to Hart’s for the experience of dining among 5% of Brooklyn’s clog-wearing population. It’s possible you and a friend might share a table with strangers who get paid to take photos for Vogue Paris, or you and six other coworkers might just take up half of the restaurant and transform it into a post-office clam toast bash. Hart’s gives you the perfect backdrop for virtually any occasion while serving the kind of comfort food you’ll be thinking about for days on end.
Clam Toast With Pancetta
This toast will always be on the menu, and it will always be a good choice. Just know that it’s soaked in oil and clam broth. Make peace with this, and you’re in for a life-changing slab of thick, voluptuous toast.
If it’s your first time, definitely get the grass-fed burger at Hart’s. They give you the option of adding anchovies and you should absolutely do so if A) you don’t hate anchovies and B) don’t mind smelling like a dolphin-feeder at sea world. The teeny, tiny fish are intense, but they make this burger taste like the meatiest tuna sandwich we’ve ever had.
If there ever was a crunchy slab of deep-fried pork displayed in an exhibition at The Met, it would be the milanese from Hart’s. It’s a beautifully, golden-brown hunk of meat that’s usually served with a side of fennel salad and a couple of lemons to add some freshness to your plate.
A whole crispy mackerel with some sweet peppers, tomatoes and anchovy. Somehow, it’s even more briny and refreshing than sounds. The dressing on top will change every few months, but if you want a nice piece of fish, we recommend it.