A prime Williamsburg location. A space that’s shared with an indie music venue. A menu that includes both vegan salads and bone marrow. A name that makes you think of motorcycle jackets, and also a rich person’s toddler.
Rider must be the coolest restaurant in Brooklyn, right?
At first glance, Rider is an easy choice for a night out in Williamsburg. And if you do end up here, you'll be pleased with the food. It's well-executed across the board, with healthy-ish options and a couple real standouts. The service is also friendly. And the whole tip-included thing continues to trick us into thinking we’re getting a deal.
But Rider doesn't have a whole lot of magic. That special quality that makes you feel like you are truly winning at life. Or at least in your restaurant decision.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
Maybe that’s because Rider is trying a little too hard to be everything to everyone. The menu reads like a kitchen sink of stuff people tend to like. Roast vegetables? Check. Spaghetti? Yep. Chicken nuggets, a burger, fried oysters? Gang’s all here. Having lots of options is great - especially when you're with high-maintenance eaters - but there’s such a lack of focus you're left wondering what to order. On a recent trip, a server hard-sold our group on sharing the most expensive thing on the menu - the ribeye. It was good, not great.
Rider's setup also has a case of split personality: there are two floors, which might as well be different restaurants. The bottom is light and bright, and feels like it should be in a hotel lobby, while the top is much darker, and reads a little too serious.
The experience ends up feeling best suited for French tourists staying in Airbnbs nearby who want to see Williamsburg. And older people who are suddenly interested in going out to eat in Brooklyn. We like grown-ups, and we like Europeans, but Rider isn't your best bet for seeing and being seen. Then again, neither is this part of Williamsburg anymore.
If you end up at Rider, you probably won’t fall in love with it, but you’ll enjoy it just fine. Especially if you’re with out-of-town relatives who want to see what “The Shmorgasburg” is.
Just leave your motorcycle jacket at home. You won’t need it.
Fregola + Turnips
Salads are good. Salads made of pasta are better. This one also has turnips and pistachio pesto, and is something you should order.
The anchovy and garlic sauce takes things up a notch. But not too far. We're still talking about a bowl of roasted vegetables here.
The fancy word for cheesy pastry puffs. Carbs and cheese are usually a winning combination, but these are not nearly as joyous as we expected. Feel free to skip.
Hot Fried Oysters
Even the non-oyster eaters in our group wanted in on these. Crispy fried oysters, sitting in a creamy sauce that tastes like deviled eggs.
Don't be fooled by the name - this is a meat salad. It's Rider's version of larb, with spicy pork, bitter greens, and crunchy peanuts, and it's excellent.
A very solid burger and fries showing. They get a little fancy here with Russian dressing and coleslaw - purists beware.
Our server talked up the ribeye with the kind of mystical praise parents give their children when they learn to use the toilet. It comes bone-out, on top of something resembling spätzle, and it's good. But there are better ways to spend your resources here.
Three pieces of duck breast on top of pork-stuffed dates. Our only complaint was that there wasn't more of it.
Fennel + Lemon Doughnuts
Warm, sugary donuts with a cream sauce for dipping. Consider ordering these in multiples.
A super rich, big piece of chocolate tort. You'll like this a lot, but if you're having to make a hard decision, go with the doughnuts.