It's the rare restaurant that can make a successful jump from Brooklyn to Manhattan (R.I.P. Lunetta), but Defonte's of Red Hook just might be that place. Hearty sandwiches, reasonably priced, in a neighborhood that's always up for another lunchtime option: it seems these guys may be nailing it. Here's the lowdown so far on the new Gramercy branch of the Brooklyn favorite.
The Good News: A MenuPages reader loves everything about the place, right down to the attitude: "Just picked up lunch at this glorious addition to gramercy park. Thank you for bringing high-quality bread, meat, and everything back to Manhattan. Also, we enjoyed the side of Brooklyn sass." [MP]
The Disappointing News: We've seen many complaints about unscheduled early closings. Nick Solares over at Serious Eats ran into the same problem: "I was curious to try out some more offerings from the newly opened Defonte's, but my arrival, half an hour before their posted closing time of 8 p.m., was greeted with a simple hand written sign: "Sorry Closed." Annoying, yes, but not the end of the world. It turns out they had run out of ingredients, which is not uncommon for them. To ensure you'll get a sandwich, you should get there before 7:30 p.m." [SE]
Mostly Good News: Once Mr. Solares finally got his sandwich, he had few complaints about it: "I ordered the roast beef sandwich (turns out the beef is medium-rare, unless you get saddled with an end cut). The sandwich comes on a choice of seeded or plain Italian bread, topped with fresh mozzarella, fried eggplant, and au jus. The beef was nicely seasoned and flavorful. Thinly cut, it was tender enough and was complemented nicely by the creamy cheese and slightly crunchy eggplant. The generous spoonful of jus moistened the inside of the bread nicely, but the outer crust remained crunchy. It was a balanced sandwich, but at $9.75, I would expect a bit more beef (it had trouble asserting itself over the cheese and thin eggplant slivers). Criticism aside, Defonte's is a welcome addition to the area. The Gramercy neighborhood doesn't have many nonchain sub shops." [SE]
More Bad News: Bottom Of The Crisper checked out the place, purchased a couple hot subs, and was somewhat underwhelmed: "#23 (which I received sans tomato) was thin and crispy. The fried eggplant, which Defonte's is supposed to be famous for, was more about the "fried" and less about the eggplant...the eggplant had practically vaporized in the fryer. All that was left was the crispy coating and a few seeds to prove that the vegetable had actually once been there -- but no eggplant taste. My take: treat the fried eggplant as a topping for one of the meat heroes or as a side dish. In fact, I picked the eggplant off the bread and ate it plain." [Bottom of the Crisper]
The Good News: A commenter on NYCFoodGuy.com switches his sandwich around a little, with excellent results: "I got the #34 roast pork but switched the swiss for fresh mutz and hot salad for their tomato and onion salad. This thing brought back memories, that awesome bread and serious satisfaction that so few Manhattan sandwiches bring today. I had them add a little pork gravy too, my only improvement would have been some heat. A few cherry peppers in the mix would have done it but overall a great place for a sandwich." [NYC Food Guy]
The Best News: Yelpers are overwhelmingly in favor of the place, as this reviewer comments: "As a teenager growing up in Brooklyn, we ate a lot of these types of hero sandwiches. This one is as good as it gets. Roast beef was delectable with fresh mozz. hmmm good. Macaroni salad was homestyle, probably a little dijon, lots of carrots and onions, nice flavor and crunch... Welcome to Gramercy Park, Defonte's." [Yelp]