Earlier this month, Thistle Hill Tavern opened with a good amount of buzz surrounding its eclectic team: 'inoteca alums David Massoni and chef Rebecca Weitzman along with Niagara Bar's Josh Bush and California punk musician Mike "Fat Mike" Burnett of NOFX. Using Mediterranean flavors and locally-sourced, seasonal food, Tavern has quickly become a must-try in the South Slope. But does the city's newest gastropub set itself apart? On to the early word:
The Great News: The Brooklyn Paper's Kristen Brown says Thistle Hill Tavern could signal the end of South Slope's "overpriced, mediocre eateries." High praise goes to chef Rebecca Weitzman who "has crafted a menu that is nothing short of incredible — the food is thoughtful, proof that details matter. The roasted leg of lamb ($13) was the star of the menu — moist and simply prepared, served atop an earthy bed of cracked wheat salad with charred eggplant, feta, arugula and tomato coulis." The restaurant's rustic interior "invokes, as its name might suggest, the feeling of a place that might have been there a 200 years ago, had Park Slope been more than farmland." [BP]
The Bad News: Goodies First thinks there are a few kinks that need to be worked out: "Being quoted a 30-minute wait, to be seated at a typical squished two-seater in a crowded row an hour later when the couple who waltzed in 40 minutes afterward gets a primo table for four at the same time, is bad service and planning. It causes resentment and impressions of the food become tainted. Babies squalling at 11pm also guarantees a bad first impression." Overall, the restaurant is better in theory than practice, she says. "It seems that Thistle Hill Tavern is clearly serving a void in South Slope. The Wednesday night crowds prove it. It’s not a destination, otherwise, though. The gastropub menu hits all the right foodie points: pork belly, pickled ramps, grass-fed beef. On paper it works." [Goodies First]
The 'Surprisingly Polished' But Not Worth the Trip News: While Fork in the Road's Sarah DiGregorio decides that it's too early for a proper review, Thistle Hill is "a very comfortable, congenial place, and is surprisingly polished--from service to food--for a place that's only been open for a few days." The Alaskan halibut and grilled octopus dishes are particularly noteworthy, however overall, "the dishes are probably not worth traveling from other boroughs for (not yet anyway), but they are expert and delicious. As a higher-end neighborhood eatery, Thistle Hill looks like it will be just about perfect." [FitR]
The Boozy News: Martini Boys' Joshua Khan notes that the selections at the bar can lead to a "long night of class debauchery." Despite an extensive wine list, the cocktails are the stars here with the John Daly (sweet tea vodka, lemonade) and the Thistle (scotch, bitters, vermouth) listed as standouts. On the food front, chef Weitzman's menu is constructed "to appease both carnivores and legitimate vegetarians: Zucchini pancakes, spiced nuts and seeds and grilled asparagus with mustard herb aioli fill out the starters section while the mains focus on the use of fresh ingredients from local farms." [MB]
The Good News: Over on Yelp, praise has not been in short supply. Yelper Neeve K. was impressed by the restaurant's vegetarian options: "We had the vegan burgers - my fiance had his with bleu cheese, and i had mine with cheddar. we both agreed they were the BEST veggie burgers we've ever had! the buns were homemade and tasted like it! the fries were thick, crispy, and perfectly seasoned. and to top it off - the ketchup was also homemade! unbelievably good." Rachel B. enjoyed how family-friendly the restaurant is: "Thistle Hill has a great vibe to it. I went with my family, including my 19 month old son, opening weekend and the staff were very accommodating to us. It was early, around 5:30, and the place was filled with families.The owner said he has a son the same age and wanted to make Thistle Hill Tavern a family-friendly place." And Eater commenter SebastianMei says: "Seasonal pickles were a tasty start. The scallop entree was really fantastic. The burger was nicely cooked, but under-seasoned which led to the cumbersome bun overpowering the burger a bit. All in all, I'd definitely go back for more...but I'd also rethink that bun."