Brooklyn: Vinegar Hill House
Words & Photographs by Jennifer Causey
Hungry New Yorkers head to Vinegar Hill House when they want to feel like they’re eating at someone’s home.
I was exhausted. It had been one of those crazy New York days spent running way too many errands—carrying heavy bags, darting in and out of traffic, waiting in line after line. Come seven o’clock, I was ready to put it all behind me and relax; I was meeting a friend for dinner and drinks.
It was a cool, crisp night. I could see the restaurant’s golden glow, and I started to feel the warmth inside as I approached. When I opened the screen door and stepped into Vinegar Hill House, I was immediately transported. All thoughts of my crazy day and the bustling city across the river disappeared.
A few years ago, when Jean Adamson’s landlord told her about an old carriage house available for rent in Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn, she checked it out on a whim. She immediately fell in love with the tiny neighborhood a bit off the beaten path, located off the East River waterfront just west of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. She also fell in love with the house itself and was intrigued by the unoccupied space in front of it. As she waited the year it would take to finish the renovations to the carriage house, Jean thought more about that small space. She was an accomplished chef and had often talked with her boyfriend about the possibility of opening up a restaurant. She asked the landlord if he would also be willing to rent out the empty space in front of the house for a little neighborhood gathering spot, and Vinegar Hill House was born.
Jean, along with her boyfriend Sam Buffa, opened for business three years ago. Sam is co-owner of the very stylish F.S.C. Barber shops, and you can see his influence in the restaurant’s design. Sam bought reclaimed wood and bleacher boards to create banquettes and tables, and combined these rustic wood elements with potted cacti, vintage wallpaper and interesting items collected from travels and flea markets. The wood-burning oven at the end of the open kitchen, the lit candles and vases of fresh seasonal flowers on each table and the cozy den downstairs (complete with a fireplace) add to the feel of a modern cabin in the woods. Sam’s focus on the details, both large and small, created the homey, inviting atmosphere now admired by all who visit Vinegar Hill House, and the restaurant has quickly become a destination and a home away from home.
And as for the food, it is what you would hope for, and more—it’s comfort with a twist. Chef Brian Leth updates a menu of familiar dishes with his own spin, using seasonal ingredients based on the best items the purveyors are carrying each week. The food is uncomplicated, beautiful and delicious. A sardine on toast with anchovy mayonnaise? Yes, please.
Vinegar Hill House is a refuge for New Yorkers who want a break from cooking, but still want to feel as if they are eating in someone’s home.
72 Hudson Avenue
Brooklyn, New York