By Rory Winston
Roadside clam shacks crossed with culinary aspiration? You’ve seen the likes of the former in films celebrating the 50’s by the coast: Gas stations with Coca Cola signs dangling precariously in the wind, Ice cubes advertised in handwritten cutouts off some seaside interstate, a badly drawn lobster with the words Open till Sunset, and always the phrase Extra Fancy grotesquely stuck like a label on something as innocuous as canned soup.
Where but in hipster heaven could you resurrect such a vision and endow it with both meaning and prestige. It took New Englander Mark Rancourt to seize such a theme and found the bar restaurant that now bears the name Extra Fancy, but it took a place like Williamsburg to embrace his concept and see it as something perfectly normal. It’s pretty extraordinary in that ‘ordinary retro kind of Grizzly Bear, MGMT or Weekend Vampire kind of way.’
Basically, Extra Fancy brings Brooklyn music aesthetics into food – it juxtaposes high-end culinary art and composition with indie arrangements and low-fi production. From its inception with chef Ross Florence of Le Bernardin, there has been an emphasis on gastronomical integrity wherein ingredients mattered. From the golden brown Cape Cod clam fritters swimming in a sea of chive-buttermilk sauce to the littleneck studded fried nuggets with chili and sweet corn, a lot rides on the quality of the content. Still, this is one of the few places where they actually have the nerve to serve up smoked mussels on saltines; or, another iconoclast delight, deviled eggs with charred roe and onion leaves. As seafood soups and salads go, the Baby Romaine with watermelon, radish, cucumber and buttermilk or the Lobster Bisque and Littleneck Clam Chowder are classics with just the right amounts of nuance.
To go utterly ‘Brooklynesque’, however, means kitsch without the facile syrup. At Extra Fancy this means Cocktails like the refreshing herby Ray-Ray and the tart but smooth Squibnocket or the bittersweet-gone-all-out-sweet Papi, Do me a Favor, or the ever-so-simple but chic spirit Averell Damson Gin. For dessert a Bread Pudding or Ice Cream Sandwich will make you remember that Post-ironic is not such a bad thing when it comes to honest-to-goodness heart-cloggers.
Extra Fancy is advertised as a casual neighborhood restaurant – which in itself is pretty telling since Williamsburg’s casual is relatively self-conscious and its neighborhood is an idiosyncratic amalgam of several different niche groups rolled into one. They might as well have said, “Michelin tires, Michelin stars – same difference… we’re not trying to do anything fancy – we just want the best.” •
302 Metropolitan Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211