Dean Street: Go for the Music, Stay for the Burger

The burger with fries at Dean Street. Photo by Natalie Suarez.

The burger with fries at Dean Street. Photo by Natalie Suarez.

My first visit to Dean Street, a restaurant, bar, and live-music venue in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, made me want to apartment hunt around the corner and become a regular. There’s just something magical about the spot, which immediately had me planning my next meal there, knowing that as temperatures drop, things will only get warmer and more comfortable inside Dean Street’s brick walls.

Three friends joined me there on a wintry Tuesday evening, just as the Ian Duerr Jazz Trio rounded out their first set. The bar stools were all taken, as were most of the tables in the front room (there is also a spacious back room with a beckoning view of the kitchen), but a friendly server quickly seated us.

Looking around the room at the pleasant, relaxed crowd and the jukebox and gold-tinted wallpaper (which I always wished I had in my childhood basement), I was already feeling good about Dean Street—and I hadn’t even looked at the food menu.

As my friends ordered drinks, I gave the menu a good enough glance to note that this wasn’t just bar food. One dish immediately popped out: brisket and duck liver boudin balls with mustard and pickled veggies. And while I usually steer clear of salads or dreary soups at bars and music venues, the arugula salad with Parmesan and lemon olive oil and the French onion soup special gave me high hopes for these simple classics.

We started with a round of fried calamari with marinara sauce and brisket and duck liver boudin balls. Having read about Dean Street’s legendary burgers, we each ordered the burger with fries to follow. The generous portion of calamari was fresh, just spicy enough and not at all greasy. The brisket balls, which we dubbed “brisket falafel,” were simply fantastic. The coarse-grained mustard sitting atop each crisply fried ball was the perfect tangy foil to the creamy duck liver interior.

Fried calamari with marinara sauce at Dean Street. Photo by Natalie Suarez.

Fried calamari with marinara sauce at Dean Street. Photo by Natalie Suarez.

The burger, made with meat from eminent local butcher Pat LaFrieda, was cooked just as I had ordered it and perched atop a tasty sesame bun with house-pickled onions. Dean Street’s ground meat was a good balance of fatty goodness and lean protein. The size of the burger itself—not too thin and not too thick—was also just right. With each bite, I had the clear sense that I was digging into some very good meat.

And no soggy fries here—these were precisely cut and seasoned simply but effectively, with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Washed down with draughts of Kelso IPA, it was the best bar food I can remember having.

With the jazz trio bustling just a few feet away inside a carefully lit room, friendly, prompt servers and an enticing menu that delivers, Dean Street is far more than your usual burger-and-beer spot on any old street.

Dean Street, 755 Dean St., Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, 718-783-3326,

Melanie Moss is a pastry cook at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. She loves to experiment with recipes that combine savory flavors and her classic culinary training with the pastry methods she uses at work. Cooking since age five, Melanie feels lucky to be in the kitchen every day.

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