Red Hook

Fort Defiance

If the notion of New York bar food keeps changing, it’s because New York bars do, too. Take, for instance, Fort Defiance, the multihyphenated café–bar–soda fountain–home away from home in Red Hook. It’s not that the place, named for a Revolutionary War fort, has an identity crisis. Modest and inviting, with a smattering of tables and front windows flung open to the street, it seems most of all to want to be a neighborhood social center, and it provides the food and drink to facilitate that role at any hour. At 10 am, that means Counter Culture coffee individually ground and brewed on a drip bar and ham, egg, and jalapeno jam served on cheddar biscuits. At lunch, there’s a short sandwich and salad menu, plus homemade sodas starring a bracingly fizzy house-carbonated seltzer that the blackboard menu justifiably touts as “the best in Brooklyn.” At night, despite the presence of a full dinner menu, the place tends to be treated like a bar, thanks to the high quality of the drinks and the pedigree of the owner and bartender, St. John Frizell, who honed his craft at Pegu Club and the Good Fork. For simple nibbles, try the creamy deviled eggs. Cheese and meat plates are well sourced (La Quercia Iowa prosciutto, Coupole from Saxelby Cheesemongers) and served with practically half a loaf of bread, as is the chicken liver pâté. The café-bar-what-have-you model serves the neighborhood, and its quotidian appetites, quite nicely. — Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld

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