garden out back

36 Greene Avenue, Brooklyn
JUNE 11, 2013



It is early May, and even though at the time of this writing it still threatens to snow, the chalkboards on the sidewalk all read “Garden out back” for even a modest 20 square feet of outdoor space, adorned with the most apologetic of lawn furniture. New Yorkers, still clad in quilted jackets and boots, wait in droves for these petite wastelands, teeth chattering as they attempt to make conversation about their spring travel plans.

Garden Out Back has a solution to this situation: a flowering garden indoors large enough to seat half of Fort Greene (it is a former roller-rink). A floor laden with gravel is the first step in confusing the senses, next are the garden umbrellas, and periodically the wait staff will look upwards as if scanning the skies for rain. It occasionally does rain, thanks to a concealed sprinkler system that offers a light drizzle, not one so strong that you might actually want to take cover, but one that might dilute any of the various cocktails on the drinks list (the Russell Page, named after the famous landscaper, is a mix of gin, elderflower, and honey).

The flowers are richly hypoallergenic. Faux marigolds, plastic sunflowers, and polyester ivy. The walls have been decorated with a wooden fence accented with a painted blue sky.

The food is almost too rich for the paper-moon setting. Grilled duck sausage with a grainy coarse mustard, the only worthy shepherd's pie you can find in the city, thick slices of sourdough bread. Take a bite, and your surroundings become more real; in fact it seems impossible that a restaurant that could offer such a sumptuous ribeye steak (accompanied as it must with shallots, mushrooms, and a red wine sauce) could offer only dollar-store flora.

I would suggest you stay for desert. The sour cherry pie, that staple of late night diners, is great with some bitter coffee, as are the profiteroles. Skip the overpriced berry bowl.

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