When the original Tavern on Nostrand closed last October, local residents Michael Pratts, M.D., and Niles Stewart lamented the “void” in the community. Convinced that the restaurant was a viable business and inspired by President Barack Obama’s statement, “Now is not the time to be scared about investing in business,” the two decided to fill that void. They reopened Tavern on Nostrand in April 2009 as its new owners.
Stewart, a former banker, jazz club owner and restaurant manager, and Pratt, a psychiatrist, used their combined experience to make changes designed to bring back professionals and families to Tavern on Nostrand. They added contemporary elements, music and new lighting to create a trendy, relaxed atmosphere. Bearing in mind the current economic environment, they lowered prices to make dining at the new Tavern on Nostrand more affordable.
In the past, the restaurant was a meeting place for professionals in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, where Pratts and Stewart reside. The neighborhood is changing as young professionals — Black and white — flee Manhattan’s high prices for Brooklyn. Pratts and Stewart have made it their business to embrace the new community, as reflected in the new menu selections and the premium-stocked bar. Since reopening, they have hosted gatherings for Omega Psi Phi, The Links Inc., local politicians and the clergy. “These are our customers. They like to be able to walk to a place in the neighborhood like this and come to the bar and have a drink or a good meal. When you come, what you’ll see here is pride,” Pratts says.
The softly lit dining room is cozy, with muted tones of beige and white. The handsome bar boasts handcrafted cherry shelving with recessed lighting and granite countertops. The welcome is warm from the moment you step through the door. The cuisine is heavily influenced by the owners’ backgrounds — Pratts has roots in Louisiana and grew up in Chicago before settling in Brooklyn five years ago; Stewart was raised in Brooklyn with roots in Alabama and the Caribbean.
My meal began with fried calamari and shrimp bisque flavored with a zesty mix of spices. Other appetizers include a Mediterranean plate comprising fresh hummus, olives and Sahadi’s pita; chicken skewers; vegetable spring rolls; shrimp cocktail; and an array of chicken wings — jerk, fried, buffalo, BBQ and mahogany. For an entrée, I enjoyed the flame-broiled tilapia with mashed potatoes and sautéed vegetables. The light, flaky fish was topped with a tasty lemon-butter sauce. Other entrées are roasted chicken, pan-seared pork chop or salmon, Caribbean shrimp, pasta, fried chicken, and macaroni and cheese made with a hearty blend of four cheeses.
There are vegetarian selections and weekly specials inspired by Executive Chef Tyrone Cabrera. The wine list meets every tastes and wallet size. Each glass is served with a miniature carafe. The signature cocktail, the “Hennessey Sidecar,” adds a splash of lemon-lime flavoring to the popular cognac and is served in a sparkling raw-sugar-coated martini glass. Topping off all this is the staff’s delightfully solicitous service.
Tavern on Nostrand, a renewed kid on Brooklyn’s restaurant circuit, does not disappoint.