The other week, my boyfriend and I went to see his sister’s band, Native Run (so good, check them out!), play at Brooklyn Bowl. Inspired by the artichoke and black olives mac and cheese, we decided to try another Williamsburg restaurant the following Saturday night. We’d just read New York mag’s “Best of New York” issue, in which St. Anselm had won “Best Steak,” so the choice was easy—we’d go to there and order the butcher’s steak.
When Joe Carroll (also of BBQ restaurant Fette Sau) first opened St. Anselm in 2010, he served things like empanadas stuffed with veal heart, pork skin three ways, and beer-battered calf’s brain. He also lacked a liquor license. Unsurprisingly, the place was poorly received so he closed it until he could secure a beer-and-wine license and then, last June, reopened it as a steakhouse. Best decision, especially because he put a hanger steak for $15 ($15!) on the menu. Now, the place is always packed.
They don’t take reservations and there was already an hour wait at 7:30 so we went next door to the Knitting Factory for a couple of beers. Wish I had remembered this article and suggested Spuyten Duyvil (also owned by Carroll) instead, so many Brooklyn places to check off my list! Anyways, within 45 minutes, the hostess called and we were seated at a two top right next to the open kitchen. The space is pretty small, with larger tables up front and stools running along a bar and dining counter, but nice and cozy. Between the wood-shingle ceiling, exposed brick walls, and random flags and banners, it’s all perfectly Brooklyn.
Enter our tattooed waiter. Just kidding; I mean, he did have tattoos but he wasn’t at all hipster. In fact, he was so friendly that Nick and I decided to shoot for VIP treatment, using that Grub Street post that I blogged about as a guide. Tip one: Be the nicest customer in the restaurant. Automatic check. Tip two: drink like an industry vet, so we started dinner with an apertif. I know you’re supposed to order a cocktail but St. Anselm’s has a really interesting wine list (rare varieties, experimental producers, half bottles) so we went for that instead. Nick ordered a “yellow” wine, which, our server explained, gets its color from being matured in a barrel under a film of yeast. It tasted a lot like sherry, a little too sweet for me. I stuck with glass of white. Then we ordered a bottle of red. I can’t even remember what we got, some blend, but our server said it was a great choice? Score.
Tip three: order like a boss. We excelled at this if I do say so myself, striking up conversation about the New York article and ordering appetizers from the “Smalls from the Grill” section rather than just salads. We even incorporated tip four (ask some questions) by soliciting our server’s advice and taking his suggestions. We started by splitting the wine-braised octopus and the “three different eggplants.” Wow. The octopus was by far the best I’ve ever had, and I’ve eaten my fair share of grilled calamari. It tasted almost like chicken sausage, super tender and flavorful. If only there had been a little less black pepper. The eggplant (Italian, Japanese, and Thai) was equally delicious, grilled to perfection and served with fried goat cheese and caramelized onions.
Next, we got both the award-winning butcher’s steak and a skirt steak special with sides of pan-fried mashed potatoes and sautéed mushrooms. Um, yeah. New York was right, the butcher’s steak is unreal. It’s a hanger steak, salted, grilled, and topped with melted garlic butter. Basically, the best flavor ever. I’ve been craving it ever since. The skirt steak was great, too, nicely charred but also juicy. Still, nothing could compete with that butcher’s. The mashed potatoes tried hard, though, with their golden crust and whiff of truffle oil. And the mushrooms were incredible, drizzled with olive oil and shredded parsley.
I was too full for dessert but Nick ordered the peanut-hazelnut butter with dark chocolate chunks. As I was in a severe food coma, I forgot to take a picture but it was basically a DIY Reese’s Cup. Pretty awesome. St. Anselm doesn’t have a pastry chef so desserts aren’t necessarily their strength (better to save room for Momofuku Milk Bar down the street)…still, nothing about peanut butter and dark chocolate sucks. Except for that we had to pay for it. We even followed the last two tips—don’t go at brunch, don’t be an asshole—but no dice. Thanks for nothing, Grub Street. And I take back what I said about our server, maybe he was a little hipster. He did have a beard.
Nevertheless, I can’t say enough good things about this place. Amazing food, low prices,
good decent service. And, while the butcher’s steak is clearly where it’s at, there’s something for everyone on the menu—lamb and pork chops, chicken, lots of fish—so it’s a great spot for group dinners. Totally worth a trip to Brooklyn.