The latest Quick Bites brings us to Lorenzo's in Bushwick. More like LorenzNO's, amirite?
Ever been to Mother's Ruin, on Spring Street in Nolita? Place is always packed and loud, a little frantic even, everyone downing cocktails and hoping to get laid. All of which is fine and normal, but what is surprising is how overachieving the food is at what is primarily a pick-up bar. The Duck Wings are great, for example, and the Grilled Cheese Sandwich, a creative onion soup mash-up, is one of the best in town.
So it was not unreasonable of me to be excited about Lorenzo's, recently opened by the Mother's Ruin duo of T.J Lynch and Richard Knapp on a prime corner in Bushwick right near the Jefferson L station. Because although plenty of attention is paid to the boozy part of the establishment, Lorenzo's seemingly identifies mostly (or, at least, equally) as a restaurant.
The room, formerly home to an automotive shop (RIP Bushwick, helloooo Jefftown) is attractive, dramatic, and, given the high ceilings, concrete floor and brick walls, likely an scream-filled echo chamber when crowded. There are a couple of dutifully ironic touches in the decor, and a living wall over the kitchen chef's counter softens things up a bit.
While the weather's still cooperative the plentiful outdoor tables offer nice views of some of the neighborhood's street art murals, and, among the several indoor seating options once the windowed garage doors roll down for the winter, there's a giant communal table in the back that feels homey, even sitting in the soaring, industrial space.
Sounds good right? A cool place for cocktails, run by people known for serving food way better than it needs to be?
Problem is, everything I ate at Lorenzo's was pretty terrible. Like for one thing, a distressing number of times during my meal I had to take food out my mouth and put it back on my plate.
Lorenzo's bills itself as a "vaguely Latin" restaurant, and the menu is filled with familiar faces, from nachos (with "pork floss," gross) and ceviche to skirt steak and rotisserie chicken. There's also a whole "Sauces" section, and a big part of the ordering process here is matching your meat with some moisture. And if you're ordering the chicken, you're going to need every drop you can get!
Seriously, there's no excuse for serving chicken with parched-out, no-flavor breasts anymore, is there? Even if it does come with dipping sauce. And the leg and thigh on my half bird was so fatty and gristly I couldn't really get much going down at that end, either. I chose the Loco Beans as my side which were not nearly as wild as their name implied. Other than the pleasantly chewy bits of bacon, the small bowl of pale legumes was mostly a wet, uninteresting mess.
A note about the sauces, since they drive much of the meal: they are bad. The sickly yellow Llama Sauce (among other questions my server couldn't answer about the menu: why it's called that... though I see now that Urban Dictionary has a couple of theories) brought some heat to the proceedings, but also suffered from a deep, unwelcome sourness, as if its base of vinegar had turned long ago. The Cilantro Crema had none of the brightness and tang promised by its name, and instead was simply bitter and overpoweringly raw-garlickly.
The Chicharron appetizer came with a tomatillo sauce of no distinction, but that was a step up from the two big slabs of no-flavor pig skin, fried to a mostly inedible degree of crunch. I'm all for risking cracked teeth for a worthy cause, but these were not that. The silly garnish of radishes drizzled with "black lime" couldn't distract from the overall irritation felt with this dish.
At least the skewered chunks of wood-grilled Wagyu (yeah?) Beef Tongue were tender, except for that one bite with that weird thing in it, though the whole plate needed more seasoning and, as discussed, the Llama Sauce was not doing its part in that department.
The people in my immediate vicinity at dinner the other night had all traveled from elsewhere specifically to eat at Lorenzo's, and you should not make they same mistake that we all did. Maybe Lynch and Knapp will again play host to a fun, rowdy bar scene here, but if you mostly just want a meal, go somewhere else.
Lorenzo's is located at 19 Wyckoff Avenue on the corner of Troutman, and serves food every day from 5:00 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. (No phone; lorenzos-bk.com)