Oh boy, I love to grill. When my friends throw barbecues, you will find me perched in front of or around the pit. There’s something magical about leaping flames and commanding the most primitive means of culinary technique. Our ancestors took a progressive leap when they decided to roast the day’s hunt over the spit of an open fire. It could have been the pleasurable, charred aromas or the fact that people weren’t dropping dead from salmonella that won our ancestors over.
I also now see the connection between sports and tailgate grilling. Football fields are in the shape of a gridiron, the technical term for grill grates that are placed over a heat source, making an obvious connection to the sport and the grill. The combination of activities and imagery fulfills a carnal pleasure for competition, a modern day hunt and inherent desire to commune with the past.
I’m not much of a sports fan but I do like to gather with friends at a bar after a hard day’s work, bringing home the bacon, so to speak. I can get my weekday fix of charred flesh with the self-service grills on the patio of East River Bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The concept of bring-your-own barbecue reminds me of camping, hanging outside with friends and channeling the do-it-yourself spirit away from home. It may not be as glorious as doing it in your backyard or in a park but on-the-go New Yorkers are typically relegated to the weekend, competing with crowds to get a space to grill.
East River Bar’s owner, Marek Gregorski, recommends coming during happy hour (5pm to 8pm) for the best chance of reserving a grill. Minimal involvement from the bar staff keeps the operation free. You do need to provide your own food, plates, utensils, charcoal and a grill master. In turn, East River Bar is happy to supply the seating, the jams, an awning for extreme rain or sun, cheap drinks and clean-up.
As much as I love scraping déglaçage from a grill pan for gravy, cleaning an outdoor grill is time consuming and a buzz kill. Gregorski, jokes “You can invite 20 people to a BBQ and not be cleaning your roof deck the next morning with a hangover!” It’s good practice to call ahead and let them know if you’re planning on bringing that many people and to check if there’s leftover condiments or charcoal for your party to snap up. The possibilities are endless but note that there isn’t a separate vegetarian-friendly grate. If you find yourself without a grill master, I can carry the fate of your marinated goods. You have my tongs.
East River Bar is located at 97 South 6th St in Brooklyn, NY, 718-302-0511