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Brooklyn Eatery Reinvents Classic Favorites

By Kelly Gallagher

Traditional dishes- with a twist. That's the simplest way to describe the food at Lulu & Po, an eatery located in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. But simple isn't the word that comes to mind when one examines the menu and sees a hamburger topped with caramelized onions and goat cheese, or hand-cut French fries served with aioli. You've heard of tacos- but how about bone marrow tacos? Love seafood? How about Spanish octopus with cilantro and jalapeno sauce? These items are the marriage between time-honored, classic food and an active imagination. Specifically, the imagination of Owner/Chef Matt Hamilton, who classifies Lulu & Po's cuisine as "New American."

"It's a term that's evolved from the revival of farm-to-table cooking, a new take on American classics," explains Hamilton. "You can infuse tastes from your own travels and experiences to take the more traditional dishes somewhere new and fresh."

Hamilton says he pulls inspiration from regional dishes he enjoyed during his upbringing in upstate New York and Long Island- such as Utica greens, salt potatoes, and clams from the Sound. Also, the food he was exposed to during his time in the military, during which he was stationed in locations like California, Arizona, and Japan.

Hamilton doesn't see New American cuisine as a trend, but rather as a term to communicate to customers that they will be enjoying classic foods prepared with a fresh perspective. "I think many of the amazing foods that were almost lost in the standardization of agriculture over the past 50 years are resurfacing," says Hamilton, who alters his menu with the seasons and to accommodate his newest creations. "I love to get excited by things I find at the market."

Lulu & Po, which is named for Hamilton's daughter and his wife, also features wine from small vintners, and cocktails. "[The cocktails] are all based on classics, but they are hand-crafted with specially sourced ingredients, and we add a little something extra to each drink to make it special. Our soda syrups are made in-house, so even a rum and cola never has that generic taste."

Hamilton's creativity isn't limited only to his ever-changing menu. Lulu & Po has a distinct ambience achieved by a combination of familiarity and quirkiness. "We wanted to build it out with our tastes and needs, but still take cues from its natural bones," says Hamilton. "It's inviting- friendly- and casual, with no pretensions."

Every attempt is made at Lulu & Po to use locally sourced ingredients, and the same philosophy was applied when selecting the eatery's décor. The walls are paneled with locally salvaged wood, which absorbs noise (perfect for those busy Brooklyn nights!) and adds warmth to the dining area, which retains many of its original industrial details, such as a cement floor and an open, stainless steel kitchen. Low lighting and tight seating create a cozy atmosphere that, according to Hamilton, replicates the feeling one would have if invited over to his home for a meal.

Lulu & Po is a local favorite among Brooklynites, but it has also attracted attention and accolades from reviewers from publications such as Michelin Guide, New York Magazine, New York Times, Village Voice, Brooklyn Exposed, and more.

Food isn't merely fuel- food can be an experience, a celebration, a piece of art. Food can tell a story. In Brooklyn, Hamilton is writing is story in spices and oils, in local greens and fresh meats. And what a delicious story it is.

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About The Author

Kelly Gallagher studied creative writing at SUNY Oswego and Vermont College of Fine...

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