Carbon Charcoal Grill & Bar
Meat – Pan-American Grill – Counter Service
262 Kingston Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
Beis Din of Crown Heights Vaad Hakashrus (CHK)
As you approach Carbon Charcoal Bar & Grill, it’s easy to smell the charcoal from a good 50 yards away. Something about that smell helps add to the sense of anticipation before you even walk in the door.
Walking inside, you’ll see a sleek space with a bar on the right side. Just past the bar, there are a couple of kiosks where you can place your order, part of the growing trend in the restaurant world of allowing customers to leisurely browse the menu and customize their items. In case selecting from a giant touch screen isn’t exactly your thing, Carbon has staff on hand to offers suggestions or help you make your choices.
The space isn’t that large (about 50 seats), but the vibe certainly is. The overhead lighting structure is a string of hexagons, a shape you’ll find in a few places throughout the restaurant and one which is sometimes used to symbolize the sixth element, carbon.
So, how do you pronounce the name of the restaurant? Let’s just say that’s up to you. It’s spelled like the element (carbon), but it’s a charcoal grill (carbón means charcoal in Spanish), and the logo on the glass has a Hebrew letter kuf in it (which, given the nature of the restaurant, might indicate it’s pronounced like the Hebrew word for sacrifice, korban).
However you choose to pronounce it, you’ll likely choose to come back for more.
I was invited to check out this amazing new dining concept by Gabe Don and “Bosh” Boshnack. Gabe always wanted to own a restaurant and Bosh is the guy he wanted in the kitchen. Together they’ve created a welcoming atmosphere with a bunch of cool finishings, including carbon fiber tables and a wall of license plates in the bathroom. Making sure people feel at home is just as important to their mission as the food. That said, they’ve put together a really interesting menu for patrons to order from.
If you’re looking for appetizers, there are a few that are out of this world. First, the “XL Loaded Fries” are a must. The fries are homemade, disk-shaped, crinkle-cut, and still crispy even after they get a bunch of stuff dumped on them. They come with pieces of bacon mixed in and pico de gallo and guacamole on top. The portion size is rather large and could easily be split by six people.
Another appetizer I would advise you not to skip would be the empanadas. These are on the large side and each one is likely to be six bites at least. The first thing you’ll notice is that the dough is perfect. After the restaurant had been open for only a week, Carbon’s empanadas became so popular that they had to buy a pasta sheeter in order to make enough dough efficiently. This isn’t to say that the filling should be overlooked, as the beef is seasoned well and provides a hearty center.
My last recommendation here is to get the pit beans. I know – you might not be a beans person. Neither am I. But these were the best beans I’ve ever tasted. The secret at Carbon is that they cook the beans with the leftover scraps of meat from the day before. The result is a really deep flavor and a great consistency. If these beans ever get entered into a cholent contest, everyone else can take their Crock-Pots and go home.
Charcoal chicken restaurants are becoming more common these days, and for good reason. The rotating nature of the machines makes sure that the inside of the chicken keeps its moisture, while the charcoal below offers a great smell and texture to the outside. The result is a great combination of flavor, feel, and fragrance that is almost unmatchable.
What makes Carbon stand out in the expanding group of charcoal chicken places? They make their own sausages. These are not similar to what you will find in a store. They are ground and seasoned in-house, using different meats and spices to make four varieties. If you like sausages, you may have trouble picking just one.
If you are looking for a sandwich, I can’t recommend the Carbon roast beef enough. The bread is a ciabatta roll that possesses the appropriate sturdiness to support the weight of the ample roast beef by having a slightly rustic outer crust, while the inside is soft enough to soak up the moisture of the meat, garlic aioli, and roughage. Fresh tomatoes, sautéed red pepper, and caramelized onions all come together to finish one of the best sandwiches I’ve had in a while.
To accompany your meal, Carbon has made some interesting sauce choices for you to choose from. The cumbre is a kind of salsa mayo that provides some good acidity and it might be good on those loaded fries, the golf is a sweet and spicy sauce that would pair well with their perfectly crispy fried chicken wings, and the Portuguese pepper is a puréed sauce that was amazing when mixed into a sausage burnt rice bowl.
While there are many desserts on the menu, the grilled pineapple is the real must-have item. The high heat makes the core edible, the char on the outside provides a unique flavor, and it’s something you likely can’t replicate at home.
A key feature for Carbon will likely be their spacious backyard (about 75 seats). The decorations are clean and minimalist and make you feel at home. Some post-Covid diners are more comfortable eating outside and the space will also be well-utilized for events like sheva brachos for years to come.
Speaking of the future, the restaurant’s liquor license will be finalized in the coming days and, given the proposed hours for the future, Carbon will likely become the neighborhood’s top late-night spot.
So, if you’re in Crown Heights, or near it, or really anywhere, make sure to stop by Carbon. The prices are reasonable, the vibe is great, the portion sizes are large, the food is fresh, and at the very least you’ll be able to have a conversation about how to pronounce the restaurant’s name while you wait for your food.