You know that one restaurant that’s just right because of that one special thing? Yeah, us too. That’s why we’re introducing our newest franchise: Letter of Recommendation. These are tributes, from our staff and contributors, to spots that offer something unique — restaurants we can’t live without. They may not be the most buzzy, but they provide something essential.
In this edition: An argument for what makes the perfect second date spot.
Second dates are the scary ones. First dates offer their fair share of anxieties, of course, but the second one makes it clear: There are stakes. We have agreed to see each other again. You’ve disclosed sibling counts and home states and professions, but now it’s time to light some candles, pour some drinks, and go deep. This calls for ambiance. It calls for “the perfect spot.”
Whenever I move to a new neighborhood, which is something I do often enough to have a checklist for it, I go looking for a restaurant in what I think of as “the second date Goldilocks Zone.” Such a place ought to have cozy mood lighting, tasty cocktails, shareable plates, and, most importantly of all, it should make me look like I know what I’m doing in the eyes of a potential suitor. If I can’t competently track down a restaurant with immaculate vibes, then of what use will I be in the harsh winters to come?
I had my go-tos in Ridgewood, Bed-Stuy, and Bushwick, but none have reached closer to the platonic ideal of “the perfect second date spot” than Pheasant in East Williamsburg. Serving up modern, Mediterranean-inspired plates, Pheasant achieves the near impossible, and in a neighborhood that is perpetually crowded and bustling: It makes New York feel approachable. It makes you feel that you are taking advantage of living in the big city, all while enjoying a quiet little corner of it.
Perhaps it’s in the presentation — crispy chicken with zigzag yogurt drizzle served up “house party” style on a sharing plate, preferably ferried to one of the outdoor tables in the impossibly pleasant backyard. There’s something about the place that conjures the warmth of an intimate gathering in your friend of a friend’s apartment. One feels encouraged to crane over into the next table and say, “That looks good.” I am bolder than usual in requesting a sip of my dining partner’s cocktail.
It’s a bit pricier than your typical Brooklyn get-together, though. There’s a reason it’s a perfect second date spot: It’s hard to get a table, and even harder to walk out with your wallet unscathed. No bones about it, this place is a splurge. Those breezy cocktails, house focaccia (highly recommended), and baby gem salads add up. This is where you go if date No. 1 went well and you’re looking to really make an impression.
It’s also not the sort of place where you should forego appetizers or dessert (the chocolate budino with orange zest is worth tacking on, trust me). The food itself is great, but not necessarily something I would go out of my way for, especially in a neighborhood teeming with good eats. The food is just good enough to impress, but also gets out of the way so as not to distract from the vibe of it all. Sharable and simple, it attends to your needs without asking for much.
At Pheasant, you’re signing up for the whole experience. All the elements work splendidly in concert with each other — the ambiance, the potted plant accents, the fact that such a lovely restaurant would be tucked away behind a massive wooden door on an unassuming corner of Graham Avenue. The service staff is attentive and warm, adding to the general coziness, and the simple, generous plating practically begs, “share me.”
Look, it’s a chaotic, lonely world out there. Dating is hard, and dating in a big city has its unique challenges.
It all conspires to make Pheasant feel special, like you’re in a spot with the perfect amount of frills. It’s fancy without trying too hard, comfortable yet chic. It’s the perfect place to get to know someone better, to indicate to someone that you’ve got great taste but you’re no snob, to get lost in easy conversation, and to keep extending the evening with little plates and coffee at the end. If you’re looking for that romanticized TV episode ideal of a Brooklyn dinner, this is it.
That’s also why I hosted my birthday dinner there last February, too. I had a few disparate friend groups to bring together, as no doubt many a Brooklynite has, with work buddies to introduce to old pals. I needed a place with outdoor dining in the dead of winter with a reliable menu that was optimized for “getting-to-know-you” banter. Pheasant, of course, didn’t disappoint.
Look, it’s a chaotic, lonely world out there. Dating is hard, and dating in a big city has its unique challenges. It can be easy to feel like you’re getting lost in the shuffle, and as we’ve crawled out of our pandemic holes, life can feel like it’s going at a breakneck pace.
Those places that feel quiet, where you can have a nice talk and leave feeling like you know somebody better are only more important in times like these. It makes it worth spending a little extra on octopus.
Pheasant is open Wednesdays through Sundays for dinner service (starting at 5 or 5:30 p.m.), and on Saturdays and Sundays for brunch (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) as well.