Last summer(ish) in Brooklyn, a fresh and inventive sandwich shop sprouted in the back of a popular Franklin Avenue cocktail bar, The Crown Inn. Called Black Tree and run by Brooklynites Sandy Hall and Macnair “Mac” Sillick, the space-within-a-space was an instant hit with drinkers, both for its locally-sourced, high-quality ingredients as well as the hefty size of the sandwiches themselves, especially considering the cheap-eats prices. If you’re a resident of Crown Heights, or just like to go out drinking in interesting new places, Crown Inn/Black Tree is definitely worth putting on your list.
Rather than be content with their sandwich success story, however, Hall and Sillick decided to take their delicious beasts on the road, and this summer opened up their own spot on Orchard Street. The Black Tree location in the Lower East Side is rustic and narrow, with some tables up front for people-watching onto Orchard and an L-shaped bar serving all kinds of crazy cocktails (The Summer Movie, featuring “popcorn-infused” Owney’s Brooklyn rum, anyone?), as well as anything else cold and boozy you might like. When I went in for a bite it was early evening on the Fourth of July, and so the staff (chef, waiter, barkeep) consisted of one extremely capable and friendly young man, who pulled off all of his assignments with aplomb.
Black Tree sandwiches change with the season, and all of them sound awesome. On my last visit I managed to get through two of of these thick, prepared-with-care beauties, both equally good. The Summer Pig sandwich was a lovely thing to behold–the braised pork belly, fatty, crispy, chewy, sweet, and moist, was piled high atop some excellent spicy blueberry jam–and an even more lovely thing to ingest. And for my second course I wolfed down Black Tree’s 3-Cheese Grilled Cheese (that’d be Red Rock Cheddar Blue, Marieke Premium Gouda and Hooks Jack), the gooey goodness given some necessary bite by the added-on pickled ramps. Great stuff.
The Crown Heights Black Tree is located in the back of the Crown Inn on Franklin Avenue near Park Place. The new Lower East Side Black Tree is on Orchard between Rivington and Delancey. For more information on both, and a look at the complete Black Tree menu, please see their website.