NYC's Most Obscure Restaurants: Schnitzel Bar in Sunset Park, Brooklyn
We really only ever hear about a handful of restaurants out of the 50,000 that I estimate exist in the city. Even in Manhattan itself, there are vast swatches in Inwood, Washington Heights, Harlem, the Upper East Side, and around the fringes of Chinatown that have never seen a blogger or food writer of any sort. To redress that in a small way, we hereby launch this series on the city's obscurest eateries.
Under the Gowanus Expressway for most of its length as it zooms from the Prospect Expressway to Bay Ridge, there are tiny local restaurants basking in a perpetual shadow, interspersed with porn shops and shuttered businesses. These mainly serve the needs of workers in the factories that still exist in this neighborhood, car-service drivers, truckers, warehousemen, and the stray pedestrian who seeks out these curious precincts. The darkened thoroughfare under the highway is officially known as Third Avenue.
Another category of diner is the peripatetic Lubavitcher Hasidim, who stops by Schnitzel Bar for snacks, meals, and conversations. Schnitzels form the core of the menu, and this Viennese delight -- a breaded veal or chicken cutlet -- has been repurposed in a half-dozen different ways. According to the signboard over the kitchen at the end of the room, you can get it Spanish, French, or Chinese, depending on the sauces placed thereon.
At midafternoon, the place is very laid-back. A couple of Hispanic cooks busy themselves by the twirling shawarma wheels, the deep fat fryers, and the flat-top griddle, as a guy in Hasidic togs stands behind the cash register, his yarmulke askew. A tableful of religious cohorts kibitz in a booth by the register, as I sit in the window and enjoy one of the best bowls of chicken soup ever.