Goldilocks rejoice! Park Slope is now home to New York City’s first artisanal gruel shop. Yes, gruel. The humble peasant food is now available to BK’s foodies at the Brooklyn Porridge Co. (741 Union Street).
The 19th century bourgeoisie may turn up their noses at the pop-up’s oats, grits, and velvet amaranth. Co-owners and chefs Emily Hannon (a recent graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute of Health & Culinary Arts) and Karyn Seltzer (formerly of Sarabeth’s), both Brooklyn residents, brought the idea to fruition after bonding over their love of warm breakfast foods and savory oatmeal toppings. (They range from pesto to sausage on the menu.)
Porridge, which is actually any grain that can mixed with liquid and turned into a cereal, came to prominence as a cheap and filling meal that was still affordable to the world’s poor. But Oliver Twist wouldn’t recognize this build-your-own porridge, which starts at 6.95 for a bowl of oats, grits, and velvet amaranth with two toppings. (On the menu: artichoke hearts and portobello mushrooms drizzled in white truffle oil.) Befitting a Park Slope gruel shop, every porridge blend is gluten-, GMO- and dairy- free to start with, though you could add cheese to your porridge bowl to get rid of that last one.
Hannon and Seltzer decided to open their store after bonding over a shared love not of oatmeal itself, but of the savory toppings you could add to it. Hannon said that while the gruel isn’t difficult to make, the challenge lies in finding the best balance of flavors to make the cereal taste good on its own.
Most customers choose amaranthe, an ancient grain from Mexico and Peru that’s similar to quinoa, as it offers a hefty dose of fiber and protein along with a pleasant nutty flavor. And it’s not just a sometimes food: the place is open until 7 p.m. on weekdays and 7:30pm weekends.
Inside the steamy-windowed storefront, the colorful venue pays homage to gruel’s rich history with chalk quotes on its wall honoring the carbohydrate’s cultural prominence from Shakespeare (“He receives comfort like cold porridge”) to Bob Marley (“Then we would cook cornmeal porridge, of which I’ll share with you.”). So wander in and ask for some more — no one will yell at you for it. Unless you don’t have money to pay.