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 a 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 for you to place your order. This continues the growing trend of allowing customers to really 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 help you make your choices or offer suggestions.
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), but the logo on the glass has a “ק” in it (which given the nature of the restaurant might indicate it’s pronounced like the Hebrew word for sacrifice, “קרבן”).
However you choose to pronounce it, you’ll likely choose to come back for more.
I was invited to check out this amazing concept by Gabe Don and “Bosh” Boshnack. Gabe always wanted to own a restaurant and Bosh is the guy he wanted making the recipes. Together they’ve created a welcoming atmosphere with a bunch of cool finishings (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 veal 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.
I’d also recommend 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 crockpots and go home.
In fact, the Pit Beans were so popular that they added XL Loaded Carbon Chili Fries to the menu. This is basically the same as the standard loaded fries, but with the veal bacon substituted for the famous Pit Beans.
Another appetizer I would advise you not to skip would be the Empanadas. These are on the larger 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 being open for only a week, their 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.
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 the store. These 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 ruffage. Fresh tomatoes, sauteed red pepper, and caramelized onions all come together to finish one of the best sandwiches I’ve had in a while. Not looking for a sandwich? Luckily for you, the sandwich generated enough buzz that Carbon now sells the house-made roast beef by the pound.
To accompany your meal, Carbon has made some interesting sauce choices for you to choose from. The Golf is a sweet and spicy sauce that would pair well with their perfectly crispy fried chicken wings, the Portuguese Pepper is a pureed sauce that was amazing when mixed into a sausage burnt rice bowl, the Pineapple Habanero is a sweet option for those looking for a tropical taste, and the Carolina Reaper sauce should only be ingested by those who are comfortable with the type of spicy that might numb your whole face.
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 of Carbon is its spacious backyard, which seats almost 75 people. The decorations are clean and minimalist and make you feel at home. The space is well-utilized for events like sheva brachos and is almost fully temperature and weather-controlled due to its walls and roof.
Last but not least, let’s talk about their bar. Carbon sports a liquor license and a full bar that has everything from beer on tap to top-shelf shots. They also offer an array of signature cocktails and frozen cocktails in the warmer months. Carbon has quickly become the neighborhood’s top late-night spot and looks poised to stay that way for years to come.
So, if you’re in Crown Heights, 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 name while you wait for your food.
Review courtesy of Nati Burnside