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Southern Food Returns to Flatbush Ave.

Brooklyn couple opens Elberta, bringing upscale, down-home cooking to the neighborhood.

Ever since Mama Duke's and Biscuit closed several years back, the Prospect Heights/Park Slope border has been without Southern food.

But now there's , which opened in July between Prospect and Park places.

Owned by husband-and-wife team Erica Phillips and Erwin Caesar, the restaurant replaces , the cafe-turned-restaurant that used to be Heights Coffee.

The pair, friends of Heights Coffee owner Tony Atterbuy,  joined the project a year ago during the transition to Velvet Peach.  But the Velvet Peach concept wasn’t quite right.

"With Velvet Peach you still had that sort of mix of Wifi and coffee shop—it still looked like a coffee shop. It had some food menu options but it really wasn’t the feel of ‘Oh this is where I’m going to go for dinner,'" said Phillips.

In February, Phillips and Caesar were offered the chance to become the sole owners and they plunged in.

"We made an offer and took it over. We decided to close and really go full swing and become a full service restaurant," she said.

The move to restaurant ownership was definitely a shift for the couple: Phillips is a primary care physician at New York Presbyterian Hospital while Caesar works at a management consulting firm.

The couple, who have a 2-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter, are longtime Brooklynites: Phillips grew up in East Flatbush and went to Stuyvesant High School, followed by the University of Virginia and Columbia University Medical School. Caesar was born in Guyana and immigrated to Brooklyn in 1983 with his family.

But although the shift to restaurateurs is a change, Phillips said they “took a leap of faith” when the opportunity arose and jumped in.  

After closing Velvet Peach, they completely redesigned the space, using a dark-wood bar as the new focal point. They also hired veteran chef Robert Carlino, a Brooklyn native who spent his 30-year culinary career primarily at restaurants in the South, working his way up from dishwasher to executive chef.

Carlino moved back to Brooklyn planning to retire, but met Phillips and Caesar and took on Elberta instead.  

Carlino created a menu full of classic Southern elements, such as ribs, catfish po'boys and fried chicken. But then added such twists as a fried green tomato BLT and lobster mac and cheese. Having primarily worked in Florida and other costal areas, Carlino also includes a large seafood component including andouille steamed clams, shrimp etouffe and a Bayou seafood platter. There are also some non-southern options such as beef or portabella burgers and a stuffed roasted baby eggplant appetizer.

The restaurant also serves as a cocktail lounge with an expansive drinks menu offering such options as a $14 Skinny Peach Fancy (bourbon, sparkling water, agave nectar, bitters, peaches, blackberries) or a $12 Prospect Passon (belvedere pink grapefruit, peach, chilled jasmine tea, fresh lemon juice, champagne).

For those looking for another down-home, casual spot like Mama Duke’s or Biscuit, this isn’t it.  But if you're looking for an upscale restaurant that isn't spouting the farm-to-table mantra (true or not), Elberta could be just the thing.

 

, 335 Flatbush Avenue between Prospect and Park places. 718-638-1936, Open Tues - Thurs 5pm - 11pm; Fri 5pm - 12am; Sat 11am-12am; Sun 11am -10pm.

Lisa Harris August 23, 2012 at 06:41 PM
I am definitely going to check you guys out. Nothing like good ole soul food.
Gregg August 24, 2012 at 01:33 PM
Soul food is a welcome addition to the neighborhood, but it's a shame the prices are so high on this menu. Looks like they are 1/3 too high, IMHO, for this area.
jeff scott August 24, 2012 at 05:49 PM
Upscale? There's nothing Southern about this place. I had their ribs and it was unremarkable. Since they're from the caribbean, why not develop a menu of that sort.
Allison Rhone August 30, 2012 at 03:06 PM
I will definitely check this place out! Love the concept and the owners sound awesome! I love knowing about/ supporting black-owned business....I will say the price of drinks seems a little high. A little higher then I am used to in the neighborhood. Even if I bought one, I would never buy two $14 drinks. So it might make more sense to charge $8 or $10 (the high end for me) and make more $$ in the long run.

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