After reading a bunch of glowing reviews about the burgers at Ditmas Park’s new restaurant, my roommate and I decided to head down to Newkirk Avenue and give Ox Cart Tavern a try. We were spurred into action after seeing an especially delicious burger during a bad date on The Millionaire Matchmaker; having watched The Cooking Channel all day also didn’t help.
Like my neighborhood, Ditmas Park has been experiencing an influx of new cozy neighborhood spots (both restaurants and bars) in the past few years. Like Prospect/Crown Heights, there’s an interesting balance of established mom-and-pop restaurants/take-out spots and new additions that could entice even the most stubborn of one’s Manhattanite friends to make the 40-minute trip. We tried The Farm on Adderley a couple months ago, which was super fresh and impressive. After our meal, we got a drink at nearby Sycamore and it had more of an exclusive feel—it seems like a great bar/flower shop if you’re a member of the neighborhood, but I probably wouldn’t travel there again for some drinks unless I was meeting someone who lived in Ditmas Park. (I’m sure people from other neighborhoods feel the same way about Washington Commons, while Franklin Park tends to be a better Prospect/Crown Heights bar for welcoming “outsiders.”)
Ox Cart was pretty small, seating about 25 to 30, so it gave us a little bit of that exclusive regulars-only feel when we first went in. Luckily, the wait staff was extremely pleasant and welcoming. We arrived at around 6 PM on a Saturday night—this turned out to be a good time because a couple large parties came in by the time we left, and there isn’t much room to wait. Ox Cart has happy hour from 5 to 7 PM (and 10 PM to midnight), so we took advantage of the $4 drafts.
To start, we shared the chili-coated onion rings. For dipping, there was a lime sauce—it seemed to be a simple and delicious mixture of sour cream and vibrant lime juice. The coating had a perfect crunch, but I could have used a little more spicy tang to match the strong citrus sauce. I’m pretty picky about onion rings (I hate raw onions but love them cooked, go figure) and these passed my test. For $4, you might as well try them—there are enough to split, but not too many to ruin your meal.
Despite the very interesting burger combinations, we both got a regular burger (mine with pepper jack cheese, Anne’s with cheddar); I really just wanted to taste the quality of the ingredients and see how it stacked up to other local burgers. When they arrived, mine was pretty perfect. Anne, on the other hand, had ordered medium well, but had to send it back with a pink middle; I told the busboy he was free to spit in it (reverse psychology!). The bun was the right size for the burger, the tomatoes were thin, the lettuce was fresh. It was a large, satisfying bite when coupled with the fresh sesame seed bun. The hand-cut steak fries were delicious in their own right; when dipped in the homemade ketchup, which had a bit of a barbecue flavor, they were a perfect addition. (Make sure to ask for extra ketchup on the side—you’ll get a single thimble otherwise.)
It surpassed Dutch Boy, the newer burger joint on Franklin Ave, and beat out Dram Shop by a hair. (That’s like comparing apples to oranges, though.) But it was still a close second to Cheryl’s on Underhill—that burger is the best I’ve had in Brooklyn and has yet to be beat.
Now, if we hadn’t gotten dessert, I might not have “written home” about Ox Cart—Brooklyn has a zillion good restaurants—but then we got the banana split gelato sundae. Holy jesus. The toppings: “Homemade fudge, bourbon caramel with maraschino cherries, fresh whipped cream, praline, peanut butter.” All over a fresh banana with three scoops of gelato (vanilla, chocolate, and raspberry). Run—do not walk—to Ox Cart to try it. It was six dollars. SIX DOLLARS. (Blue Marble, our closest ice cream spot besides a lackluster Mr. Softee truck on Eastern Parkway, has a six-dollar cover charge just to walk in.) It was obviously large enough to split, but I kind of wish I hadn’t—I would’ve taken a stomach ache to eat the thing by myself. The homemade fudge and caramel were amazing, the gelato a great consistency and richness.
So yes. Try Ox Cart. Get there early. And don’t forget dessert. The whole meal (one beer, split appetizer, burger and fries, and split dessert) cost about $28 per person including tax and tip.