On a quiet strip of Third Avenue in Brooklyn's growing Gowanus section you will find Runner & Stone. The first thing you notice as you walk through the door is the scent of freshly-baked bread. It's intoxicating. But there is a lot more to the restaurant than just bread, although it is a major component.
The space itself is intimate with a small bar up front for cocktails and seating available on the first floor and lower level. The staff is young and energetic. In the kitchen you will find Executive Chef Chris Pizzulli, formerly of Blue Ribbon, and head baker Peter Endris, of Per Se and Bouchon Bakery.
Dinner began with a bite-sized savory croissant and an assortment of breads, including a buckwheat baguette that has wonderful body to it slathered with house-made butter. I could have easily turned it into a meal. As a cocktail, I tried the signature drink, The Gowanus. It's a dirty vodka martini, no doubt getting its inspiration from the nearby and notorious Gowanus Canal. My dining partner had an Italian golden ale called Artigianale, but most folks nearby were tapping into the restaurant's wine list.
At this point our appetizers began arriving, starting with the"Duck Pastrami;" three slices of perfectly rare duck served with enough rye bread to make a few bite-sized sandwiches that we stacked high with razor-thin slices of pickled cucumber, red onion and a hearty beer mustard. Escarole salad got some surprise crunch from deep fried cannellini beans. The dressing offering just a hint of fresh cumin. Entrees included orecchette. The pasta mingling with slices of pork sausage rich with fennel, and the bitterness of broccoli rabe. Chili flakes adding some extra heat to the dish. A lamb burger was topped with a thick slab of lamb pancetta and candied onions. It's served on a semolina ciabatta with house dijon and would stack up easily against any good pub burger. Not all dishes excite, however. Paccheri, a calamari ragu, didn't quite live up to expectations.
But there is plenty to be excited about on the dessert menu. A rye brownie sundae is accompanied by whisky ice cream. Pear Tatin gets a puff pastry crumble with whipped mascarpone and a concord grape granita, while a “banana split” is served up with barley malt ice cream, marshmallow sauce and walnut levain candy. The homemade ice cream is also available by the scoop. On our visit, flavors included a wonderful pumpkin spice.
As we were about to walk out the door, we were handed a loaf of sesame semolina on the house. It was a wonderful gesture and made for a terrific breakfast treat the following morning. It is little details like this that make Runner and Stone worth running to!