Let’s just hope the leafy greens don’t taste like grass.
A new, Walt-Whitman-themed restaurant called The Runner opened in Clinton Hill on March 6, serving up old-timey dishes that the original Bard of Brooklyn might have munched on in his day. One of the eatery’s proprietors said the inspiration for the antique menu came to him in an exceedingly modern flash.
“I literally started Googling the history of Clinton Hill and Whitman came up pretty quick,” said Runner co-owner Richard Winter.
Whitman resided in the borough for much of his life and only laid his head in Clinton Hill for less than a year. It was a productive time, though — historians say the brownstone neighborhood is where Whitman finished his seminal work “Leaves of Grass.” The poem “The Runner” appears in that fat tome and Winter interprets it as a symbol for progress and the Industrial Revolution, which reminds him of the changes sweeping across Brooklyn today.
“When I thought about what’s going on in this neighborhood, on Myrtle Avenue, I knew it was just right,” said Winter about choosing the name.
The head chef is Andrew Burman, who made a name for himself slinging sandwiches at Court Street Grocers in Carroll Gardens.
Burman designed The Runner’s menu around American fare from the early 1900s and cooks most dishes on a wood-fired stove. Winter describes the cuisine as “simple comfort food.”
“We’re not going crazy with food science,” he said.
The menu boasts roasts including chicken with watercress, fennel, and lemon, and a lamb shoulder with cinnamon currants, pickled onions, and cilantro. Seafood appetizers include razor clams and roasted oysters.
Among the period dishes are chicken liver mousse as well as bone marrow with escargot — a fancy way of saying snails — and apple onion jam.
This is Winter’s first shot at owning a restaurant, but he knows the money side of the business. Previously he had a career as a minor league baseball player, then went to work as an executive for the Institute of Culinary Arts, and most recently started a consulting firm that handles accounting and financing for restaurants.
He said Clinton Hill is exactly the type of neighborhood he was looking for when he decided to pursue his latest venture.
“We were looking at growing neighborhoods that have a love for culinary arts,” Winter said. “This area of Brooklyn is perfect.”
The Runner [458 Myrtle Ave. between Washington and Waverly avenues in Clinton Hill, (718) 643–6500, www.therunnerbk.com]. Brunch Saturday–Sunday, 11 am–3 pm. Dinner Sunday–Thursday, 5–10 pm. Friday–Saturday, 5–11 pm.