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Photos: Bridget Kenny
Chef Shawn Hewitt (left) and owner Joe Brown

You’re standing beneath the girders of an elevated subway track with an iron manhole cover beneath your feet. The sounds of the subway announcer — “Next stop, 30th Avenue” — ring out from overhead while the unceasing footsteps of a city’s hustling population pound in your ears like a heartbeat. Determined workers rush past you on errands between points A and B while bridges of the East River can be seen in the distance.

Are you standing on 31st Avenue just beneath the Broadway NW station? No  — you’re standing about three blocks east in front of the kitchen in Joe Brown’s latest Astoria offering on Broadway and 34th, The Trestle. After finding success with Rocky McBride’s and PJ Leahy’s, Brown wanted to create something with a different ambiance. And since the Trestle’s opening on Feb. 10, he’s succeeded.

From the moment you walk in, Brown’s commitment to the incessant humming of our city’s veins is present in every detail of the shop. It’s in the ceiling, a steel-appearing wooden facade that was custom made and painted by an artist to look like the underside of New York’s elevated subway tracks. It’s in the walls, all covered in beautiful photographs of the East River’s bridges taken by a local photographer.

It’s even in the toothpicks, all 6 inches long and shaped to look like industrial screws.

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Walk into The Trestle and you won’t see people fussing over their Instagram lighting or what culinary trend they’re currently riding. You’ll see people who love good food working hard at making, serving and savoring good food. Everything is geared toward the celebration of those who get work done  — and when the work is putting delicious food into your mouth, it’s best to remove every obstacle possible.

Executive chef Shawn Hewitt, originally from a Montauk family deeply rooted in restaurants and food, has taken everything he’s learned from his decades in the restaurant game, stripped out everything but the basics, and turned it all on its head. He met Brown through their mutual involvement in cancer charity events in the neighborhood, and Brown was eager to get him in one of his restaurants’ kitchens ever since.

In Brown’s words, “You give Shawn a bag of garbage, and he’ll make it taste amazing.”
Hewitt has spent time working with both David Burke and Bobby Flay, and he’s put that experience to good use here. It’s his appetizers that he’s proudest of.

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First up was an assortment of his favorite starter plates, all made in house. The kale salad was delicious, with a housemade balsamic dressing that gave the hardy kale leaves a delightful playfulness I wasn’t expecting. Along with the greens were craisins and goat cheese, whose sweetness and tartness balanced excellently. The pulled pork and jack cheese dumplings were next, and while the pulled pork was the right amount of tender, the dough itself was a bit tough.But that was made up for with the loaded spring rolls full of mashed potatoes, bacon and scallions and served with sour cream. The mashed potato filling was an excellent twist on what I’ve come to expect from spring rolls, and easily made this my favorite treat of the night.

Entrees were supposed to be next, but Hewitt saw how much we loved his appetizers and insisted on bringing out more. We sampled his meatball and garlic bread dish next, which he described as “not your mama’s meatball.” This was a 50/50 pork/sirloin blend with garlic and various “seafood ingredients,” which he said he couldn’t tell me without killing me.

Say no more; I’m happy to live in this delicious mystery.

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To round out his appetizers, he brought out what will, in my opinion, become one of the highlights of The Trestle’s offerings: the Pig Wings. Scrumptious little pork ribs dipped in a housemade cheerwine BBQ sauce and served up like buffalo wings, these bite-sized morsels exploded in my mouth as I gently tore them off the bone. Make sure you dip these in the blue cheese.

Entrees were up next, starting with a porkchop thicker than any I’ve ever seen in my life. Hewitt and Brown both were adamant about their distaste for pork that dries out, and this textbook-sized cut of pig certainly kept its moisture. His (again, housemade) Firecracker Apple Sauce marinade certainly lived up to its name. Cinnamon and jalapeno cranked the heat up while notes of pineapple and vinegar kept it interesting.

Our night at this restaurant homage to New York City took a surprising turn as a traditional Philly cheesesteak came out next. I know my way around a good cheesesteak  — as an alumni of Trenton State College, I know firsthand what makes a 3 a.m. trip to Philadelphia worth the hassle. The Trestle’s offering doesn’t disappoint, with perfectly appropriate gooey cheese and a bread that’s the perfect balance between toasted and slightly greasy.

They’ve paid attention to the work that goes into the food, and it shows in the final product.

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We ended the night with cheesecake, key lime pie, cookies the size of my face, and cocktails. I can’t say firsthand how the Key lime stacks up against the real stuff from Key West, but I can say that this was some damn fine Key lime pie. The crust on this and the cheesecake were both fantastic, and I can say that from firsthand experience. I love cheesecake crust, often more than the cheesecake itself. It’s the best part of the cheesecake, folks.

Head out to the Trestle for loaded spring rolls, a pork chop as thick as your forearm, or cocktails crafted with care. Go after a day of your own grind, or go on a weekend to watch a dedicated crew get a job done well themselves. With a new brunch menu having just debuted and outdoor seating coming as soon as the weather allows it, there’ll be ample opportunity to come share in this culinary celebration of the day to day work involved in making a city run.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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