The Gowanus Canal's stunning transformation from terrifying cesspool to trendy destination (though the cesspool's still got it) has meant the proliferation of new bars, restaurants and flashy karaoke lounges to the area. These days, the smells emanating from the neighborhood are more likely to be pleasing ones from the beer-making process or the wood-fired oven at Freek's Mill, one of the newest eateries to make its home near the historic body of water. In its pre-canal days, the then-creek boasted a lively oyster population and the surrounding area was mostly farmland, a bucolic landscape difficult to imagine in the era where a three eyed catfish is not inconceivable.
There's a crackerjack team running the new restaurant, including Chef Chad Shaner of the stately Union Square Cafe and Gotham Bar and Grill and beverage director Alex Alan who spent time at Williamsburg's sexy Hotel Delmano. On the eating end, expect smaller dishes with a mind towards vegetables (carrots with yoghurt $12, BBQ kohrabi over grits $16 and wild mushrooms with chevre flan $18) and larger, seasonal entrees like Stracci ($18), pasta ribbons with lamb, olives and ricotta and Dry Aged Duck ($22) with beans.
For drinks, Alan's got a mind towards wine, particularly sustainable vineyards and producers, with a large selection of Cru Beaujolais (gamay wines from a few small towns in northern Burgundy, not the Nouveau that pops up once a year) and Loire Chenin Blancs (acidic whites from central France).
285 Nevins Street in Gowanus, Brooklyn, 718-852-3000; freeksmill.com