In the early twentieth century the neighborhood currently called DUMBO was known as Gairville, after Robert Gair, a manufacturer of paper bags and the inventor of the paperboard folding carton. Gair's operation was headquartered out of 45 Washington Street, where he employed hundreds of workers and made an indelible impact on the fast and furious world of cardboard box manufacturing. The man is mostly forgotten, but at least there's now a fancy restaurant paying homage: the recently opened Governor, which takes its name from Gair's sobriquet. It's a tad precious, but we respect their nod to local history, and we can't wait to see how the bathroom wallpaper depicting Gair spanking a leggy young lady over his knee goes over in family-friendly DUMBO.
Opened by the folks behind the nearby Gran Electrica and Colonie in Brooklyn Heights, Governor bears similar design elements to the latter, featuring a lush green living wall and tables that slide smoothly together and apart on metal railings. A limited menu of bar snacks is available at the small bar (try the poached oyster toast with lobster butter, $3), which serves the fancy fastidiously prepared cocktails that well-heeled DUMBO denizens demand. (Overheard last night: "I think I can get $30 million from [REDACTED] and another ten from [REDACTED] and we're in business!")
The bi-level restaurant boasts 20 foot ceilings and plenty of natural light flooding through the original arched windows. From an open kitchen in the back, Chef Bradford McDonald, formerly of Noma in Denmark and Per Se, toils over an ambitious but small menu that changes daily, based on what's fresh at the Greenmarkets. Yesterday co-owner Elise Rosenberg invited us to try a few things, and while a couple items are a little "out there" for our taste (namely the texturally awkward Lobster Consomme with apple and fennel, $12) we loved the extremely refreshing 8-Ball Squash Gazpacho with Zucchini Flowers and Goat Cheese ($12). We also recommend the crisp Romaine a la Plancha with Sunflower, Yogurt, Grapes, and Bread Salad ($11).
If you go to Governor, it's absolutely imperative you order the housemade Sourdough bread, which emerges crispy on the outside and soft and warm on the inside. They say it takes 36 hours to prepare, and we believe it—bread this incredible doesn't just happen. It's served with a side of butter churned daily in the kitchen and dusted with a "salt" made from the rinds of Timberdoodle cheese, with a side of fresh radishes lightly coated in vinaigrette. It comes in two sizes for $4 or $7, and it's so good you could you could live on this bread alone. Plus a cocktail maybe. Try the tasty Cool Hunt Club, an ideal summer drink made with organic cucumber vodka, muddled gooseberries, fresh cucumber juice, agave thyme nectar, lemon.
15 Main Street, (718) 858-4756