Jonathan Butler and Eric Demby are cool. They’re cool, in part, because they’ve revealed cool things to the rest of us New Yorkers. Delicious things we may now take for granted – like McClure’s Pickles, Early Bird Granola, and Salvatore Ricotta. We sat down with the creators of Brooklyn Flea, Smorgasburg, and their new beer hall, Berg’n, to talk about what they like to do, eat, and drink.
You’ve created the places that other people like to eat, drink, and chill out. Where do you go when you want to do that?
Eric: One of my favorite places is the Mr. Saturday Night Dance Parties. They move their party around – it’s two guys Eamon and Justin, they’re also friends of mine – they are great DJs and they play old fashioned Disco/House music. It’s very un-club. Then they have this party called Mr. Sunday that’s outdoors from 3-9 p.m. They used to have it on the Banks of the Gowanus. From 3-6 it’s very family friendly and then it sort of turns more adult.
Jonathan: Generally if we don’t have anything planned, we lounge around the house in the morning and then make it over to the Flea for an early lunch. My kids are 9 and 12 and they are adventurous eaters. We spend a lot of time at Locanda Vini e Olii in Clinton Hill, which was an old landmarked drugstore. It’s really simple but quite elegant. When we first moved to Brooklyn, we lived in South Williamsburg and Diner was kind of our second home, so we still go there.
How do you like to entertain at home? Do you cook?
Jonathan: We do a lot of big, multi-generational gatherings. We like to cook. My wife and I get in fights, though, because she likes to follow recipes and I don’t like to. I’m hardly a gifted chef, so it’s kind of hubris for me to not follow recipes, but I just don’t like to measure how many onions I’m going to put in the sauce.
Eric: We’ve gotten to know our neighbors, because there’s a lot of neighbors in our building, and everyone has these awesome apartments. Although some people have the worst taste, it’s amazing. We’ll go to different people’s houses, everyone will rotate brunch and dinner.
I’ve become a really big proponent of drinking before noon. I never thought I would be that guy. You get to someone’s house at 10 o’clock and they’re like, “Do you want a Bloody Mary or Mimosa?” and I’m like, “I guess so.” So, I’ve started doing that in just the last couple of months, really.
Any favorite things to cook?
Jonathan: I’m known for my bolognese, that’s the most requested.
Eric: I make big frittatas, sort of like a Tortilla Española. I’ll just throw whatever’s in the fridge in there – some veggies, sausage. I like making one-dish meals. I make a tagine a lot, I got one of those for Hanukkah. My wife is always trying to make me cook healthily, and I’m always like, I’ll sneak a little butter in…
Where do you look for food inspiration?
Eric: The Farmer’s Market at Grand Army Plaza, The New York Times dining section. I look at a lot of food Instagram, like Mario Batali and Bon Appetit. I’m actually a big fan of Martha Stewart. She has the best recipes that are always simple and never bad. I’m also a huge Franny’s guy. They have a great cookbook.
Jonathan: We’ve been cooking out of the Ottolenghi Cookbook, even though it’s complicated. My kids love cooking, too. So they’ll often cook a recipe with my wife and they’ll do it. I’ll come home and there will be this yummy thing.
If you could party with one person – living or dead – who would it be?
Jonathan: Jerry Garcia, although you might be hungry after hanging out with him.
Eric: Andy Warhol, because that’s the part of New York when I would most liked to have been there, when the Velvet Underground was playing. The whole scene in the beginning of Just Kids, the Chelsea Hotel, Max’s Kansas City, I love that part of New York, even though I wasn’t there.