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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Golden Loaf Bakery & Restaurant

As “loaf” is both noun and verb, I assumed – perhaps brashly – that it was possible to “get one on.” As in, “today, I might get my loaf on.” Yet even if the modal qualifier (might) suggests distinct probability, the sentence still raises something of a logical pickle. What, exactly, does it mean to get a loaf on? Should I: a) eat baked goods; b) wear baked goods; or c) spend some time idly?

Decisions, decisions. And a conundrum that hints at what Willard Van Orman Quine dubbed the indeterminacy of translation. Simply put, good reader, loafing lies open to interpretation.

This is, alas, triply true around East Flatbush. Many storefronts advertise loaves – often golden, occasionally sunny, at times paradisaic – yet shape, form and quality vary wildly. So whenever we find a good one we hope to share the news with you; our time wasted might be yours well-spent. One fine place to loaf around, no matter your definition? A small Guyanese spot on Nostrand named the GT Golden Loaf Bakery & Restaurant.
Strictly Business: The Hobart Mixmaster 2000

We were en route elsewhere when something about GTLB&R piqued our interest. It seemed like a place with its priorities in order: small space packed with food; giant mixer; lots of traffic; great smells; Caribbean goodness aplenty.
Chicken Patty #1, shown open & closed

Or so we hoped. To test the waters, we went with a few patties. The beef was nice and fresh, golden (as advertised) and crescent-shaped, with a tasty, mild filling. But the real gem? A flat-out terrific Guyanese Chicken Patty ($1.50). We knew we were in for something different right from go. For one, the shape was unusual: more savory pie than slender moon (a nod, perhaps, to the English). The crust itself was hot and buttery, the filling exceptionally aromatic. Why so good? “It's more natural,” one patron confided. Maybe, but it's also more tasty. The ingredients were fresh, the spicing fragrant, the crust complimentary, and the texture was, well, anything but the usual glop you'll get from the Giant Patty Chains. In fact, this was as fine a patty as we've had in the area, and perhaps the most distinctive.
Whiting on Coco Bread

All of which boded well. So we threw down for a fried fish sandwich: small, whole whiting, served betwixt a pillowy-soft coco bread roll. Whiting isn't my favorite fish, but the loaf was quite complimentary and, paired with the price ($2.00) and scotch bonnet hot sauce, it was hard to complain.
Buns, son!

It's also hard to exit when you're on a roll. Or bun. So we went with what looked like a crowd favorite: the coco bun. Caribbean bakeries tend to serve multiple baked goods with “coco” in the title (rolls, bake, bread, etc.), but they can be leaded, dry, or overly sweet. No worries here, as Golden Loaf delivered moist, aromatic coconut muffins. These buns were tight. And, at 50 cents per, a Real Deal. We got a bunch for the road, to spread the love amongst friends and family. At that point, we had been there a good 45 minutes – no mean feat in a store not much bigger than an abbreviated Brooklyn hallway. Yet by then we had got to talking with the owners. John and Denise Barnes hail from Guyana, and have paid some serious culinary dues. John started baking in his native country at the tender age of 13, when he used to help out at a local spot after school. His part-time gig proved to be an invaluable apprenticeship. Eventually he opened his own bakery, but always pined for Brooklyn. Why so? “It's Brooklyn, man. So many people, so much going on.” Amen, but it took him a dozen years to make the move. “I kept my eyes on the prize,” John confides, as he and his wife saved up enough to make the transition. Lo and behold, they moved here about 7 or 8 years ago and opened Golden Loaf.
For which I'm thankful. Thankful is also the appropriate reaction to Denise's cooking. We don't always go for the veggies, but one (Guyanese) customer insisted we try the day's offerings. He was on his way home from work, and wouldn't shut up about the okra. The good news is, he was right. I'm not generally big on okra, but this stuff was terrific: cooked in a dry, almost stir-fry style, flavorful and slightly spicy, with terrific texture and seasoning (and not at all oily). We dug the other dishes as well: a salty, savory squash and an elegant, lightly spiced pumpkin, which was neither gooey nor sugary. The flavors were clean and distinct, the ingredients fresh, the overall effect blissful.

To be honest, I was surprised. This place is tiny, even by East Flatbush standards. It's also easy to overlook, squashed between other eateries with brighter lights and bigger menus. But (in case you haven't guessed), John and Denise make quite a culinary pair. And this is only tip of the iceberg. I have yet to arrive early enough to sample their highly touted chicken roti. Nor have I made it on a Saturday, the day reserved for their special Madame G, a secret mix of cassava, plantains, coconut, and a few other ingredients I didn't quite catch. Which is to say: roll on through, get there early, and get your loaf on. Thus spoke the Porkchop!

GT Golden Loaf Bakery & Restaurant
715 Nostrand Avenue, Crown Heights, Brooklyn
(718) 363-2954

Open daily except Sundays, from around 7:30 to 9:00 pm.

Try a Chicken Patty ($1.50) and coco bun (50¢). Plates-of-the-day are $7.00, and filled to order. Whiting on coco bake is $2.00.



Blogger MEM said...

Hey J.

Just finding your blog, excellent stuff.

I myself have recently fallen deeply in love with the cooking of Suriname (formerly Dutch Guyana)...any chance you'll get back to Golden Loaf to check out the roti?

10:27 PM  
Blogger J. Slab said...

tks Mem, i haven't had their roti yet... keep getting sidetracked... but Guyana is no slouch on the roti front, i must revisit sometime....

let us know if you make it there yourself; and if you have any Suriname tips, either here or abroad...

12:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...Just stumbled upon this site as I was googling Ali's Roti shop. I know this thread is old but I can't help but comment on this fabulous blog...As a 1/2 Guyanese gal from Queens, I must say that the BEST Guyanese food I ever had was in a Surinamese restaurant in Amsterdam, Holland. And except for homemade meals, I've never found any Guyanese food in Queens that I really liked. But when it comes to Carribean food,Brooklyn is where its at, so I'll definately be giving this place a try.

7:32 PM  
Blogger J. Slab said...

anon - right on, tks for the check in. i dont remember the guyanese food in amsterdam but it makes sense. did spend a long time at this spot tho, watching people come in, order food and leave. big guyanese clientele, they didn't have any other reccs tho - unanimously said golden loaf was their favorite (for what that's worth).

but definitely call ahead esp. if coming from queens - they seem to run out early, even by BK caribbean standards. and hit us up if you have any other reccs

3:28 PM  

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