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'I Want to be Known as the Guy Who Spends More Money on Curly Parsley Than Anyone'
Greg Baxtrom talks about inspirations for his new restaurant, Patti Ann's
In opening Patti Ann’s in Prospect Heights (570 Vanderbilt Ave., Brooklyn), chef-owner Greg Baxtrom pays homage to the food he grew up on in his family’s suburban Illinois household.
Named for his mother and designed as an homage to her life’s work as a teacher, the restaurant embraces elementary-school vibes, complete with a map on the wall as decor, cubbies that his father helped him build, and a report card on the table’s performance that comes with the check.
“My mom,” he says, “Is the sweetest human in the world.” He describes her as if “Strawberry Shortcake grew up and became a fourth-grade teacher.”
Patti Ann’s wasn’t Baxtrom’s original intention for the space. Pre-pandemic, he thought he was going to open a raw bar. “I wanted to rip off Joe’s Stone Crab,” he says. “I wanted a restaurant that took up less of my energy.” With the onset of the pandemic, he changed course.
He decided he wanted to open a neighborhood restaurant that’s truly for everyone. “Olmsted is its own thing,” he says of his first restaurant. “And Maison Yaki is a bar with really great food. I wanted to open a place where a customer can feel comfortable bringing in their double-wide stroller,” he says.
With a menu of pigs in a blanket, port wine cheese balls, duck meatloaf, and mostaccioli, (known outside of Illinois as ziti), Baxtrom channels familial dishes from his Midwestern youth. And while he uses ingredients that could as easily be featured at Olmsted, he’s adhering to taste memories.
For example, take chips and goop on the menu: Goop is based on the Lipton French onion soup mix. Rather than actually using the mix, he swaps his own recipe that “tastes almost identical,” he says. He’s also using chips only available in the Midwest, Jay’s, rather than finding a brand that’s easier to source. As for that bread basket, yes, the breads are made at his bakery next door (previously Evi’s) but he’s also including wrapped crackers and breadsticks in a nod to family restaurants of his past. The bestseller, to his surprise, has been the duck meatloaf with cherry ketchup. “It’s a classic pairing of flavors,” he says.
Over at the bar, customers can order cocktails with names like Spirit Week, Ditch Day, and Summer Break from beverage director Andrew Zerrip.
There’s no limit to Baxtrom’s attention to detail here so far. “I want to be known as the guy who spends more on curly parsley than anyone,” he says of the ubiquitous garnish from pre-foodieism. “Am I going to bring back rosemary sprigs next?” he says. “How far am I going to take this?”