Fried Skate and Suburban Date Night in the City

So it’s taken me ten months to check out the Dekalb Market Hall, which opened to much fanfare last June. Knowing that it’s in the glassy, glossy City Point Development with its 57-story tower,  giant garish marquees, and big box stores, was not a draw for me (in fact, when it comes to Downtown Brooklyn, I prefer the rag-tag assortment of shops and eateries around Fulton Mall). When I told the Chef, who was in the UK visiting family, that I was going to its food court, The Dekalb Market, to forage for dinner with my sister, he was not encouraging, saying, “I hope it’s better than it looks from the outside.”

 I met my sister outside Century 21, and we went down an escalator that seemed to lead directly to a Trader Joe’s, the anchor of the marketplace. Despite the odd placement of food booths zig zagging through the hipster industrial grey space, it brought me back to the food courts of my suburban youth. Of course, we didn’t have The Arepa Lady, Hana Noodles, Pierogi Boys and Steve’s Key Lime Pies in Springfield Mall, Virginia.  What we had was a ring of bad food surrounding a plethora of seating. Now lots of good, interesting choices—but hardly any seating. It was also hard to find the low budget items heralded in Eater after Dekalb Market opened—Pierogi for $7.00? No, it’s $12 for only 6! Carol and I both felt in the mood for fried fish, so we went to Fulton Landing Seafood, what turned out to be a solid choice.

I ordered a fried filet of skate sandwich ($10), a side of old bay tater tots ($6.00) while Carol got the fried crab sandwich. While we waited I talked to friendly restaurateur and jokester Jason Lux, who seemed to be owner/chef/chief bottlewasher all in one. I was happy to learn that Fulton Landing Seafood is not a chain but that the Dekalb restaurant was its first permanent venture. Our small sandwiches arrived in recyclable clamshell cartons, making me think of McDonald’s and indeed Jason said his intention was to scale up McDonald’s “Filet O’ Fish.” I liked that he did this with skate, a fish that no one I know except the Chef cooks (and to perfection from a dish we ate once at Mary’s Fish Camp). The accordion-pleated skate was succulent, and fried to perfection, and as with McDonald’s version, contained ample tartar sauce, lettuce and pickles on a sesame seed bun. Carol was less than thrilled with her crab cake sandwich, which was tasty but minuscule for the hefty pricentag ($15). Our old bay tater tots were a great go-with but could have had a bit more Old Bay seasoning.

What had started as a prejudice against the Citypoint development for being too “suburban,” grew into nostalgia for my teenagehood in the ‘burbs, spent largely in shopping malls, which were a new development in the 1970s. Suddenly I reframed the evening as a suburban “date night” with my sis, and a gloating pride that the Big Apple truly has everything if it can take the suburban mall up a notch with a hipster gourmet food court, a Trader Joe’s, all the big box shopping you could want and an Alamo Drafthouse movie theater all in one building. Suburbs on steroids.

We had tickets to see Greta, a campy creepy vehicle for Isabelle Huppert and Chloe Grace Moretz, that was playing at Alamo Drafthouse, four floors up from Dekalb Market. It was my first time ever at an Alamo Drafthouse, which, like the Nitehawk theaters, allows alcohol, food and waiter service in comfy seating with underlit tray tables. Before the movie I wandered into The House of Wax bar, which was appropriately grisly before our creepy movie. “Combining mixology with the macabre, “its website reads, “House of Wax is based on the panoptica touring attractions of the 1800s,” which include wax anatomical models and death masks. I was smacked by another wave of nostalgia, because I was captivated by all things gruesome and eerie in my suburban youth. By the end of the movie about an obsessive woman who preys on insecure young girls, we were laughing uncontrollably. The film had descended into utter ridiculousness with Isabelle Huppert dancing in stocking feet around a corpse and Chloe Grace Moretz, her prey, clamping down hard on Huppert’s hand with a sharp cookie cutter, amputating a finger in the process. Going out into the chill evening to catch the subway, located close by, I thought that the best thing about a suburban date-night in the city is not having to drive home.