A pound of pig brined for 48 hours and cooked since the early hours of the morning. Tater tots cooked in pork fat from the pig. Pickled watermelon rinds. Cole Slaw, lightly seasoned with vinegar and pepper. Homemade tangy barbecue sauce to dip the pork in. And even a bit of homemade cornbread with butter on the side. All of these different flavors complemented each other when served on platter at The Dropout’s Hog Wild pig roast opening party in Riis Park. And if that sounds good, just wait, because chef Julia Steinberg will be dishing out plenty more goodies all season at Riis Park Beach Bazaar’s winter restaurant.
Steinberg has made her return to Riis, bringing back some of the same great tastes that people first got to experience at The Dropout in winter 2017/18, and adding more creative concoctions to the mix that are sure to keep customers full and returning for seconds throughout Rockaway’s offseason. And the perfect way to kick it all off was with something rarely seen in Rockaway—a pig roast.
On Friday, September 13, a limited number of guests were treated to the hog feast, which sold out just a few days after it was announced. Beginning 7 a.m., Steinberg was hard at work, cooking the massive pig to feed about 40 guests for The Dropout’s opening party that evening.
“I kind of wanted to do something different. I’ve worked in Riis for about four or five years with Whit, Susan from Rockaway Clam Bar and The Dropout, and every year someone says, ‘we should do a pig roast’ and no one ever does it. So we kept talking about it and thought it would be fun to open the restaurant with one,” Steinberg said.
With only so much pig to go around, tickets were limited, and many who expressed interest in the event were told it was sold out early on. So, Steinberg plans on doing it again…and again. “This one was just for the opening party. We can only do about 40 tickets at a time. I cooked a 75lb pig but a lot of people got shut out even though they were interested in coming. So I think we’re going to make it, hopefully, an every other Friday thing. If people want to come, I’d love to accommodate more people,” she said.
However there’s much more in store that will keep people dropping by The Dropout (167-02 Rockaway Beach Blvd) all winter. The restaurant will be open Thursdays through Sundays, with dinner from 5 p.m. until about 9 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, and Steinberg’s specialty—brunch—from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. She kicked off the first brunch with some unique, delicious dishes such as a bacon, egg and cheese on churro waffles, a Polish platter complete with Polish sausage, egg, heirloom tomato salad and toast, and an “everything but the bagel” platter complete with lox over fresh greens and topped with everything bagel seasoning.
Steinberg is also bringing back a classic that kept people coming back each weekend during her first winter at Riis—the fried chicken sando. The crispy, spicy, fried chicken on a seeded bun, complete with homemade slaw and thin garlic pickle slices, is no doubt, a huge hit. “I took a poll online, asking if we could keep one item from the old menu and bring it back, what would it be? We had 350 responses. Over 300 were for the chicken sandwich. It’s back. It’s here. It’s not going anywhere,” she said.
What else will be on the menu? Well, that depends on what’s most fresh. “We’re going to do things seasonally and keep it as fresh and delicious as possible with various fruits and vegetables,” she said. Each day, Steinberg heads to Rockaway’s own Curran’s Superior Meat for fresh protein for the day, Seatide Gourmet Seafood in Brooklyn to pick out the catch of the day, and the best seasonal produce she can find at the Rockaway Farmers Market on Beach 116th or Edgemere Farm. The menu for the day is built around what she finds.
However on October 5 and 6, the menu will be particularly Bavarian. After all, it’s Riis Park’s 5th Annual Oktoberfest. Steinberg will be serving up all the food for the two-day event, which will feature imported German beers, live music and DJs. The menu will include Bavarian pretzels, smoked kielbasa heroes with sauerkraut and whole grain mustard, bratwurst, and goodies for the kids including hot dogs and chicken tenders. “We’re going to do a couple good things well and take good care with the sausages, preparing them the right way,” she said.
Steinberg has a good grasp on any challenge that comes across her kitchen. After all, she’s had plenty of experience, starting when she was a teen. “I got into cooking by accident. I was working at the Dept. of Investigation while in college and at night I’d bartend at Rockaway Seafood. They were short on someone at the salad station in the kitchen, so I said I’d do it. I was about 18 at the time and I just loved the dynamics of the kitchen. I’d go work for DOI in the morning and I’d be thinking about being in the restaurant all day, so instead of taking a full-time job with DOI, I decided I was going to work in restaurants instead,” she said.
Along the way, Steinberg picked up plenty of experience with some of the best in the business, including Whitney Aycock, who she calls a huge mentor. However, she also worked with many Michelin Star chefs, classically trained French chefs and even the chef behind Ivan Ramen, who’s featured on the Chef’s Table on Netflix. “I went to different restaurants, figuring out what I enjoyed, and while I found fine dining to be technical, challenging and great, the way Whit cooks is the way I aspire to make my food, putting your own spin on things I’ve learned along the way,” she said.
As for The Dropout, Steinberg hopes that people come out and enjoy the experience with her. “I just want everyone to come and have a good time in an environment where people can hang with their family and friends, listen to music and enjoy good food,” she said. “Especially in the winter, when there’s nothing to do and it gets so stale, we just come here and have fun every day.”BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS