Authors: nytimes Diners Journal
The crowning defiance of Fort Defiance is its pig roast. Think of it as the anti-Sandy celebration.
The hurricane closed the Fort, a popular bar and restaurant in Red Hook, Brooklyn, more than three weeks ago; its staff and a group of volunteers have been digging out since then. But the kitchen crew has been smoking a 130-pound pig and 20 pounds of pork shoulder all night – a 20-hour roast. And at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Fort Defiance will open its doors to customers for the first time since the storm.
True, the menu is remarkably limited: $6 pulled-pork sandwiches and a $14 pork plate with braised greens, corn bread and red beans. There will be punch, as well as beer from Sixpoint Brewery nearby, another Red Hook institution that was swamped by the storm surge. “We wanted people to realize that they can come in here and have a good time – and not just have to volunteer to clean up the basement,” said St. John Frizell, an owner of the three-and-a-half-year-old establishment.
The officially stated party theme is Evacuation Day – a celebration of Nov. 25, 1783, when the British departed New York. “Every year we’ve celebrated it on Thanksgiving eve, with a roast pig,” Mr. Frizell said. “It’s a tradition we really wanted to honor this year.”
The 40-seat restaurant isn’t officially open. “Currently we are a one-seat restaurant,” Mr. Frizell explained with a laugh. It will take Fort Defiance another six months “to get back to where we were,” but he is hoping to open to the public for brunch this Saturday, if all goes well. “We have electric power, gas and running water now,” he added. “We even have hot water.”
This is no small accomplishment in Red Hook, the funky, low-slung waterside neighborhood where many restaurants are still closed, and where the roar of generators and the shudder of backhoes is the continual playlist of the reconstruction effort.
Sandy took its best shot at the Fort. The restaurant’s basement was submerged in more than six feet of water, up to the ceiling; destroyed were the walk-in storage machine, two refrigerators and three compressors. Some $8,000 worth of wine and spirits were inundated, Mr. Frizell said. A foot of water in the dining room destroyed walls and floors. Ever since, he and his staff have been trying to set things right.
Despite the restaurant’s name, “the first day after the hurricane, it was the hardest to be defiant,” he said. “When we first walked into the restaurant after the flood – honestly, we didn’t know if we could reopen or not. But every day the spirit has been building. It sort of sparked a fire, and maybe that’s the fire in the pig smoker right now. We feel we have momentum.”
And so, the pig party, which is to run until 11 p.m., “is the light at the end of the tunnel for us,” Mr. Frizell said. “It is the major event in our lives.”