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$20 Dinner

The Best Bar Food in NYC Is at Lori Jayne, Deep in the Heart of a Bushwick Music Venue

There are killer burgers, fries, wings, nugs, and 'shrooms emerging from that back window.

11:44 AM EST on January 31, 2024

Cheeseburger, $11, with vegan fries, $5. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Sam Braverman opened his restaurant Lori Jayne inside the Brooklyn venue Alphaville almost a year ago, but even before then he was extremely familiar with the space. In addition to being a rock-n-roll, Bushwick-vibing bar, Alphaville also functions as a full concert space, and Braverman used to get on stage there with with a whole bunch of different bands.

The rock star thing didn't work out, so Braverman shifted his attention to food, and cooking, to earn a living, doing popups and consulting under the name SILTE, or Shit I Like To Eat, and selling wings out of his apartment during the early pandemic. 

(Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Enter Alphaville (again), whose owners were looking for someone to run their kitchen after they renovated the place in 2022. Braverman counter-offered with his Lori Jayne concept—basically, he uses the bar's infrastructure for his own unique restaurant--and is now serving a full menu of outstanding comfort food to the often quite rowdy Alphaville crowd.

Let's start with the burger, which the folks at Righteous Eats recently put on the social-media map. Eschewing the smashburger trend, Braverman and his crew deliver a quarter-pound beauty, topped with bone-broth caramelized onions (like everything here, even the smallest touches are made with a little bit of extra love), thick pickle slices, melted American cheese for an extra buck if you're feeling flush, and a slathering of Lori Jayne sauce, which Braverman describes as "if In-n-Out spread hung out with a Cajun remoulade." This is old-school burger perfection.   

Buffalo 2.0 wings, 7 for $14 (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

You'll definitely want a side of hand cut fries, too—they're crisp and salty (and vegan) and come with Braverman's house made curry ketchup, which he reverse engineered from his memories of going to the old East Village Pomme Frites as a kid. "That was the bomb," he said, correctly. But maybe Braverman's also-vegan fried 'shrooms are even better? Order these and you get a mountain of oyster mushrooms, battered with tapioca starch and rice flour and covered in Lori Jayne's Sichuan spice blend.        

The chicken nuggets are breaded and fried to order, and they're big flavored and admirably tender. For these I recommend Braverman's sinus-clearing horseradish honey mustard sauce, a recipe inspired by his life partner Inna Mkrtycheva's Armenian grandmother, who always has a strange little bottle of a similar condiment in her fridge. "We just call it grandma mustard," he said. "It's full of horseradish and spicy as hell." 

Chicken nuggets, 5 for $6 (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

My favorite thing here, however, was probably the gloriously gloppy "Buffalo 2.0" wings, the bird twice-fried for extra crispiness and drenched in a Crystal hot sauce with chunks of blue cheese. There are frequent daily specials, like a chicken sandwich that Braverman described as being "like Chick-fil-A but I made it EXTRA GAY," and the lobster thermidor gyoza they were slinging on New Year's Eve, and, sometimes, dessert, like the excellent slice of key lime pie I had last Friday, which was homebaked by Mkrtycheva.            

Lori Jayne is totally Braverman's creation, but he's quick and eager to give credit to his cooking crew. "We have a really strong punk rock brigade of guys who have experience in a range of restaurants," he said. "Jeff Lewis is a Mainer hippie, used to be at Llama San, still at Saraghina half the week, plays the mandolin, and we use the garlic from his brother's farm. We call Ryan Maggio Colonel Crispy Buns because he makes the best buns. And Tim Robinson, who goes by Tuna, also works at Lalou and is the most line cook line cook who's ever line cooked."    

Key lime pie, $5 (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Lori Jayne, by the way, is named for Braverman's mom, who taught him how to fry chicken. When I asked if she had ever been out here to Bushwick he looked at me in disbelief. "She's a Jewish mom from New York," he said. "She's come a million times. In fact she's coming tomorrow with my dad and eight of their friends from high school to have a birthday dinner." 

There's lots of seating at Alphaville--at the bar, obviously, but also at a row of elevated tables in the big main room and in heavily-scarred wooden booths in a kind of side room. It can get super loud and crowded as the night wears on and the bands start playing and everyone gets drunk, but it's pretty chill around dinner time if you just want to sip a couple of beers and grab a bite with friends.      

"This has been everything to me," said Braverman about running Lori Jayne. "It's been the most exhausting and spiritually fulfilling experience of my life. It's just really cool to do what you're supposed to do, with a team of people who are equally excited about it, and growing as individuals and cooks while we're doing it. It's the best." 

Lori Jayne is located inside Alphaville at 140 Wilson Avenue, between Suydam Street and Willoughby Avenue, and is currently open on Sunday through Wednesday from 6:00 p.m. to 12:00 midnight, and on Thursday through Saturday from 6:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. 

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