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Pork Is Only the Starting Point at Pig Bleecker

In fact, a lot of Mr. Abdoo’s menu successfully does what Guy’s claims and fails to do. It rounds up unfancy American dishes whose natural habitat is small taverns and bars and shacks on the state road just outside town. Utica greens, spicy chopped escarole baked under bread crumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano, are terrific at Pig Bleecker.

Mr. Abdoo’s affection for regional specialties is written all over the slate of sandwiches Pig Bleecker serves at lunch. Baltimore pit beef is represented, thinly shaved with charred edges and a horseradish sauce inside an onion roll. So is the New Orleans muffuletta. Cold cuts and smoked mozzarella are piled on a sesame hero roll instead of the customary miniature hubcap, and it’s arguably too sparing with the olive relish. So call it an Italian hero with olives; it’s still a great thing to eat for lunch.

Is Pig Bleecker crazy for serving a pastrami sandwich within walking distance of Katz’s Delicatessen? Is the meat a little too lean? Does melting Gruyère on it make Mr. Abdoo a heretic? Yes to all of the above. On the other hand, his pastrami has an unusually fine flavor, shot through with a robust vein of smoke.

Smoke runs through much of the cooking like a rhythm track. A thick-cut chop spends time in the smoker before it goes on the grill; served with battered onions and a peach glaze that’s spicy, tart and sweet, it’s one of the strongest main courses on the dinner menu.

The sauces Mr. Abdoo invented for Pig Beach are worth importing to Manhattan, especially a sweetened mustard number that does wonders for the pigs in blankets. The two restaurants strike different tones, though. At Pig Beach, dogs and children wander between the picnic tables, and orders are placed at a canopied bar and an outdoor barbecue counter that backs up against the Gowanus. (“No fishing,” the signs warn anyone who may have mistaken the canal for a body of water.)

Pig Bleecker is more domesticated. There is one long communal table made from a single polished slab of wood in the center of the room. Around the wall is a banquette of leather the approximate color of the mustard sauce. Instead of paper towels and wet wipes in an American flag pouch, the tables are set with cloth napkins. The design is crisp and urbane, to the extent that those words can apply to a place with the head of a Texas longhorn mounted on the wall.

I might give Pig Bleecker more than an enthusiastic single star if the cooking didn’t sometimes swing and miss. “Deviled steak and eggs” sounds more clever than the thing it describes, deviled eggs with beef tartare piled under the yolks. (At lunch, the eggs are more effectively paired with thin sheets of country ham.) The crudité platter is a gorgeous spread of raw and gently cooked vegetables, and a good buy at $13, but it deserves better than the generic cocktail-party dips.

Oddly, given Mr. Abdoo’s time at Del Posto, pasta can be dull. Ravioli filled with juicy bundles of smoked and braised brisket could have used a real sauce instead of melted truffle butter with zigzags of reduced Barolo. Tossing house-made cavatelli with clams and ’nduja is a great idea, but I wanted more flavor from the clams and more spice from the ’nduja.

There is also an Oreo cheesecake that proves not everything gets better when you stuff it into a Mason jar. More than making up for that, though, is the deliciously tart key lime pie with a crunchy nut crust. Then there is a peanut butter milkshake with hot fudge and a buckeye candy on top (creamy and smooth, like peanut ganache), and a hot fudge and brownie sundae. They’re both true to their ice cream parlor roots, and truly good.

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