The Domino Factory Makeover Gets Its First Food Shop

Mekelburg's, a Clinton Hill favorite for craft beer and creative food, plans to bring its brand to the giant new development

Mekelburg's has a modest appearance in its original Clinton Hill location, but big ambitions (Photos by Steve Koepp)

Mekelburg’s, an instant classic fine-food-and-craft-beer shop that opened in Clinton Hill in 2015, is about to go big time. Two Trees Management, the Dumbo real-estate firm developing the former Domino Sugar Factory, announced that Mekelburg’s will be the first retailer to open at 325 Kent Ave., the first of five buildings being developed in the 11-acre complex. For Mekelburg’s, it’s a major leap from its basement quarters at 293 Grand Ave. to a space twice the size, about 4,000 sq. ft. on the ground floor of a gleaming, 16-story building. “The Domino Sugar Factory site will soon be a top 24/7 destination in Brooklyn,” Mekelburg’s owner Alicia Mekelburg said in a press release, “and we can’t wait to bring our favorite beer and bites to Domino and the surrounding Williamsburg community.” The new Mekelburg’s location is scheduled to open in late 2017 or early 2018.

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Mekelburg’s made its name quickly, offering adventurous cuisine in a cozy setting. Last year, a writer for Draft magazine swooned over its “condensed constellation of gastronomic desire: swanky olive oils and scorching sauces, small-batch ice cream and a counter lavished with cheese and charcuterie.” The writer tucked into a meal of “six courses of staggering ingenuity.”

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Mekelburg’s will open on the ground floor of 325 Kent Ave., the first of five buildings in the Domino complex to open (Rendering courtesy of SHoP Architects)

Currently, Mekelburg’s offers a rich assortment of craft beers on tap (16 currently listed, including Right Proper Soused), artisanal sandwiches (Ducka Ducka Bahn Mi), locally sourced cheese, and a crowd favorite: salt baked potatoes (smoked black cod, creme fraiche, caviar, dill). Another specialty is the Mek-muffin, a brioche sandwich with creme fraiche & chive egg frittata, slab bacon, and more. Meckelburg’s is simultaneously a gourmet food shop, offering everything from produce to frying pans. Customers can sign up for monthly meat and cheese clubs.

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Mekelburg’s is a combination foodstore, bar and restaurant

The announcement of the first retail occupant at Domino is an amuse bouche for a much larger serving to come. The waterfront complex will contain 600,000 sq. ft. of office space (more than half of that in the landmark sugar refinery building), as well as six acres of waterfront park space, 2,800 rental apartments and 200,000 sq. ft. of community and retail space. Planning the park “is the most fun thing I’ve ever done,” Two Trees principal Jed Walentas said at a Brooklyn real-estate conference last week.

The shop offers 16 craft beers on tap

Despite all the development going on in North Brooklyn, Walentas said he’s bullish on the growth in demand for live-work developments. “To me, Brooklyn is still way, way underserved, given its size,” he said. The choice of Mekelburg’s for the complex was in keeping with the Brooklyn culture of recruiting local merchants to populate big facilities, as at Barclays Center and the forthcoming Dekalb Market Hall downtown. “Two Trees is committed to helping local businesses grow,” Walentas said in a statement. His family firm, which has developed more than $3 billion in real estate, is best known for turning Dumbo from a cluster of run-down industrial buildings into a thriving tech hub and tourist destination.

The Two Trees announcement said Mekelburg’s will open at 325 Kent with “a new culinary concept,” but owner Mekelburg, working in her shop today, said it’s too early to pull back the curtain on exactly what that will look like. Safe to say it will be ambitious. In its job listings, Mekelburg’s declares, “We are a growing business with big dreams.”

Steve Koepp is the editor of The Bridge. Previously, he was editorial director of Time Inc. Books, executive editor of Fortune and deputy managing editor of Time.