320 Court St, Carroll Gardens
3 out of 5 L's
On the corner of Sackett and Court Streets, James McGown, owner of the South Brooklyn Pizza mini-empire, recently opened Brooklyn Buschenschank, a bier hall with a weighty name. Historically, buschenschanks are the OG Austrian farm-to-table joint. In 1784, Emperor Joseph II decreed that vineyard owners were allowed to sell wine and cider they produced, as well as cold foods and nonalcoholic beverages, on their vineyard premises. This decree was made in order to prevent the monopoly of wine sales by the local noble landlords. To this day, buschenschank remains a protected term, applying strictly to wine taverns in Styria (a region in southeastern Austria, bordering Slovenia and Hungary) selling only the local wine of the owner/vintner. The owners of a buschenschank need a special license, different from a restaurant license in Austria, as they are permitted to sell their products tax-free during a limited time of the year. During this time the custom is to display a “buschen,” or bunch of evergreen boughs, above the main entrance. Hanging a few evergreen boughs over the door might be a good idea for Brooklyn Buschenschank, as its frosted windows make it impossible to see the goings on-inside, an odd choice for such prime real estate (if they open those windows in the summer, it would make the room much more attractive). It’s not as though the interior of this new tavern has anything to hide. Whether one sits at the large, U-shaped bar or at one of the many candlelit communal tables, the view of the immaculate subway-tiled open kitchen, as seen through two brick archways, is arresting. Unfortunately, so is the inescapable, eardrum-piercing music, whether it’s oompah bands or the Pixies. (I’ve seen Sun O))) with no earplugs and no worries, so this is a real testament to noise.)
You might expect the wine and food at Buschenschank to be at least inspired by the cuisine of Styria, but no dice. The menu looks to Styria’s left—to the Italian state of Alto Adige—for inspiration. None of the wine is made on the premises, but there are a couple of offerings from New York (Upstate and Long Island) as well as a dozen plus selections from the Alto Adige, Mosel and Trentino. With over three dozen German, Italian and Austrian beers, there is no want for libations to wash down offerings from sausages to steak, pretzels to pizza. When it comes to this shop’s pizza, buyer beware: the owner doesn’t believe in slicing the pie, claiming that this “makes it soggy,” so the pizza arrives uncut on an undersized plate. Perhaps in Alto Adige, they know how to slice a pizza with a steak knife while keeping it off their clothes and off the floor. We Brooklynites have a lot to learn.