425 Troutman Street, Bushwick
Exiting the L train onto a deserted Wyckoff Avenue, I heard a young woman in a puffy coat tell her two friends that this is the most dangerous subway stop in Brooklyn. They unanimously decided to take a selfie in front of the sign for Jefferson Street station and then burst into laughter when one of the friends shouted, “We all totally duckfaced! All three of us!” Oof. I hoped these kids were wrong about the dangerousness of the area, but as I strolled past the dark chain-link fences, graffitied steel garage-doors, and single-story, windowless brick buildings that line Troutman Street, I felt like I should call the location scout for Law & Order: SVU. And then I noticed some horizontal slats of new fencing, discreetly branded with the Rookery’s logo—a crow perched in the second “o”—and I made a beeline for the pub’s door.
Inside, the geometric design of floor tiles, white-washed exposed brick, and a mix of floral-patterned wallpaper make the Rookery feel as welcoming and safe as your grandmum’s house. Near the door, a forest green wood-burning stove warms the surrounding tables, and in back, a handful of roomy booths line the wall beside an inviting horseshoe-shaped bar, mostly populated by bearded men chasing brown liquor with pints of beer or $5 cans of Dale’s Pale Ale—and none of them seemed to be taking selfies. It’s the perfect setting for sipping a dark and smooth Bellhaven Black Stout, but the bartenders, gussied up in vests or ties with shirtsleeves rolled to their elbows, look dressed to pour specialty cocktails. The Highland Boy blends Cragglemore single-malt Scotch, Stone’s ginger wine, and bitter Ramazzoti liqueur with Cherry Heering and OJ for a touch of sweetness; it’s an easy-drinking boozy treat.
But the biggest draw here is the inexpensive, rib-sticking British pub fare. When the large, bearded man sitting on the stool beside mine said that he’s lived nearby for 10 years and the Rookery’s mac n’ cheese is one of the best things that happened to the neighborhood in a long time, I had to try some; the oversized $8 ramekin of shells in a rich sauce of sharp cheddar, parmesan and gruyere doesn’t disappoint. The veggie burger, another hearty vegetarian option priced at $8, pairs peas, lentils, onions and potatoes with mild Indian spices, then tops it off with sweet mango chutney. For meat lovers, the $12 shepherd’s pie blankets tender and slightly gamey curried goat with a thick, buttery layer of whipped parsnip and potato puree. On the weekends, you can get a serving of a traditional British Sunday roast for under $15—think lamb with roasted root vegetables and mint sauce or roast beef with garlicky asparagus and crispy, paprika-dusted potatoes. All in all, it’s well worth braving that short walk down Troutman Street—just keep your duckface to yourself.