220 W Houston Street, West Village
Rating: 2 out of 5 L’s
I was surprised by the amount of vitriol surrounding the opening of The Brooklyneer. Not because the idea of a Brooklyn-themed bar in Manhattan is kind of lame (although it is); it’s more that the whole idea kind of seems old hat. In case you were wondering, you can now buy Brooklyn-themed apparel from Brooklyn Industries in Philadelphia, Portland, Chicago and Boston.
So yes, Brooklyn “cool” was being exported long before Neena Dutta and partners opened this slick bar in the West Village. Feelings about the gentrification and commodification of Brooklyn aside, how is the bar on its own merits? Well, not so good. When I last visited, it was absolutely packed with business-casual types and a few of the scruffy bearded men Kings County has become so famous for. Prepare to yell; it was absurdly loud inside, even considering the size of the crowd. The space looks like an amalgam of every Brooklyn bar trend of the last 10 years, all coated with a glossy sheen. Concrete floors? Check. Reclaimed wood from the Coney Island boardwalk? Check. Antique photo booth? Check. In case the Brooklyn theme didn’t sink in, there is a giant mural of the Brooklyn Bridge on the wall to remind you.
There are 12 beers on tap, all from Brooklyn-based breweries like Sixpoint and Kelso, sold at the very un-Brooklyn price of $7 a pint. The food is made by Justin Farmer, who, ironically, used to cook at the Manhattan Inn, located in Brooklyn. Here he prepares upscale comfort fare with Brooklyn-sourced ingredients. The Carroll Gardens, an homage to the neighborhood’s Italian heritage, consists of hearty organic beef-and-pork meatballs, house-made tomato sauce and mozzarella from Caputo’s on a crispy baguette. It’s the best thing on the menu and goes great with a pickle plate filled with mouth-puckering vegetables from Brooklyn Brine. If you’re looking to fill up, try the Patatas Arrugadas, whole salt-boiled baby Yukon potatoes meant to be dipped in a creamy lemon-rosemary aioli.
The various sliders were less successful. The crispy bits of chicken skin in the “Flatbush” were a nice touch but ultimately the chicken’s jerk flavor got lost in the potato roll. How the “Williamsburg” relates to its neighborhood is beyond me, although I’ll keep an eye out near my apartment for people scarfing down bland portabello mushrooms and piles of sprouts. Service was slow and uneven, with bartenders (chosen obviously for, um, certain attributes) bringing out items at seemingly random times.
Still, that meatball sub is pretty tasty and not a bad option for dinner if you happen to be catching a movie at Film Forum across the street. If you aren’t, it’s best to save your money for a Metrocard; I hear there are some pretty cool bars opening in Queens.
Photos by Ashley Minette