Brooklyn-Themed Restaurant for Manhattanites
A Brooklyn-centric bar located in the West Village has questionable appeal
The distinction between a Brooklyneer and a Brooklynite seems slight on the surface, but means everything to the West Village’s newly opened Brooklyneer. Its name implies that the bar is for admirers of Brooklyn, not just its residents. The owners felt it was important to bring the artisanal delights of their borough to Manhattanites who don’t make it over the bridge very often, and they’ve done just that.
The restaurant pulls in the exiting crowds from Film Forum across the street, offering them sandwiches named after Brooklyn neighborhoods (i.e. Flatbush, Red Hook, Carroll Gardens), a hearty list of Brooklyn brews, and a countertop that’s made of a chunk of the Coney Island boardwalk. But considering its gimmicky nature, you’d think that it’d highlight the borough’s more striking features. Rather than looking like a mini Coney Island, the Brooklyneer looks like a restaurant that could easily exist in Williamsburg, if not the Lower East Side.
You can’t help but wonder if you would’ve bothered to eat there if you hadn’t known it was a theme restaurant. I once had that feeling about Jekyll and Hyde, an artificially haunted eatery on Seventh Avenue. That’s an extreme example, sure, but there’s something peculiar about restaurants that try to make you feel like you’re elsewhere: irony takes precedence over food.
The 3D mural of the Brooklyn Bridge on the left side strikes you as soon as you walk into the warm, dimly lit space, but beyond that, you’ll have to squint your eyes in search of the theme. It takes reading the menu to learn which parts of the restaurant come from which parts of Brooklyn. The kaleidoscopic wall paper, which, if you treat it like you would a Magic Eye poster, reveals the New York images of fire hydrants, parking meters, rats and pigeons, is from Brooklyn’s own Flavor Paper. They offer an impressive list of Brooklyn beers, including a $4.00 pint of Brooklyneer’s watery, faintly floral lager, which is upstaged by fuller flavored beers like the Empire Cream Ale.
The menu is short, including a section of bar snacks, small plates, sliders, sandwiches and pickle platters, all of which come from Brooklyn. There’s a wide range of fussy snacks, from spicy bacon caramel popcorn (served, for some reason, in its original plastic packaging) to the Brooklyneer Dog (a gussied-up hot dog made of bacon cheeseburger sausage and topped with sweet tomato chutney, IPA mustard and bacon). Having sampled many of their bites, I’d recommend the crunchy-yet-gooey Flatbush sliders (jerk-style chicken with chicharrones and scallions) instead of something like the Greenpoint sandwich (Kielbasa, brine sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and spicy Russian dressing on black bread), whose sour and spicy ingredients battle for the title of Most Overpowering. The Williamsburg sliders (Pastrami-style portabellos, fennel, beets and onion sprouts on a roll), whose mushrooms are charred and smoky enough to taste like actual meat, are enjoyable, despite the fact that they’re not as veggie-flavored as I would’ve liked. The patatas arrugadas (salt-boiled Yukon gold potatoes served with lemon rosemary aioli) were salty enough to make me urgently grasp my beer, but they’re pretty tasty, provided you don’t mind dusting off their skins.
The brawny, tattooed bartender whips up a nice drink, like Brooklyn’s answer to a Long Island iced tea. Though it is forcefully sweet, it’ll loosen you up before you can finish slurping the bottom. A stiffer, less enticing option is a drink called The Brooklyn County, which is one splash of Amaro liquor away from being a Manhattan.
A Brooklyn-centric bar located in the West Village has questionable appeal. Proud Brooklynites have every reason to make fun. On the bright side, it’ll keep certain Manhattanites out of Brooklyn. This restaurant preaches the importance of locally grown food, and that Brooklyn churns out the loveliest grub. While many Brooklyn neighborhoods have become cooler and more compelling than the ones in Manhattan, perhaps we’ve reached the point where Manhattan has become Brooklyn’s obnoxious sibling. Rather than competing with Brooklyn for attention, Manhattan, by way of the Brooklyneer, has begun envelope it all together.