The $35 Buschenschank burger features fried egg, black truffle and oh yes, a slice of foie gras.
Photos by Joshua Kristal
Perhaps you’ve noticed the major change at the corner of always, in the past, quiet Sackett and Court streets. With massive windows wide open, Buschenschank–that odd yet interesting mix of German beer tavern, American bistro and pizzeria — is filling its wooden tables with folks drinking large steins of frothy German beer and listening to prominent yet not blaring music and, generally, enjoying themselves well into the night (right across from Racuglia’s Funeral Home, no less). The place, in many ways, is just what this neighborhood was dying for–a bar; a nice, straightforward bar, with some good to very good food, a laid back atmosphere, a clean and fresh smell (unlike our beloved neighborhood dives), and in good weather, a nice open space where adults can enjoy each other’s company.
It’s open till 4 a.m. seven nights a week. While I’m out that late very irregularly these days due to the calls of motherhood and work, there are the occasional nights when I’ve come home from Manhattan at midnight and lamented the fact that it’s as quiet as a church steeple around here, nothing open on Court Street. With Buschenschank, those days are over, and it’s bound to attract whomever is still looking for, say, a slice and a mammoth boot-shaped stein of beer at 2 a.m.
Buschenschank slipped into our world last year, quietly, in November, after several years of construction on the corner of Sackett and Court had many wondering if the cafe would ever open. Entering quietly, with it, was the neighborhood’s first $35 burger—what our photographer refers to as the 1 percent burger — a whopper of a meal, featuring ground dry-aged ribeye steak and bison topped with black truffle, melted foie gras and a fried egg. Gild that lilly! Drive it home!
The place has elicited many a confused look, as folks are thrown off by the German name and side window on Sackett where passersby can watch cooks making pizza behind huge rinds of cheese. Inside, the restaurant was nicely done, with a wrap-around bar, small and large candlelit tables, a fully wooden and exposed-brick interior with weathered silver tin ceilings, and a great German beer list served in nice big glasses. The music is OK, passable rock, and the crowd is sort of a delight–the traditional Italian-American locals, young and old, mixed in with young to middle-aged hipsters, our local middle-aged parent-type groupings, and some slightly older cosmopolitan locals as well.
The Drama: Recently, this being Carroll Gardens, Buschenschank found itself in the spotlight for unpleasant reasons. Some neighborhood parents have accused the beer garden attempting to serve some fine foods and German specialties of being “un-baby-friendly.”
Bococa Parents email list-serve was ablaze for a moment last week with parents saying they’ll take their business elsewhere if kids aren’t welcome. It’s unclear the genesis of this accusation, but it seems to be founded on one or two particularly unpleasant experiences, including a mom who was asked to wake her 3-year-old so the stroller could be folded in agreement with the no-stroller-parking policy. Nor, apparently, does the tavern have high chairs.
James McGown, who owns the South Brooklyn Pizza chainlet, of which Buschenschank is a part, as well as PJ Hanley’s, on Court and Fourth Place, was not immediately available for comment on the matter. McGown isn’t new to controversy–his neighbors in TriBeCa accused him of throwing wild parties in a lawsuit, and of putting the property in his child’s name to avoid scrutiny, and PJ Hanley’s was the center of an outrage a couple of years back when it posted a “no stroller” policy on its windows, apparently to discourage some beer-drinking parents groups that had been meeting there in the outdoor seating area.
I’ve been with my child a few times to Buschenschank and did not have a problem (though I’ve gotten more than a single icy reception at PJ Hanley’s, and have since avoided the place–also the food there is not good).
At Buschenschank there are often lots of dining kids. Service can be spotty, like the food—sometimes great, and sometimes, so-so. I’ve had very nice servers and attentive service, but have heard reports of people waiting forever for their food.
One happy customer. Not all are pleased.
This issue of kids–apparently you cannot simply open a bar in Brooklyn, where adults go to drink away their concerns while eating and talking about adult subjects with friends. Bars must also be nursery play areas. It is Brooklyn, after all, home of the urban baby boom.
Don’t get me wrong, as a parent I love going places that make me feel welcome to bring my child. It encourages me to visit that place. But do I think that every place needs to be specifically child-friendly, that kids need to dominate all of our watering holes? This argument gets tired out in Brooklyn, but many parents and non-parents agree that sometimes, and most especially, in a bar, one wants to escape children. Is that so terrible?
Must every bar and restaurant put children first?
Good Lord no. Then we have not a city, but some strange child-land. As parents, we can avoid places where we aren’t welcome, where our children might ruin other patrons’ experience, or where our presence isn’t appropriate.
So anyway, back to Buschenschank.
I wanted to hate the One Percent burger (on the menu, it’s called the Buschenschank Burger). The manager/bartender served us a variety of plates to sample and photograph, including the burger. It was delicious, scrumptious, wonderfully juicy and nuanced in flavor, very satisfying, but didn’t leave one with a lump in the stomach. The flavor and texture of fois gras and truffle did not pronounce themselves, which I took as a plus as I’m not a huge fan, and everything blended together for a really nice mouthful. The fries were great, floppy with soft cooked potato and a nice crunch-fried exterior.
The salad, also, is very good, featuring fresh greens with a changing assortment of raw sliced vegetables in a nice tart vinaigrette. It can be a tad salty, but very good.
The restaurant does an odd thing, mixing a menu of German foods such as wiesswurst and housemade pretzels with mustard, along with pizzas that apparently are made from the same stuff as the now famous South Brooklyn Pizza of Carroll Gardens and the Lower East Side, yet with lesser results. The crust is thicker and more bland, the sauce bland as well, the cheese, not standout. Very middling. But at $10 for a small pie, it’s sure to be a hit with late night drinkers.
All in all, Buschenschank fills a niche in Carroll Gardens/Cobble Hill—a tavern with pretty good food and great beer, open nightly till late, a place to enjoy drinks with friends.
But don’t bring your stroller.