The Brooklyneer, a new bar in the West Village, caught some pre-opening flack for seemingly wrapping Brooklyn in a bow for tourists and Manhattanites. (Think beers from Brooklyn breweries, hot dogs topped with mustard made in Greenpoint and relish made in Gowanus, and even a bar made from Coney Island boardwalk wood.) With the soft-opened venue putting the finishing touches on its menu for a Monday debut, we had a word with partner Neena Dutta, a Brit who’s lived in Brooklyn for the past decade. She assured us this won’t just be “Brooklyn in a bottle.”
So where are you all coming from?
We all live in Carroll Gardens. Both Billy Waite and Aron Watman have been in the bar business for ten years, and just like everyone we’re like, “Man, we want to open a bar.” We all love going to the local joints, and we thought, “Why don’t we open a local?” First we looked around in Brooklyn, but there’s so many places. We thought, “Why not open one in the city and bring all the things we love over to Manhattan?”
It wasn’t easier to just open a place in Brooklyn?
I’m a lawyer — I come from this business perspective. It’s a matter of economics; in some cases, Brooklyn rents are a little less but they’re not as low as they used to be. You can certainly promote yourself to a bigger crowd in the city. The other thing is, we feel like we’re self-appointed ambassadors. We love Brooklyn so much that we want to share it with other people. Aaron is actually from California, and we’ve talked about how we’d love to open another place in another city — same concept.
What do you tell people who think you’re just capitalizing on Brooklyn’s trendiness?
I say, “Come on down and give it a try.” Actually, the name the Brooklyneer means someone who’s a compatriot and admires Brooklyn, whereas a Brooklynite is someone who lives in Brooklyn. We’re not trying to reduce this to Brooklyn in a bottle by any means — it’s sheer admiration for where we all live that we want to share it with other people. Years ago, when you say “Brooklyn” to people abroad, a lot of times they think it’s a scary place, and it’s developed into a place that evokes a feeling of fun. There’s all this food and literature We like the idea of embracing that and sharing it with people.
How long have you all lived in Brooklyn?
I’ve been there about ten years, and the boys have been there a couple of years.
Are you working with old-school Brooklyn purveyors as well?
We’re getting our mozzarella for our Carroll Gardens meatball mini-sub from, what’s it called, Caputo’s on Court Street — they’re an old established family business — as well as some of the new (I hate to use the word, but) hipster places. Our chef Justin Farmer has been developing dishes using Brooklyn products. For instance, he’s created this barbecue sauce using Sixpoint Brownstone Ale.
What’s Justin’s story?
Justin ironically worked at the Manhattan Inn in Brooklyn. We were looking for someone who was really creative and has great knowledge of Brooklyn products, and he definitely fits the bill. He has a Brooklyneer Dog — it’s from the Meat Hook, and it’s a bacon-cheeseburger sausage. When people think of Brooklyn, they think of hot dogs and pizza, and this is a flavor combination of them.
Any other nods to classic Brooklyn cuisine?
We’ve got a slider called the Williamsburg, made with pastrami-style portabella. It’s a vegetarian sandwich that’s prepared and tastes just like pastrami, using Brooklyn Brine fennel beets and onion sprouts. Then we’ve got a kielbasa sandwich called the Greenpoint, with Brooklyn Brine sauerkraut.
Did you incorporate Brooklyn into the design, as well?
Our wallpaper is from Flavor Paper, which is in Brooklyn. From a distance, it looks very ornate and you look closely and it’s actually fire hydrants and pigeons and rats, so it’s kind of a cheeky city view.
The Brooklyneer, 220 W. Houston St., nr. Varick St.; 646-692-4911