Fawkner, an Americana-Inspired Gentlemen's Drinking Den in Cobble Hill

Fawkner's fried chicken sandwich
Fawkner's fried chicken sandwich
Sara Ventiera for the Village Voice

With its dark wood-paneled walls, tufted vintage couches and stuffed-ram diorama displayed high on the wall, visible as soon as you walk in the door, Fawkner (191 Smith Street, Brooklyn; 718-369-3310) has the feel of an old school gentleman's club or 1940's hunting lodge. Jim Carden and Kevin Avanzato, co-owners of The Bell House, Union Hall and Floyd, who opened the Cobble Hill bar in September, say that falconry ("fawkner" is an archaic word for falconer), and the Museum of Natural History inspired the concept.

They certainly pulled off a museum ambience; the dimly-lit space offers several seating areas, including secluded wooden booths and a library lounge complete with mahogany-toned wainscoting and deep turquoise-colored walls, antique portraits, and a fireplace. It's an interesting mash-up of aristocracy and Americana — and also remarkably similar to the interior of a Hollister store. 

The setting is ideal for warm winter drinks. The cocktails come in seasonally appropriate options including the Roosevelt ($12), an old fashioned with rye, maple, and bitters, and the Goldrush ($10), with bourbon, lemon, and honey. Murder of Crows ($12) mixes tequila, Campari, and ginger beer.

Beer and wine selections are concise, but impressive for listing uncommon finds. For wine ($8 a glass), there are a few less mainstream options offered at reasonable price-points, like gruner veltliner and Sicilian syrah. The rotating craft-beer drafts cover a well-curated range of styles and breweries. A recent list offered Downeast Cranberry Cider, Ninkasi Brewing Company's Oatis Stout, Brooklyn's Sorachi Ace Saison and SingleCut Beersmiths Dean Pacific Northwest Mahogany Ale. There's a premium bottle selection, as well.

Fawkner is more of a bar than a restaurant, but there's a short menu of "designer" sandwiches and frites to counteract the beer and booze. Guests order from the kitchen window and take a number back to their seat — the set up is kind of annoying if you're sitting at the bar.

Fawkner's poutine is just right.
Fawkner's poutine is just right.
Sara Ventiera for the Village Voice

The Fawkner Bar Burger ($10) is good: a griddled patty covered with American cheese and white sauce, served on a great toasted seeded potato roll. The Belgian Boy Frankfurter ($11) is fine, as well. Sourced from Salumeria Bielesse, the frank itself is great, with a nice, crisp snap, but a bit overwhelmed by its topping of fries, cole slaw and remoulade. 

Fawkner's choice of bread, although high-quality and flavorful, is a problem with the fried chicken sandwich ($11), which is described as buttermilk deep-fried chicken thighs, chow-chow, corn pudding and onion strings with maple syrup dip. The sandwich offers the promise of a complex sweet and savory mix, but in actuality the bread (and its sesame topping) overpowers everything else. Dipping the assemblage in maple syrup dilutes the impact of the ingredients even more. 

The poutine ($9) was the best thing we tried — the fresh cut fries were well-seasoned and crisp. Most importantly, they were able to stand up to the thick New England-style gravy that coats the top, even throughout leisurely snacking while we were drinking and chatting. The cheddar cheese curds add a nice tang to the rich, savory sauce. 

While Fawkner isn't the best choice for dinner, it stands up just fine in the bar food category. Overall, it's a comfortable neighborhood pub with an inviting ambience — and hey, that fireplace is looking mighty attractive now that chill weather is moving in.


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