If The Brooklyn Cookbook didn’t already convince you beyond any lingering shadow of a doubt that Brooklyn is a brand ready for export to the provinces, then perhaps the Brooklyneer will. Described by its co-owner Aron Watman as a “Brooklyn-intensive eating and drinking establishment set in Manhattan,” it will bring Brooklyn all the way across the East River to the hinterlands of West Houston Street, right across the road from Film Forum.
Speaking from his home in Carroll Gardens, Watman explains that he and his business partner, Billy Waite, have set out to get “the best of” all of the meats, cheeses, and pickles that young tattooed folk have been making in the borough and “bring it to one accessible location.” Accessible in particular for those with an aversion to public transportation.
The menu, which Watman describes as shareable small plates complemented by Brooklyn beers and spirits, will be the work of Justin Farmer. In yet another layer of this very large onion of irony, Farmer was formerly the chef at the Manhattan Inn in Greenpoint.
The food, Watman says, “will represent the diversity of Brooklyn — not just Italian sausages and cheese, but pierogi from Greenpoint and soul food from Crown Heights.” Although Watman is still working out his purveyors, dishes will incorporate products from the likes of the Brooklyn Salsa Company, Mast Bros. Chocolate, Brooklyn Brine, and McClure Pickles. Beer will come courtesy of Kelso, Sixpoint, and a Coney Island craft brewery. The Brooklyneer’s bar top will also come from Coney Island: it’s an old piece of the boardwalk that Gotham Forest Products, the Brooklyn-based company that’s building the Brooklyneer, happened to have lying around. When the place opens — Watman predicts late October or early November — it will seat 74, and be open from 5 p.m. til 2 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday and until 4 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.
Watman, who has bartended and managed bars in Manhattan and Brooklyn, got the idea for the Brooklyneer from a Sam Sifton review. “Sifton was reviewing SD26. He was talking about how back in the day, it was impressive that sausage was imported from Italy, but the ship has sailed: now there’s some college drop-out making sausage in his basement in Greenpoint. So essentially that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Fair enough. But why try to do it across the river from where all of that basement sausage is being made? “You’d think that people would travel easily,” Watman says. “But a lot of people, especially on the west side, don’t make it out here all that often, in my experience at least. So we’re trying to bring Brooklyn to them, essentially. I think most people love [the idea]. A few people are like, ‘Wait, you’re going to have a Brooklyn place in Manhattan, that doesn’t make any sense.’ But once you explain the concept and what’s happening in Brooklyn, they understand.”
And Watman and Waite aren’t stopping in Manhattan: they’re already planning to open a second Brooklyneer a bit farther west. “I have some friends who wanted to do a bar in L.A.,” Watman explains. “They’re in the music industry. They came out here for an event at the Brooklyn Brewery and got the feel for Brooklyn and loved Brooklyn. They’re in Silver Lake, which has a similar dynamic to Brooklyn. There are artisanal folks out there, there’s that kind of vibe. They love the idea [of the restaurant] and want to do the same concept.” And like the Brooklyneer’s target demographic in Manhattan, they aren’t huge fans of public transportation, either.