41 Wilson Avenue
Bushwick, Brooklyn 11237
Cuisine: Gastropub, Irish/English
Our Rating: ★★★★ Great
Price: entrees $18-$24
Cards: Discover, MasterCard, Visa
Hours: Mon-Sun, 5pm-11pm
Subway: L at Morgan Ave.; M at Central Ave.
Village Voice says:
Inside the long, narrow dining room, couples talk quietly and a cyclist massages a cramp from his bare, tattooed calf. A small kitchen relays smells of meat and vegetables sizzling in duck fat, of hot oil meeting battered shrimp. Jessica Wilson is the chef. She used to run the kitchen at Goat Town, in the East Village. Here, she cooks English-inspired dishes with American ingredients: A grand pork chop ($20), the centerpiece of the menu, sits on shaved brussels sprouts in a bacon-y vinaigrette. The sprouts pack flavor without adding weight to the dish. This is the sort of simple, seasonal food that might change your mind about contemporary English cooking. Tiny appetizers are ideal with the cocktails (all priced at $10) that make use of many gins and exciting tinctures. Fried potato peels ($4) are a tangle of see-through fairy wings, dusted with salt and vinegar. There’s a fine duck-sausage roll ($6) with ginger-cranberry chutney, but it has a sad, soggy bottom of undercooked pastry (no, this does not make it more traditional). Halved, smoked eggs ($6) with creamy yolks and horseradish butter are squeaky and wonderfully messy. As prices go up, so do portions. A slab of crisp-skinned pork belly on wilted beet leaves ($12) could make a light meal paired with dressed roasted carrots ($5) or a shaved vegetable salad ($9) studded with cheddar. Big, juicy oysters ($11) are hot under a blanket of bread crumbs, spooning with fennel stuffing. A blob of goose terrine ($12) tastes precisely of Christmas: racy game, pickled plums, and enough clove to numb the tongue—Wilson is not shy with spices. A mutton shoulder ($21), though cooked inconsistently, was terrific when it was served tender and pink in the middle. Service is scatterbrained but caring. Twice, something my party ordered simply never arrived (on both occasions, apologies were genuine). Despite this, and the long waits that can draw out between dishes, it’s easy to see why locals like to gather at Dear Bushwick: They can eat and drink well without much fuss.
Time Out Says:
Vintage curios, muted milk-bottle lights, locally sourced oyster ’shrooms. As the name portends, this is twee Brooklyn by way of shoot-’em-up Bushwick. Despite its backwater locale on Wilson Avenue, the quaint charmer brandishes some prime talent behind the stove and the bar: respectively, chef Jessica Wilson (A Voce) and consulting cocktailian Natasha David (Maison Premiere)—another testament to the creep of low-key culinary ambition into the borough’s once-precarious corners.
ORDER THIS: The chef describes the lusty, sometimes whimsical fare as “England meets Vermont.” To that end, a hulking pork chop ($20)—thicker than an ax handle—seems more fit for a barrel-chested lumberjack than the skinny-jeans set (gathered here neath an oversize boho painting of a leggy brunet on a horse). The juicy skillet-seared slab is embellished with contrasting accoutrements: bitter braised brussels sprouts and a sweet and tangy bacon-fig vinaigrette. Other earthy, elegant dishes, like a pitch-perfect creamy celeriac soup ($6) or a buttery, beer-steamed mussels special ($7) on one night, are equally comforting.
GOOD FOR: A soul-warming walk-in meal. While nearby Roberta’s—on a buzzing corner of Bogart Street that seems like Times Square compared with this quiet drag—draws destination diners willing to brave two-hour waits, this narrow slip of a restaurant pulls off a strictly local vibe to warm effect. The two-month-old spot’s lean, slick-haired barkeep, whose disarming friendliness belies his cool greaser threads, sets a Cheers-like tone, making newcomers and second-timers feel like regulars. On a recent fall night, strangers struck up an impromptu reminiscence of early-’90s R&B—SWV! Boyz II Men! En Vogue!—at the sturdy black-steel bar while the wind howled outside.
THE CLINCHER: Most small restaurants have trouble achieving both serious food and drinks, but this flyweight depot punches above its weight. The cocktails (boozy classics, enlightened riffs) rank with the best in the borough. Our favorite was the Iron Lady ($10): Bittersweet aperol gets a double dose of flowers with rose-infused gin and Lillet Rose. Lemon juice cleans up the finish on the structured but feminine sipper. Dear Bushwick, we can forgive the name