369 Troutman Street, Bushwick
between Wyckoff and Irving Aves
Brooklyn, NY 11237
Cuisine: Bar snacks
Our Rating: ★ ★ ★ Good
Cards: All major
Price: PBR $2; cocktails are $9-10, but $5 during happy hour.
Hours: open daily
Booze: Full bar
Subway: L to Jefferson
L Mag says
The new outpost—simply called the Johnsons—turns out to be better than we expected. The look of the place hints at the original’s 70s TV-room vibe without beating you over the head with it: light wood paneling so pervasive that the entrance looks like a sauna; basket chairs hanging from the ceiling; shag rugs here and there. (For what it’s worth, the jukebox at this one actually works.) The bathrooms are mercifully well-kept, and, this being Bushwick, the bar benefits from about four times as much space as the Rivington location, which the owners here filled with a pool table and enough booths that I have yet to come here without being able to find a seat, even at the height of a Friday night rush.
Most importantly, the Johnsons has nailed its drinks menu, making sure you can still do some serious damage for $10 or less. They don’t do draft beer, but they carry 15 well-chosen bottles, ranging from $2 Lion’s Head to $10 Delirium Tremens, plus a few more interesting options like Green Flash West Coast IPA and Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro. The real selling point is the cocktail list, though, half of which go for $5 until 9pm—think pomegranate margaritas, Sazerac Slings, and something called the Desert Sun, a combination of vodka, Curaçao, and cassis that’s better than it has any right to be. The rest of the cocktails cost $10 and veer classic and strong, including solid takes on the martini, Tom Collins, Moscow Mule, and Foghorn alongside a few less expected and more tropical options like the Mezcal-based “Rock Me Oaxaca.”
Even the short snack menu is carefully put together though unfussy, featuring truffle-infused hard-boiled eggs ($3), Deep River kettle chips ($3), and a plate of cheese and flatbreads for $5. The owners seem to have intuited just what the neighborhood needed, which was an affordable, lighthearted change of pace from the stained-wood-and-whiskey spots that surround it. As such, the Johnsons has pulled off a neat trick, creating a well-executed homage that’ll please those loyal to the old place while feeling fresh to everyone else.
Bushwick got its own Welcome to the Johnson’s outpost, simply titled The Johnson’s, on Friday, and while it is a perfectly “nice” bar—”nice” in the blandish, generic wood-paneled sense of the word—the only thing akin to its LES mothership other than its name is a pool table in the back ($1.50/game). Which is disappointing for a neighborhood that is now littered with “gastropubs,” restaurants and drinking holes serving $10-$12 cocktails. Some local bars—Pearl’s Social & Billy Club, for instance, and Happy Fun Hideaway—have the same character and offbeat neighborhood hangout atmosphere as the original Welcome to the Johnson’s (though without the bikers, for the most part), but these fancier Bushwick newcomers are starting to swim together.
Not that there’s anything particularly wrong with The Johnson’s; it’s a pretty space, boasting the aforementioned wood-paneling, scattered tribal art, cozy booths, couches and tables and an expansive front porch complete with benches and two dangling wicker egg chairs. Last night the electronic jukebox was heavy on Lou Reed and the Rolling Stones, which is always a good thing, and though there’s no draft list, you can get bottles of Crispin cider ($6), Pacifo ($5), Crabbie’s ginger beer ($6) and the like. There’s also a specialty cocktail list, with full-price twists on Tom Collinses, Moscow Mules and Mai Tais ranging from $9-$10, but you can skip those outside of happy hour; from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. daily, drinks like margaritas and gin cocktails run only $5, cans of Bud Light are $3 and Lion’s Head is $2.
Bedford & Bowery says:
With its white tiled bar, fake plants, wood accents, and tribal art, The Johnsons bears little resemblance to the den of iniquity that is its Lower East Side sister. This feels more like an adult take on the tiki bar: a little funk, but no over the top kitsch. The draw here is definitely in the space. The huge outdoor area with benches, a throwback fireplace, and a couple of those egg chairs will be a great place to hang out when it’s not 20 degrees outside. The bar itself seems to be focused on semi-private spaces, featuring four small booths, a few tables, a walled-off lounge area with a handful of leather chairs, and a pool table surrounded by bench seating. The cocktail list is interesting, but not spectacular (though the bartender on duty did assure us that we’d be seeing some seasonal cocktails rotate through the 10-drink list). Most seemed to be twists on traditional cocktails, like the pomegranate Arizona Margarita (a steal for $5) and the Mr. Thom, a Tom Collins dressed up with plum bitters (a featured house cocktail for $9). Some, like the Foghorn (Dewars, sweet vermouth, and a float of single malt scotch), come off a little booze-heavy, but mostly the list tends toward sweet and fruity.
The beer list is negligible, since there’s no draft line. True to the original, the bottle/can list runs to the standards (Bud Light, Pacifico) and the locals (Blue Point).
Though it was pretty relaxed on the night we went, the bartender told us Friday night’s opening was slammed. If you happen to be in Bushwick for New Year’s Eve on a budget, you may want to check out their all-night happy hour: $5 cocktails, $3 for well drinks and Bud Light, and $2 cans of Lion’s Head pilsner.