If you didn’t know this Cobble Hill space was an old TV repair store until just a couple months ago, you would think new gastro pub Henry Public had been here forever. Past an antique bar, refurbished gas lamps and black and white photos of Frederick Douglass and the old Brooklyn Eagle headquarters hang in the dining room, where the wood paneling and marble fireplace date the room to sometime around the turn of the last century. But this carefully curated mix is actually the result of years of scavenging by owners Jen Albano and Matt Dawson, also the team behind the Brooklyn Social Club, who’ve created an old-timey bar and restaurant that actually feels authentic.
Though it opened just a couple weeks ago, the place was already packed with a mostly local crowd on a recent weekend night. Many were there for the drinks: pre-Prohibition cocktails involving things like egg whites and obscure liqueurs. While the artistry behind this trend is laudable, restauranteurs are neglecting a key fact when they come up with such complex drinks for a crowded bar: it takes a long time to make them! So the wait at the bar can be long while the bartenders are whisking and blending away.
If you have the patience for the slow drinks movement, seemingly a corollary to the slow food movement, you’ll be rewarded with a nicely balanced concoction like the Brooklyn Ferry ($11), which mixes rye whiskey with vermouth, maraschino, and absinthe.
The Public Smash ($10) takes the beginnings of a mint julep and adds maple syrup and bitters for a northern twist. Or cut to the chase with a local Six Point beer – Henry Public has several varieties on tap.
For a place that must make the majority of its earnings from the bar, Henry Public puts an impressive amount of effort into the food. Though the menu is small, with just burgers and sandwiches for entrees, everything we tried was consistently good, and everything’s in keeping with the old fashioned feel, right down to the New York egg cream. The still slightly chewy, very fresh almonds ($3) are smoked in house and have a racy kick of cayenne to them.
There was something curiously fruity about the mignonette sauce accompanying the luscious oysters from Pemaquid, ME. Granny Smith apples seem to be minced in with the shallots for a wonderfully autumnal taste. Apples and shallots go beautifully together, it turns out, and they go even better with East Coast oysters at the height of the season.
Granny Smith apples appeared again in the grilled cheese sandwich, where they were thinly sliced and layered in with the melted cheese, giving a new snap to an old classic.
The char on the bun and the excellent cheddar added complexity to Henry Public’s burger, which is of the steaky school of burgers, made of meat that was aged but juicy. The fries that came alongside were some of the best in Brooklyn, with a salty crunch that gave way to a soft potato interior. Pickles are also made in house.
Please don’t go to Henry Public. We want to keep it for ourselves. But if you must visit this cool but cozy neighborhood spot, at least save us a seat at the bar.
329 Henry Street, between Atlantic and Pacific Streets
Cash only. Dinner til 3am Fri-Sat.