188 Bedford Avenue | Brooklyn
Only four swift, tourist-cluttered blocks from the newly minted Apple store, a veritable oasis lies in wait. Push through Rosemary’s swinging wooden doors and bathe in a ruby-red glow of year-round Christmas lights, throw back a $3 Budweiser, and attempt to slowly out-woo a warm, dreadlocked bartender who calls everyone “honey.” Above, baskets of ivy (charmingly artificial) gently sway in the breeze, while cardboard cut-out roses, pasted to the mirrors, radiate a sweet, dollar-store nostalgia. If, in such a setting, one might wish each barstool were covered in plastic, one is happy nonetheless to find one open for the taking.
Behind the bar, pixelated Plexiglas columns buttress a vintage cash-register—no credit cards here—as a dusty reproduction of Hopper’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams goads the forlorn millennials peppering the outside streets. Where are all the mason jars, one might ask, knowing the unspoken rules of Bedford Avenue? In fact, until Bloomberg sought to cinch waists, the house goblet was the mammoth Styrofoam cup, a scale of consumption since banned (to the dismay of both patron and proprietor).
Rosemary started out as the girl behind the bar when her parents purchased the tavern in 1955. Now, at 84, she’s typically ensconced on a corner stool, surveying ineffable change and cracking one-liners. Taken together, her regular bar companions are a practical incarnation of the New American fusion so lavishly proclaimed by neighboring restaurants—from “born and bred” Brooklynites, generous and proud, to white-collared loft dwellers commuting with their bulldogs. And while many Williamsburg establishments fear the closure of the L train, frequenters of Rosemary’s Tavern might have a different response to the hipster day of reckoning. “I learned my lesson last night,” a bespectacled patron joked on a recent Wednesday evening, “I don’t stay out late in this neighborhood.”
Written from the most philosophical of perches (a barstool),“ The Well” seeks to distill the idiosyncrasies of prized New York City taverns.
Sara Christoph is a former Managing Director of the Brooklyn Rail.