If you’ve read the excellent, semi-autobiographical novel Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem, you know that Boerum Hill used to be … not so great. But where in Brooklyn was? Boerum Hill, along with large swaths of this borough, has experienced a renaissance, evidenced most clearly by that breed of rustic restaurant serving local ingredients and local, craft beer.
Rucola is one of those restaurants. It got a nod in this month’s issue of Vogue, with one of the glamorous Brooklyn moms standing out front with her progeny in what I’ll call the “Brooklyn Is Not so Bad” photo shoot. (Not like Vogue’s opinion really matters–the magazine still seems to think the trip to Brooklyn is “perilous.” The 80s called, Vogue. They want their racism and elitism back.)
Anyway, back to Rucola. When my mother and I walked in at 2:15 on a weekday after wandering through the Transit Museum nearby, it wasn’t crowded. There were two pairs of friends, two couples, and two dudes at the bar, one tapping on his laptop. All were dressed in that natty yet casual Brooklyn attire that we know so well. The music was relaxed–seventies soul and folk music that segued into chill 90s rap.
It is indeed rustic, with mason jar chandeliers, salt cellars instead of shakers with tiny spoons cradling large flakes of salt, an antiqued mirror and stacked produce crates for decor and special written on a chalkboard. Despite it being daytime, the lights were down low. Mmm, romantic.
I ordered a Six Point Sweet Action and my mother ordered a hot chocolate. It’s was easy to eat fairly healthy here and still feel comforted, since the menu puts the focus on vegetables and other vegetarian choices. Though, you can definitely get some delicious meat dishes if you want. For starters, we had a selection of cheeses, which came with crusty bread and scrumptious pear jam. My fresh escarole salad, with a simple dressing and funky blue cheese, was a treat. Mom ordered margherita pizza–the pizza del giorno (pizza of the day). She pronounced it good, but no better than that place at the mall that starts with California and ends with Kitchen. (Perhaps we should have had one of their sandwiches, which the NY Times says are on point.) We also had the option of ordering pastries from the nearby Bien Cuit, another place on my to-try list.
For dessert we indulged in birch beer custard pie with a dollop of freshly-made whipped cream. The crust was flaky and the custard had the familiar tang of root beer in the finish. I haven’t even had birch beer that’s not been baked into a pie, but if this dessert was a clue to how it tastes, I’ll try it next time I have the chance!
One note: For a really slow, rainy afternoon, our service was a bit slow. Our waiter would disappear for long periods, or forget to bring us things we asked for , like, you know, water.
While Rucola does have outdoor seating–those tinny little cafe tables and chairs–I would recommend how we tried it: nestled inside drinking hot chocolate on a cool, rainy day. The rustic decor does have its uses. Who would want to be on in a cold, sterile Pinkberry on a day like that?