Clara’s occupies the cavernous ground-floor of a retail space plopped between a dentist’s office and a gated alleyway on Wilson Avenue, announced by way of  its name, scrabbled in cursive above the door. It has been there most of a decade, where it had first opened as Eastland’s, remarkable for its “reasonably priced drinks and tasty fare” and was described once by a writer at Vanity Fair as “an upscale pub in Bushwick” in a scene report on a meet-up of frustrated Bernie Sanders supporters in 2016.

“Originally there were just two TVs,” recalls Eric Borg, who had renamed the bar Clara’s in 2017, after his daughter. Now there are, by his own count, at least 14 of them, hanging above the bar and lining its enormous Tardis-like backroom. On a busy night, like a recent UPC bout between Sean O’Malley and Marlon Vera, the room gets packed by midnight, at least 150 people by Borg’s count. If there’s a game, it’s playing at Clara’s and the seats will likely be filled.

Borg says he decided to pivot into running a sports bar shortly after his break with his former business partner at Eastland’s. “We had no concept,” Borg says now.  A tall and gregarious presence who speaks in a booming, brassy, blue collar voice that easily carries across a double-roomed sports bar, Borg had lived a few lives throughout the city already before deciding to set up shop in Bushwick. Plumbing, construction, working for eight years, 700 feet underground as a sandhog in order to extend the 7 line deep into Hudson Yards. Back behind the bar, he keeps a collection of some of the rocks he’s kept. “I liked mining, if I didn’t get sick, I would still be doing it,” he says.

At any rate, Bushwick is probably the better for Borg opting to persist on ground level. From almost the very start, the bar landed notice for its wings, which had been the innovation of Borg and John Klein, a chef with some experience working the line at Momofuku. Bord had hired him for a few months after he took the bar over, and says he still uses Klein’s original chicken sandwich recipe, which comes buttermilk fried, on a potato bun. 

The wings, however, are what everyone orders and that’s because everyone is right. The skin comes out crisp but greaseless, a lunar landscape of frozen salt and thyme and garlic. The secret to the wings, in part, is that the fat is rendered out and then brined through a day-long process that Bord says he has only expanded in the years since Klein left. 

“I did longer, I don’t think he did it for 24 hours,” Borg tells me. 

Clara’s is located at 53 Wilson Avenue. Keep up with their hours on Instagram.

Photos by Keon Vines for Bushwick Daily.

For more news, sign up for Bushwick Daily’s newsletter.

Join the fight to save local journalism by becoming a paid subscriber