As soon as you walk through the doors of Bushwick Public House, you’ll realize you haven’t entered just another Brooklyn coffee shop. This is an Australian-style cafe, mate. There are no single tables here: instead they have long counters and stools, big comfy chairs, a couch, a pool table, and in the middle of it all, a chatty and welcoming Australian barista.
Bushwick Public House is all about community, simplicity, hospitality — and great espresso. We’ll get to the coffee — which is the best I’ve had in Brooklyn — in a moment.
First, let’s talk about the space and the art on the walls. The owners of Bushwick Public House have commissioned a number of local Brooklyn artists to complete a total of six murals to pay homage to Brooklyn-born legends, three of which are finished. (The late Adam Yauch aka MCA of the Beastie Boys, by Ivan Cofield; Homage to Maurice Sendak, by arts_n_graff; Homage to Jean-Michel Basquiat, by akiles420)
Very soon, there will also be a wall dedicated to Richie Havens, another to Lou Reed, and finally Jam Master Jay of Run—D.M.C, which Cameron Hughes, the co-owner, current barista, and overall personality of the business, plans to paint himself.
Hughes, who hails from Melbourne, worked in hospitality and business consulting for ten years before moving to Bushwick this past October, and is a big draw for customers.
The first time he came to NYC was in July of 2009, he said, and I asked him if he loved it. “Loved it? I smiled for three weeks. I had to massage my cheeks after,” he said, still smiling. He engages every person who wanders in, explains the different espresso drinks if they haven’t been to the cafe before, and often pauses to make sure he’s memorized their name. Coupled with the fact that he resembles Seth Meyers, he has the friendly, easy presence of a late night talk show host — without ever crossing over into annoying territory. (Turns out he was also a radio announcer for many years back in AUS.)
With the art, the antique furniture left over from the last tenants, and the attention to detail (hooks below the countertop, a coat rack, round cushions secured to the deep windowsill for seating on busier days, plenty of outlets, and the wifi password written plain and large on the chalkboard wall behind the bar), the place is cozy without having the New York connotation of “cozy” (i.e., small).
For a Brooklyn cafe, Bushwick Public House is huge, and it feels closer to a rec room than a typical coffee shop. And there’s a whole downstairs basement that will soon be painted by more young, up-and-coming Brooklyn artists, and opened as a venue. In fact, the Bushwick Bears have already been utilizing the downstairs space for their comedy shows.
Now onto the main product. There is no regular drip coffee at the moment — caffeine-wise, there is only Melbourne-style espresso drinks and tea, which run from $2 to $4. The robust espresso is Vittoria Organic Blend, an Australian brand, and the melt-in-your-mouth French pastries are from Colson’s Patisserie in Park Slope. Hughes will most likely suggest you try a flat white, which is a drink similar to a cappuccino but with a higher ratio of coffee to milk and a more velvety consistency. In short: it’s better. Starbucks just introduced the flat white in America — but if you want the real deal, Hughes will hook you up. The yin-and-yang latte art he uses is of a B for Bushwick: he advises that if you like your coffee weaker, drink it from the white milky side, and if you like it stronger, drink it from the coffee side.
If you were thinking, “Another coffee shop in Bushwick?” it turns out that we ain’t seen nothin’ compared to the number of espresso cafes in Melbourne and Sydney.
“New York is like the final frontier, in a cultural sense, that isn’t really espresso-friendly,” says Hughes. “We’re just crowded for options back home, and cafe culture isn’t really a major thing over here [emphasis mine], so that’s why there’s such an influx of Australians in Williamsburg and the West Village. Young, new cafe owners can achieve more in 12 months in New York City that you can in 5 years back home.”
Australians, it turns out, are coffee snobs the likes to whom we Brooklynites pale in comparison. And yet snobby is the last word you’d use to describe the atmosphere of Bushwick Public House. In contrast to many coffee shops in Brooklyn, where sometimes just opening the door and walking in feels like an intrusion, BPH has the ambience of a clubhouse. You can veg out and chat or you can bring your work and your headphones, and the place is spacious enough that if someone is having a conversation, they’re not doing it two inches from you and your MacBook. They’re probably across the room.
And soon, Bushwick Public House is going to turn into a whiskey bar at night, “for the vampires amongst us,” says Hughes. It will feature nearly all American whiskeys, with maybe a Scotch or an Irish whiskey in there, and espresso martinis will also be on the menu. Bushwick Public House has been open for eight weeks now, and despite still being a work-in-progress, it’s already providing the neighborhood with a much-needed dose of Australian-style hospitality.
Bushwick Public House, 1288 Myrtle Ave, Bushwick, phone: 917.966.8500; hours: 8am-7pm