Bushwick is changing. If you doubt it, ask the owners of Dear Bushwick, a self-described "English Country Kitchen" that recently joined the neighborhood. Fittingly for a Brooklyn restaurant (if not a traditional English one) there are plenty of vegetarian and even vegan options of the menu, and the food is simple but well thought-out, with pleasant surprises along the way.
The menu begins with a section called "Whet Your Appetite," with items like Eggs & Butter ($6). The eggs are wine-barrel smoked and topped with horseradish butter and a green peppercorn salt, then served at room temperature like deviled eggs. The oaky smoke is a winner with the eggs, though it overwhelms any of the sharpness promised by the horseradish. Still, that horseradish is crisped in butter for a winning textural contrast with those creamy yolks.
Homemade Country Cheese Curd ($9) means ricotta, not sqeaky Wisconsin-style cheese curds. It's light but creamy, soft but with an almost chewy texture. There's not much going on with it beyond a subtle milkiness, but the accompanying black onion jam (itself full of depth) and toast make it another successful starter.
Our visit offered a lone vegetarian entrée: Roasted Whole Wild Mushrooms ($17). The crispy, meaty mushrooms rest on a bed of toasty fregula with vegetable broth. Here and there a stray cranberry added a touch of tartness to cut through all of the other flavors. I can't say if the mushrooms are actually wild, but I appreciate the variety I found: creminis, shiitakes, chantrelles, and more.
Some vegan dishes involve clever substitutions, like roasted carrots ($5) topped with a "medieval nut pesto." In place of cheese the pesto employs chopped walnuts, herbs, honey, and fennel—all wonderful flavors to pair with the sweetness of the carrots. When we asked what went into the sauce, our server returned not just with an answer, but with a recipe card to take home. Simple though it was, this dish may have been the highlight of the meal.
Dear Bushwick doesn't run like a brand new restaurant. It's not a totally smooth machine yet (we experienced an inexplicably long wait between our appetizers and our main courses), but kind service, like that recipe card, is a nice touch. They seem to have come out of the gate swinging.
About the author: Howard Walfish is a Virginia native who has been living in New York since 2003. He is, in fact, a vegetarian, and is the co-founder of Eat to Blog and the creator of BrooklynVegetarian.