Syd Silver opened Roebling Tea Room in Williamsburg in 2005, and over a decade, it has weathered the storms of real estate around it. As bar after restaurant after concert venue around it came and fell, the beautiful, airy loft space stuck around, offering a delicious menu of tea, wine and food. There were so many times over the years that I’d climb those steps up to the refuge from busy, rainy Metropolitan, looking for a snack or a glass of wine or some tea. But RTR is so much less about tea, and more about cocktails and food these days.
In 2015, to celebrate its 10th anniversary, Silver redesigned the space, installing a 15-foot salvaged redwood table in the front for groups of up to 20, intimate seating in the back, and a small, semi-private room. The low lighting, inventive cocktails and updated menu make it a major contender for Valentine’s Day or just that perfect Friday night dinner where you linger for just one more drink.
Like me, you may find yourself looking over Roebling Tea Room’s entrée selection again and again, trying to formulate your game plan from a wide selection of dishes. But you’ll inevitably end up ordering the baked sheets, because nestling two types of cheese, ricotta and caciocavallo, into the folds of luxurious pasta sheets with baked acorn squash, sautéed kale, honey and basil … well, it just can’t be resisted. This was so creamy, so mouth-meltingly rich, with the perfect note of sweet from the honey and bitter from the kale, that we all dug in first and devoured most of it before we even tried other dishes.
If you’re normal, however, you’ll sate your starting hunger with some appetizers, like the crave-worthy steak tartare, which features fried chickpeas, Kewpie mayo, chives and capers. Accompanied by a sliced baguette, the tartare is melt-in-your-mouth soft, herbal and citrusy. It’s perfect with the tangy Japanese mayo.
I never think salad is an afterthought — it’s always important to me that a salad make a statement and not just be a wimpy pile of greens with a few random toppings or sad pepitas. RTR’s chicory radicchio salad proved itself no lightweight, layered with sweet apples, toasted walnuts, tangy cranberry vinaigrette and rich plops of goat cheese mousse.
Who doesn’t like a dish that’s a bit of an eating adventure? The chickpea pappardelle, with its different textures, was superfun to eat, with frizzled parsnip strips topping a comforting bowl of tender pasta, crispy brussels sprouts, and sautéed maitakes bursting with umami.
One of the nicest things about this kitchen is how well it satisfies a table with varying diets. Your partner may be a fitness maniac on a week-long Atkins diet, or a picky eater who doesn’t like certain vegetables, and they’ve got you covered with their wide selection. From dishes that are dairy-free to a plentiful vegetarian selection, Roebling Tea Room caters to its discerning North Brooklyn clientele.
Need to leave the goat cheese or walnuts off your chicory and radicchio salad? No problem. Vegetarian and looking for hearty dishes? The chickpea pappardelle, baked sheets, veggie burger and assortment of market vegetable side dishes have got you covered. Just want the ribeye, with no fries? Easy. The server at Roebling Tea Room could handle our special requests and made great cocktail recommendations.
Speaking of that very important component, while wine and tea are usually my go-to here, I’m also a fan of the tea-infused cocktail, the New Age Traveler. Maybe it’s the invasion of earl grey into everything we know, from Van Leuuwen ice cream to Handsome Dan’s snowcones, but tea works so well in cocktails. In this cocktail, the bergamot is assertive but not so strong that it overpowers the gin. Lemon and bourbon give a nice acidic, wintry balance.
There’s also so much on rotation for brunch, from small plates like biscuits and gravy, kale salad with dried currants, almonds and barley, cheesy grits, corned beef sandwich, and avocado toast with pecorino and arugula, and also big digs like gruyere-smothered veggie burgers, crispy bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches, power bowls of broccoli and black beans, and baked cheddar eggs with raisin fennel toast. And if you’re really needing it at brunch, the bartenders will pour you a really energizing Super Coffee cocktail — Jameson, Bailey’s, Grand Marnier AND an extra shot if you supersize it.
The tearoom looks very elegant these days, since the renovation. It’s always been a space that was inherently beautiful and interesting, but lovely yellow wallpaper and new tables and booths have added so much to the space. I’m looking forward to hosting a dinner there and finding out if RTR’s tease of a “disco ball on request” is a real thing or not.