Just far enough into Williamsburg that it can thankfully still be counted as under-the-radar, the Roebling Tea Room, at the corner of Roebling Street and Metropolitan Avenue serves far more than the tea its name suggests.
Helmed by a chef who isn’t formally a chef, and an owner who isn’t formally a restaurateur, it’s quite a serendipitous story. Syd Silver, a former rocker, opened the place with no real restaurant experience after the music industry and a stint as a tattoo artist left her cold. Working on a shoestring budget, she even did some of the construction in the 1,800 square foot space herself after a contractor fell through. And it appears that she took to construction and design as naturally as she did to managing a restaurant. The space is perfectly rustic: exposed beams, weathered floorboards, a long bar of green subway tile, and a giant wall of industrial windows.
Chef Dennis Spina, the maestro who turns out an ever-changing menu like Ravioli with egg and grits inside, Bolognese, burro rosso, fortified with clam blood or Toast with chicken livers and fresh hot bagna cauda, had no culinary training until he was tapped by a former band mate to help run the Roebling kitchen back in 2005. When the head chef left, Silver frantically offered Spina (then a totally untrained line cook) the head gig.
The restaurant has developed over the past seven years into something far more than a tea house, now rolling out an equally impressive roster of cocktails. So if you can’t make it out to Williamsburg, the folks at the Tea Room shared two of their favorite recipes to DIY:
Smoking Jacket 1oz lairds applejack 3/4 oz rittenhouse rye 1/2 oz velvet falernum 2 dashes angostura bitters stirred, strained into a cocktail glass, served with an orange twist
Verbena Long Time Coming 2 oz plymouth gin 3/4 oz lime juice 1/2 oz verbena syrup seasonal berries shake, strain into glass with ice. muddle berries and a dash of verbena syrup in separate mixing glass, then top drink with berries.
143 Roebling Street at Metropolitan Avenue, 718-963-0760 roeblingtearoom.com