Maybe I love it because it’s a dive in most senses—dimly lit and patronized by longtime regulars who have been drinking giant 32-ounce Styrofoam cups filled with insanely affordable domestic drafts since before I was born. Maybe I love it because Rosemary, who’s still alive and owns the building, constantly and painstakingly changes the décor to reflect each upcoming holiday, swapping out the planters of plastic plants hanging from the ceiling for glittering hearts or bright green shamrocks. Or maybe I love Rosemary’s because it just feels easy, and welcoming, and a little like home.The first time I went into Rosemary’s was at the behest of a friend of a friend, after beginning the night with drinks at Berry Park. The place was packed with what I deemed a questionable crowd (kind of bro-y), and we managed to snag a few seats at the far end of the bar. The bartender, who that evening was not the aforementioned mature gentleman, was surly because no one had been tipping on the giant Styrofoam cups. I overtipped, bought the bartender a shot, and ended up spending the night trading shots with the bar staff, eventually swigging beer from my own gigantic cup, and chatting with a couple next to me who turned out to not be a couple at all, just two flamboyant straight dudes grabbing a totally platonic beer, bro. It was an early crush on the joint, sure, but nothing that I figured would make a lasting impression.
I returned a different visit during the day with Dom. The bar was empty aside from one drinker, clearly a regular, at his spot closest to the door, and the older bartender tending to his empty stools. There was a quiet calm, and silverware and paper table settings, even though I’d never seen anyone eat there. We sipped our oversized draughts, speculating about the history of the place. Was that a kitchen behind the bar? Like, an actual apartment kitchen? Did someone live here? How did they stay open?
I’ve revisited Rosemary’s a handful of other times, but no other stop cemented its place in my heart more than my last visit, for the Super Bowl. Despite my general apathy for the actual teams playing, I didn’t want to watch the game at home, and met a few of Mo’s friends at the bar. I’ve never been happier. Thirty minutes before kick-off on football’s biggest night, and I still managed to nab a seat at the bar. Rosemary and the entire clan, who I learned tended bar and generally helped keep the place open, were on-hand for the party, laying out food for the patrons to enjoy. Instead of the bro-ification I’d sensed on nights past, it felt like a family restaurant—one that dealt exclusively in cheap booze. Mo’s friend, a longtime regular, explained that Rosemary owned the building and had a special agreement with her reps, which allowed her to keep the draft prices so low.
“Eat, eat,” Rosemary kept prodding me, pointing to the spread of sandwiches, dips, and wings, much of it prepared in her kitchen and laid out purely for the enjoyment of the guests. I’ve never been so overwhelmingly grateful to a stranger. Homesick and a little lonely, I was just looking for a place to watch the game where I could grab a seat and a beer. Instead, I found something better. “Thank you so much, Rosemary,” I said, clasping her tiny hand in two of mine. “You’ve made this feel like home.”
Rosemary’s (Greenpoint Tavern)
188 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn