Several years ago during my neighborhood's more "charming" days, I witnessed on many days men urinating on the corner building, along Sackett Street near the busy thoroughfare, Court Street. The OTB did not have a bathroom. It closed, thankfully (though I miss the convenient betting on Triple Crown days), in December 2004. The old OTB space, in the building's ground floor, remained unoccupied until just a few months ago when the owners of South Brooklyn Pizza opened a German restaurant that—besides fondue and plenty of tempting meat stuff—also has pizza.
Buschenschank, as it is called, has two entrances—both a little hard to find due to a lack of signage. The main entrance on Court Street leads into a bar area and then further through to a dining room with long communal tables. It's indoor beer-gardeny with salvaged tin ceilings and red brick walls.
If you enter through a red door on the side street (Sackett Street), you'll find yourself at a small pizza counter that offers South Brooklyn Pizza's very good "New York Style Pizza." Two things. You can see a slice pie through the window there if you look. And yes, they have those two homemade condiments for which I consider a visit to this (or any other South Brooklyn Pizza location) very worthwhile: a roast garlic and olive oil mash, and marinated hot cherry peppers.
Buschenschank's dining room menu, along with the aforementioned meat stuff (much of which sounds good—short ribs with potato gratin, anyone?) and other German and Swiss-leaning items, also lists two pizzas new to the South Brooklyn Pizza family: The Adige ($11) with mushrooms, arugula, and "goat cheese sauce"; and Hohenzug ($12), with schinkenspeck, caramelized apples, and chives. Fresh mozzarella and a healthy shake of grated grana padano also top each of them. I love speck (which I assume schinkenspeck is), but the caramelized apples part didn't sound right for lunch. So I opted for The Adige.
As I waited for my pizza, I admired the room and snapped some photos. The long wall facing Court Street features frosted glass windows, and two semi-circular brick openings offer views into the kitchen and the pizza area. Sitting in Buschenschank feels a little like you've escaped from a snowstorm and have come inside to warm up with some good beer, meaty food (or pizza), and some friends.
The pizza—about twelve inches in diameter—was so thin and crispy it had virtually no hole structure (except at the edge). But the ingredients on top provided a soft cushion and kept my taste buds busy trying to identify and understand the flavors involved. (My only complaint about the crispiness is that I wish they'd have cut it into slices; even the provided steak knife could not cut through without struggle.) The goat cheese sauce lent lightness but no tartness, the mozzarella added chew, and the grana padano helped to marry all of the flavors with its requisite saltiness. There were not enough mushrooms. Having recently eaten at Co., where mushrooms cover the mushroom pizza and spinach covers the spinach pizza, I wished Buschenschank mushroom pie had mushrooms for every bite.
Truth told, when I learned that South Brooklyn Pizza owners had this German restaurant, I began to dream big—and I still am. I want a large, sharable creamy and heart-warming flammkuchen! I know of only two renditions of this Alsatian-type pizza in town: the Flambé at Jim Lahey's Co., and the Tarte Flambé at the Modern (Danny Meyer's restaurant at the MOMA). I mentioned this to the manager—because I think people would go for it—and only time will tell whether Buschenschank is ready to break the savory flavor barrier of the pizza template.
In the meantime, Buschenschank has much to offer on its menu, and the pizza was quite good. ("I've gotta say, the pizza is very good," I overheard a previously-skeptical customer say.) I can easily picture myself returning at night with friends to drink beer and then to supplement all that liquid with pizzas and pretzels and fondue and maybe even those short ribs—if they're sharable. But next time I go, I'll be sure to try their other pizza on the menu. Hohenzug, dessert-like though it sounds, should be a really interesting pie.
Michael Berman is a photographer and writer based in New York. He publishes multimedia food stories on his blog www.pizzacentric.com; and more frequent, sometimes mundane Twitter observations at @michaelberman.