“How about a shot? Our signature pour is all the rums!”
It seems that this is a standard greeting at the recently opened Sally Roots in Bushwick—along with bear hugs, as both staff and patrons appear to be longstanding friends. Although for newbies like us, outsider status is nothing that “all the rums” can’t quickly eliminate, closely followed by a communal round of grapefruit soda and quintuple spirit-spiked Everyting’s.
It all works to buoy a breezy, boozy joie de vivre that well befits a Caribbean bar and restaurant—especially one from the co-owners of Featherweight and Sweet Science, practiced at injecting jolts of congenial, cocktail-fueled hospitality into sleepier subdivisions of Brooklyn. And they both appear to exude extra enthusiasm over this deeply personal project: St. Croix-born James Freeman was inspired by his grandmother’s Calypso record collection (from the Panamanian label, Sally Ruth, which he transmuted, in his best island accent, to Roots), while John De Piper’s forebears boast a deliciously venal history as rumrunners.
They’ve enlisted frequent design partner (the James Beard award-nominated Matthew Maddy) to oversee the interiors: wisely, he’s kept things low-key with cantilevered windows, teal walls, a thatch-flanked backyard and a dominant, baby blue bar. And while their previous establishments place overriding emphasis on alcohol, De Piper and Freeman have lavished equal attention on food at Sally Roots—cutting a swath through the Caribbean with ackee and saltfish sandwiches, jerk-rubbed chicken wings, smoked and roasted short ribs, oxtail bowls over rice and peas, and kale and arugula salads dressed with coconut cream ranch—all of which, incidentally, pair pretty ideally with all the rums.
195 Wyckoff Ave., Bushwick
Photos by Maggie Shannon