Bacchus Bistro and Wine Bar
411 Atlantic Avenue
Brooklyn, New York 11217
I can’t rely on my memories.
On my way to the opening of Bladerunner 2049 at BAM, I stop at Bacchus for dinner.
Bacchus is located in the Boerum neighborhood in Brooklyn. Boerum is in the northwestern portion of Brooklyn. Boerum Hill was named for the colonial farm of the Boerum family, which occupied most of the area during early Dutch settlement. Originally it was a working class area, then became a high crime zone and then became gentrified.
Bacchus is on the same block as the Iglesia De Dios Pentecostal Church and the Templo Cristiano De Brooklyn (Brooklyn Christian Temple Inc.). There are trendy businesses such as Ruchkida Nozhki Nail Lounge, Farrow and Bali (paint and paper), Opalia (flowers) and Arco (a Luxury Salon Boutique). Nearby is the Atelier Cologne (The Cologne Absolue-True Innovation). They are trying very hard to be distinctive and sophisticated but seem rather silly instead. They are models of gentrification. I wonder what the Pentecostals think when they walk by on their way to church. Perhaps they do not see them at all.
Bacchus is roughhewn and unfinished. The walls are old and distressed by time. Scraped paint provides the color. The tables are beat up and the chairs are straw wicker. On one wall is a mysterious tin plate with blocks of old brown wood nailed to the plate for no apparent purpose. I could find no sign of a traditional bistro. No photographs of Paris, no Metro signs, no Thonet chairs, no white lace curtains in the window. This is a bistro without a code as Roland Barthes might say.
Service is French-casual. It works well enough.The menu is limited but has most of the standards. Bacchus is the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, ritual madness, fertility, theatre and religious ecstasy in ancient myth. Correspondingly, there is a good selection of organic wines which is unusual for a modest bistro such as this. This is the bistro’s strength.
I ordered the French onion soup and the salmon with vegetables. The bread arrived: stale and tasteless. I am sure when it was fresh it was equally tasteless. No reason to eat the stuff. I think that bistros should serve nothing at all rather than embarrassing themselves and the French tradition by putting this pathetic attempt at bread making on the table in traditional zinc buckets.
The onion soup was surprisingly good after the slow start with the bread. The broth was black and it was not over cheesed or full of soppy bread that it typical. Flavors were subtle and nicely balanced.
The music began with a large jazz combo; pleasant and right for a bistro. It then swerved into a fusion version of In A Gadda Da Vida. A very tired 1968 psychedelic rock classic. (In a gadda da vida, honey/ Don’t you know that I’m lovin’ you/ In a gadda da vida, baby/ Don’t you know that I’ll always be true). I hoped to never hear that again after high school nor to be tortured by the extended drum solo. This song dredged up old memories that I would rather forget.
The crowd was local. Moms with children, a couple on a date, a bewildered older couple, a single guy drinking wine at the bar talking up the uninterested waitress.
Bacchus has a backyard with a tree and party lights strung from its branches to the building. Metal chairs and tables are scattered around and bottles are set up on an old table that is leaning on the uneven patio. A wedding party flows in from the street. A hyper-kinetic bride screeches and hugs. Large white teeth are displayed. The groom stands on the edge: lost, uncertain, superfluous.
The salmon and vegetables (squash and broccoli) were acceptable but boring. The vegetables were not overcooked and the salmon was pink and flavorful. You will not find creativity here nor will you find charm. But you will find food that is good enough, excellent natural wine, and a casual neighborhood vibe.
Staff-5 (Casual and vaguely efficient)
Archetype-1 (A bistro without a code. Not signifiers of the Archetype. )
Food-6 (Good, limited and uncreative; the bread failed. The wine was good and reasonably priced. )
Energy-5 (Casual, comfortable, local)