The backbar reveals just as much about the feel of Eastwood as anything else: A sign claiming “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free” leans against the window sill, a little bent, but visible from the outside. Pulp comics are tucked behind the clean pint and wine glasses behind the bar, adjacent to the old-timey cash register. Anything from hip hop to jazz to samba plays off an honest-to-god turntable, with the album sleeve resting on a thin shelf next to it. The under-lit bottle selection sits under chalkboards listing draft beer and wine by the glass. The restaurant's walls are smears of grey plaster, the floor a sandy patterned tile. Its charm might be in the trace flourishes on essentiality — each element appears to be carefully chosen, even refined, but far from fussy.
This feel extends to the menu, which prior to happy hour might be brought to you, but after that you can order at the kitchen window itself. There’s a wide range of options for most appetites; the owners’ respective claims of Israeli and Scottish heritage explain the appearance of not only hummus and falafel alongside fish and chips, but even blended traditions such as the lamb burger and the “Israeli scotch egg” (a hardboiled egg wrapped and fried in falafel).
The variety plate, with toasted pita, thick tangy labne, oozy hummus, and a perfectly in season Israeli salad, lends itself to an easy conversation or an afternoon sit. (Add some fried cauliflower if it suits the table.) You have to appreciate a place that is willing to put some part of all of the above on a plate of nachos. If you need more than a nibble, the lamb burger and fish sandwich can satisfy a more serious craving. A crispy chicken sandwich with harissa mayo, regardless of time of day or beers consumed, is well worth it.
Eastwood is busiest from the start of happy hour (5–8pm on weekdays) until about 10pm each evening. On nights when shows at the theater up the street end late, their kitchen stays open until midnight for the post-show crowd. Coming in late is mostly the young professional set— the cheap beer kids go elsewhere. It does get busy, but it’s never uncomfortable.
The best part of Eastwood might just be the community. On this quiet afternoon, the bartender starts up a conversation between two people that don’t know one another and neither have been here before. They’re discussing the finer points of Bushwick geography, talking about neighborhood history and the changes they’ve seen.
A woman sits at the bar with flecks of paint or possibly joint compound smeared into spots on her black clothes (she has cut the sleeves off of her t-shirt, and washed it several times since). There are kids that come through here, mostly with their families, earlier in the day on weekends. Two white dudes in their late 30s play backgammon. One speaks French poorly to the other but neither seems to mind — they trade tips and drink beer. A garrulous man at the bar holds court on a variety of movies released before 1940. Within an hour of him leaving, two different people come here looking for him. He’s been living here for 50 years, and he’s not alone — the culture of this little piece of the island resides with the people that never left it, and Eastwood has eased into that culture gracefully.
A favorite feature of the place are the two banks of windows, on East Broadway and Clinton Street respectively, which look out in panorama at this LES intersection, backdropped by one of many big brick coops and a bit of the Williamsburg bridge. There are trees. Big, big trees, the kinds of trees and shrubs you might find in yards somewhere far from bridges and buses. The occasional pack of tourists, unsure where they are, walk alongside neighbors that cross this intersection four times a day. Dads in shorts sit their daughters on their shoulders while they wait for the walk signal. An elderly Asian woman doesn’t even look up as a biker in a Pirates ball cap swishes just in front of her, through her crosswalk, against the light. Everyone walking past here is telling some story of this part of town — and it’s hard to think of a better spot to see it.
Eastwood assures that a place to sit and enjoy a neighborhood and its people doesn’t have to be a big Manhattan scene. It’s an easy, sun swept afternoon spent in a place without wifi, seemingly built on the idea that casual can be deliberate without feeling at all contrived.
One of our newest buildings, @10rutgers, is steps away from Eastwood. Schedule an apartment tour here! And let us know what other local spots you’d like to see featured: tweet @nooklyn, reach out on Facebook, or find us on IG @nooklyn.stories.
All photos by Jules Koslow.