What Would the Bums Think?

Brooklyn's Beer and Burgers needs to work on its service and menu--but the pizza is pretty darned good

Being a server can be very hard work. But it isn't hard to accomplish the basics of being a server--like, say, knowing what's on the menu, or asking how a customer would like a hamburger cooked, or even knowing that a customer is present.

The fact that the servers I encountered at Brooklyn's Beer and Burgers couldn't manage these most basic of basics means I likely won't return there anytime soon.

Connie Tuttle and I ventured in one recent weekday for lunch, and we found that the folks behind Brooklyn's (who also own Eggrolls Etc. in the northeast and Canal Street Pizzaria at River and Craycroft roads) have done a fine job of redecorating what was formerly a Carl's Jr. A wood bar and a plethora of TVs joined a billiards table and several arcade games (including "Big Buck Hunter" and what appeared to be a Twilight Zone pinball game) to give Brooklyn's a clean, nice neighborhood bar feel.

The menu offers, of course, burgers, along with sandwiches (or "lunch boxes," as the menu puts it), three pasta dishes, salads, pizzas and even a hot dog (out of a "50-year-old charbroiler which has never been cleaned"). Connie and I decided to sample a wide swath of Brooklyn's goods: She ordered a Sing-Sing Pete's pesto pie (10-inch for $10.29), while I picked an L.A. Basin burger (with avocado, Swiss cheese and tomato, $6.59; also comes with fries) with a house salad ($3.69). We also decided to split an order of the no hitter nachos ($6.49).

Before we ordered, we had a few questions. The menu describes the pesto pie as "our old 'family' recipe. Sorry we can't talk about it. 'You didn't have it here, CAPICHE?'" Cute, ha ha. But, seriously, Connie wanted to know what was on the pizza besides pesto. The server didn't know, and had to go ask. It turns out that the pizza includes cheese, mushrooms and sausage. It would be nice for the menu to at least mention that the pie includes meat. It also would have been nice for the server to ask how I wanted my burger cooked, but she didn't. Don't get me wrong; the service was fast, and our server's attitude was cool; she just wasn't as competent as she should have been.

As for the food: Our lunch was pretty good. The chips used in the nachos were actually wonton-like, and were covered with pepperoni, sausage, mozzarella and a few peppers. Architecturally, they were a bit of a mess--the little round balls of sausage did NOT want to stay on the chips--but taste-wise, the nachos were fun and pizza-like. My salad was exactly what I'd expect at a bar: Greens, out of what appeared to be a pre-mixed bag (heavy on the iceberg lettuce), were topped with celery, cherry tomatoes, peppers, some shredded cheese and a ton of croutons. It, like all the food, was served in a cute green plastic basket.

My burger was only so-so--the meat could have used some more seasoning and seemed a bit dry. The meal's highlight was, by far, Connie's pizza. She felt that the ratio of the pesto to the other ingredients resulted in a perfect melding of flavors. She had to take the bulk of it home, and she reported later that it was a hit with everyone who tried it. It was one of the better pizzas I've tasted in Tucson.

When I returned to Brooklyn's for a takeout order several days later, well, I almost didn't get any food at all--I called, only to get a recording saying that all the lines were busy, and to try again later. I did, and on my second attempt, I got through. I ordered the Carmine's cannelloni (with ground beef and Italian sausage, $9.89; comes with a salad) for me, the chicken parm hero ($7.49; comes with fries) for Garrett, and an order of garlic knots ($3.99) to split. A few minutes later, I got a call back from the restaurant, with bad news: Brooklyn's was out of the cannelloni. I decided to get the four-cheese manicotti ($8.99) instead.

I was told the food would be ready in 20 to 25 minutes, and I arrived at Brooklyn's 20 to 25 minutes later. Several men were playing pool, and a handful of people sat at the bar; only one table was occupied, with three people sitting there. I walked up to the bar to pay and get my food. And there, I stood.

After several minutes, one of the women at the bar got up, went into the kitchen, came back out and went to speak to one of the three people, a young woman, sitting at the lone occupied table. The young woman then got up, went into the kitchen and retrieved the food. She brought it to me without comment. She didn't even ask if I was, in fact, there to pick up food. OK, then.

I took the food home, and Garrett and I dug in; sadly, the meal was subpar across the board. Garrett's chicken parm was made not with a chicken breast, but with what appeared to be chicken strips. Smothered in Brooklyn's tasty sauce and cheese, it tasted OK, but there was far too much bread for the amount of meat, sauce and cheese stuffed inside. My manicotti was also so-so--I couldn't taste the four-cheese variety (ricotta inside, and mozzarella, Parmesan and Romano on the outside) the menu promised; only the ricotta and the sauce offered any hit of flavor. Furthermore, the pasta was poorly wrapped in paper; I lost a great deal of cheese because it was permanently affixed to the paper. Finally, my salad was not as fresh as it should have been. The edges of the piece of celery included were actually turning black.

I wish my experiences at Brooklyn's had been better; it's got a great location for me (go southside!), and that pesto pizza was mouth-watering. But the service and detail woes make it clear: Brooklyn's has some work to do.