If Rothbard Ale + Larder were a guy, it would be its creator, Joe Farrell. The guy born in Brooklyn, raised in Westport, whose beard length is inversely proportional to his lack of sleep. The guy in the flannel shirt you want to hug but don’t because you just met him and that would be awkward.
Like Joe, Rothbard is charming, generous and inviting. It welcomes the impromptu dance party and disregards the irony in serving salad straddled by a bratwurst. Both love kids, and both serve Joe’s mother’s Italian butter cookies at holiday time.
Joe himself is of Italian/Irish descent. He’s not a chef, he did not grow up cooking and he is not from the South. But he started a wildly successful Southern barbecue joint that he doesn’t call a barbecue joint (it’s Walrus & Carpenter and it’s “smoked meats.”) He then pivoted and opened Rothbard, which specializes in Central European, primarily Alsatian, comfort food and is named after Murray Rothbard, a reactionary and unorthodox economist from Brooklyn.
You see, Joe refuses to be “put in a box” despite other’s efforts to the contrary. It may seem like an illogical journey, but it makes perfect sense to him. All he did was create a restaurant where he wants to eat. Turns out everyone else wants to eat there, too.
Rothbard attracts all types, from visitors versed in arcane economic texts who recognize Murray’s name, to folks who brazenly admit “the schnitzel is better than my grandma’s!” Though Joe points out the “traditional” fare is often re-imagined for Westport tables.
“We’re taking the food and adapting it to our own personal taste, making things the way we want to make them,” he explains. “People may get upset about the way they think it should be. If I felt that way about pizza; I would only eat it in Brooklyn.”
And what delicious adaptations they are! As indicated earlier, their schnitzel (chicken and wiener) eclipses what some grandmothers toil over for their insensitive American progeny. The Bard dog—a foot-long covered in raclette cheese sauce, bacon and sweet relish—is legend among man circles. While the sausage and cheese-laden charcuterie contains perfectly prepared asparagus and semi-vegetable gherkins, they temper the horticulture-fest with a small vat of beer cheese for dipping.
When Saturday nights roll around, Rothbard kicks it up with live music on the patio. Though approached by Oompa Loompa bands because, culturally, that would make sense, remember: Joe’s modest eatery empire is not concerned with syllogism (thank goodness, because precious few successful date nights involve accordions.) Instead, Rothbard hosts countrified blues band Cotton Gin & the Swamp Yankees on Friday nights during the summer, a band cobbled together from musicians who play at Walrus & Carpenter. Then there’s Johnny Cash day, Surf Rock Tiki Night—and no St. Paddy’s day would be complete without their annual Van Morrison tribute, now in its fifth year. Fun fact: Van Morrison is from Ireland. Finally, Rothbard can boast something logical.
When you go—and you will—wish Joe “Gutten Tag!” or “Bonjour!” or “Güete Morje!” or anything with a whiff of Europe. Or not. He’ll be the one in the flannel shirt and the beard, the one you’d hug if you weren’t so woke.