The Coolest New Bar in Brooklyn Is a Ham Bar
It's Wednesday morning, and André Hueston Mack is apologizing about the delay for our interview. “Apparently I’ve been named a semifinalist by the James Beard Foundation, and my phone wouldn’t stop ringing."
The sommelier and winemaker, who has been recognized in the Outstanding Wine, Beer or Spirits Producer category, recently opened his own bar in Brooklyn, featuring bottles from his Oregon-based wine company, Maison Noir, and, quite notably, lots and lots of ham.
Former head sommelier at Thomas Keller’s Per Se, Mack named the spot & Sons—in honor of his four sons. It's his first-ever bar or restaurant concept. And apart from wine, ham is the focus. Its self-proclaimed "Ham Bar" offers a rotating menu of ten American hams, all with the complexity and rich terroir of any Ibérico pata negra.
The American South boasts over a century of ham-making tradition, with a variety of smokes, cures, and age. “There are lots of people making very special hams here in the States,” Mack says. “Some of them are following the style of Iberico, and others are creating their own styles.”
Currently the menu boasts regional breadth across Tennessee, Kentucky, Iowa, North Carolina, and even New York. One of Mack’s favorites, however, comes from Georgia: the cured Iberico pork from Iberian Pastures.
In contrast to Spanish jamón, American country ham is generally smokier and saltier, Mack explains. Although it’s traditionally sliced thick, at & Sons it’s all thinly shaved in the style of prosciutto. For accompaniments there are olives and lentils, cauliflower tartines, and cornbread. There are pickled vegetables too, and fennel and apple salad. Despite its titular focus, Ham Bar is not exclusionary to vegetarians.
To drink, of course, there is wine. Only American wines, most of them being from the '60s, '70s, '80s, and '90s. Mack came to the wine business “late,” by his own admission, having left a financial career at 30—but in the nearly two decades since, his career has taken off exponentially. After being named as Head Somm at Per Se in 2004, he went on to found Maison Noir in 2007. And if all goes well, & Sons is just the beginning.