Bill Reed is sitting across the table from me in a comfortably neutral room with two long tables and a massive American flag draped across the back wall. “If Humboldt & Jackson were Cheers,” he says, “I would definitely be Woody Harrelson.” Reed chuckles and adjusts his baseball cap.
At a mere 33, Reed has several impressive notches on his industry belt including a role as the managing partner and service director at The Brooklyn Star since it opened in 2011. With Humboldt & Jackson however, his latest project in Williamsburg, he has been able to fulfill a long time dream.
Not just a bar, not quite a restaurant and more than an event space, Humboldt & Jackson is an adaptable and constantly changing venue where, event planned or not, patrons can come in for a flight of domestic wine or local brew paired thoughtfully paired with small plates. Sam Nahid, a seasoned sommelier and Reed’s business partner, has selected a unique wine list that spotlights unexpected regions (I was more than game to taste a 2011 rosé from Maryland). If wine’s not your thing, Nahid can also recommend one of the three New York State beers on tap, or one of the five bottle or can options, to pair with some beef jerky from The Meat Hook.
Reed also informed me that the space used to function as a private social club beginning in 1973. After passing through the capable hands of three generations, its last owner, Joanna Mercker, was most recently cooking a Sunday night Italian dinner series in the back room. Reed, who lives nearby, saw a flyer for the dinner and attended. He fell in love with the space and the honest, home-style cooking. When Mercker confessed to him that she was putting the building on the market, Reed had already drafted his business plan. Within the week, the papers were signed and he moved forward on design and branding with his wife, Pamela, who’s the third partner behind the venue. The couple met in the third grade and have been collaborating ever since.
Mercker is still cooking her Italian buffet dinners in the backroom on Sunday nights, but this time she is an invited guest chef, not a proprietor. The calendar for the back room is quickly filling up; Brooklyn Brewery has committed to a monthly dinner series (the next one will honor brewmaster Garrett Oliver‘s 20th year at the helm) and Brendon Doyle of Pork Slope is helming an upcoming tasting menu with wine pairings and burlesque performance.
Whether you’re stopping by for a glass of local wine or attending a themed dinner event in the back, Reed and his team want you to feel like you’re part of the family at Humboldt & Jackson — a place wanting to know your name and that’s always glad you came.