Claire Sprouse can’t stop thinking about water.
Sprouse—who cut her teeth in Houston’s budding cocktail scene before relocating to San Francisco and making a name for herself at places like ABV—is realizing a longtime dream by opening her own space in Crown Heights. Hunky Dory, a restaurant and café on the hip Franklin Avenue, quietly launched at the beginning of the year and will soon add a cocktail program, drawing on Sprouse’s years of experience as a bar manager, tender and consultant. It may not be immediately obvious to guests inside the warm, inviting space, but Hunky Dory is also designed to further Sprouse’s sustainability ethos.
Sprouse connected the dots between bars and sustainability while working on a bar design project in San Francisco amid a dire statewide drought.
“I had never stopped to think about how much water we waste at the end of the night,” Sprouse says, mentioning how bartenders often melt their leftover ice with hot water. It led her to think about ways bars could be more sustainable, she says. “Once we started thinking about water, there was no turning back.”
Over time, her understanding of and commitment to sustainability has grown. Along with Chad Arnholt—a bartender at nearby Diamond Reef and Sprouse’s business partner at Hunky Dory and Tin Roof Drink Community—Sprouse is on a mission to help bars think more about waste. They’ve consulted around the country, organized a local trip to a recycling center and curated a sustainability summit. Arnholt even created a “carbon footprint calculator” for cocktails, and the duo offers customized classes, too.
“I use the idea of being more sustainable to push me to be more creative,” Sprouse says.
At Hunky Dory, that means a wide variety of initiatives: coordinating between the bar and kitchen to maximize ingredients (such as using pineapple rinds to make a tepache pineapple soda), searching for alternative cleaners, limiting plastic usage and—of course—thinking about water.
Sprouse isn’t interested in beating people over the head with messaging. Instead, she’s focused on creating a neighborhood hub that feels welcoming, the kind of café where locals will plug in their laptops and hang out for an afternoon, possibly snacking and enjoying one of the nonalcoholic cocktails.
Though Hunky Dory, named after the eponymous David Bowie album, is still in its soft-opening phase, chef Kirstyn Brewer is already making a strong impression. Recognized as an Eater 2014 Young Gun nominee while working as an executive chef in Dallas, Brewer is churning out memorable, vegetable-forward breakfast and lunch fare. The coconut and pomelo salad with chicory is a satisfying and bright option punctuated with fish sauce and lime vinaigrette. The little apple cider pancakes—which can come as more of a side for just $4 or an entrée for $10—have become a quick favorite, probably thanks to the rosemary toffee sauce, whipped yogurt, pecans and smoky crumbled bacon accompanying them. And a series of smaller options are priced affordably so solo diners can still try a variety of dishes.
Between Brewer’s adept kitchen skills, Sprouse’s prowess behind the bar and the overarching commitment to sustainability and community, Hunky Dory is quickly becoming a unique neighborhood asset.
Visit Hunky Dory at 747 Franklin Ave. (Crown Heights) or at hunkydorybk.com.