With an interesting combination of old world and industrial decor, Forest Hills Station House, a gastropub sports a warm atmosphere as well as provides a tantalizing food and drink menu for all palettes. Their bar menu offers 16 craft draft lines (easily viewed on a digital menu), more than 25 bottled beers, 100 whiskeys and many artisanal cocktails. If that’s not enough, they offer delectable pub foods and an amazing brunch menu on the weekends.
General Manager Bobby Burns sat down to chat with us about Forest Hills Station House.
1. Could you please tell our readers when Forest Hills Station House first opened its doors and why the founder chose Forest Hills?
Forest Hills Station House opened about 4 ½ year ago. The Station House is owned by two brothers and two friends they met during their time in the industry. One brother lives locally in Rego Park and functions as the owner operator on property.
I grew up in Middle Village and we would come here to hang out at bars and eat. Forest Hills has always had this unique town feeling with great bars and restaurants; but there weren’t many restaurants that were serving craft beer or unique whiskeys. Some places were doing the usual stuff like Macallan and the like, but you couldn’t really go to a place that did Yamazaki or Cragganmore or other more obscure whiskeys.
Providing a diverse craft beer and whiskey experience was the idea behind Forest Hills Station House. The owners wanted to open a venue that gave people more options in the neighborhood.
So they chose this area because they were from here?
Yes, they saw how the neighborhood was changing… like when Starbucks opened next to Target. When I was a kid, the demographics were different because older generations made up the neighborhood. There was even an article printed about Forest HIlls at the time that seemed to poke fun at the area, commenting on it being a place where grandmothers lived, including Peter Parker’s (a.k.a. Spiderman).
Now we’re getting a lot of young families coming in and as that happens, the market opens up for businesses like ours.
2. Forest Hills Station House has received rave reviews from ABC Eye Witness News, Time Out, Men’s Fitness, Huffington Post and many other publications. What sets Forest Hills Station House apart compared to other gastropubs in the neighborhood?
I think a good restaurant community needs to have a lot of different places with diverse menus. We have a steakhouse, a Cuban restaurant, and sports gastropub across the street. We just fit into that diverse landscape. Instead of being “set apart,” I really think we are a part of the whole landscape here.
We’re just offering a product that other businesses aren’t offering. The Station House is adding to the diversity of the restaurant landscape in Forest Hills.
3. We heard you have 16 rotating taps. Could you please explain to readers who are new to the craft beer scene, what is the function of the “rotating beer tap”?
This is part of the appeal at The Forest Hills Station House. Our rotating tap means that it’s constantly changing. So, some places that you go to will always have Sam Adams or Guinness on a draft line, but we never order two of the same kegs. If you’re here for three hours, there may be two new beers that pop up.
As soon as one keg is done there will be a completely new keg offered. We always have 16 beers on draft. If we have Peekskill on line 16, when Peekskill is done, there will be a new beer. We have a program that we enter the new beers in when they arrive. When it’s time for the bar back to change the keg, they’ll go downstairs and physically change it. Then they’ll go to the computer and take the completed one off the line and add the new one.
4. We read on your website that customers can ‘check-in’ and write messages via Twitter and Instagram. Could you please explain how this check-in works?
This is the age when a table of two may spend $80 here. So, it’s more of an experience. When they get a cocktail that’s beautifully decorated, they post it on Instagram. Forest Hills Station House benefits from that because other people see what’s available and say, “Wow, I want that; let’s go there!”
5. On a busy evening, what is the average wait time for walk-ins?
We’re probably busiest on Fridays and Saturdays. We get busy on Thursdays because our Thursday special cocktail menu is popular. We get busy on Tuesdays, due to something called a “tap takeover.”
For example, we had six Peekskill beers on the menu. So, if there’s a craft beer fan out there that’s really into Peekskill, they’ll travel here to enjoy it.
If you’re coming in on a Friday or Saturday night then there will most likely be a wait, but not a long one. Because of the layout of the place is very narrow, someone passing by might see a bunch of people here and move on thinking we’re too crowded.
However, many come in and are surprised that they’ll get a table right away even though it’s crowded. We have seating for 60 people at the tables and another 20 at the bar, 80 total.
6. Your cocktail menu looks very enticing. What are the top three sellers from the cocktail menu?
Recently, we’ve been trying different things with cocktails. We do a couple of versions of an Old Fashioned, which is a popular cocktail right now. Our Old Fashioned isn’t the typical cocktail with muddled fruit in it. We like to study the history of drinks as we try different things.
Interestingly, the first Old Fashioned Cocktail was a spirit, sugar, water and bitters. As time went on, in the late 1700s to early 1800s, new cocktails developed. So people who wanted the traditional cocktail would ask for an Old Fashioned.
Customers who are asking for an Old Fashioned mean the original cocktail of spirits, sugar, water, and bitters. That’s why our Old Fashioneds don’t have muddled fruit in it. We’re just using dry whiskey, a sweetening agent, a simple gum syrup (Demerara) because it gives it a nice viscosity, and bitters. We might add an orange twist.
The other big sellers we have right now is a new menu item called Starry Night, which is a vegan cocktail. We use aquafaba which is chickpea water instead of egg whites. It has the same elements as egg whites, so it’ll give the cocktail the same silky viscosity and froth on the top.
Another top seller we have is called a Broadside Fix. It’s based on a style of cocktail from the 1800s. Broadside Fix is meddled ginger with a smooth, smoky scotch giving the customer the smoke and the spiciness of ginger. We also use shrub, a drinking vinegar that was popular in the late 1700s. (Another example of looking to history for ideas!) This drink has a lot of savory notes. It includes a housemade lavender syrup made on property.
Editor’s Note: Mr. Burns was kind to share Forest Hills Station House’s Basil Instinct recipe so you can make it at home for yourself:
BASIL INSTINCT RECIPE
2 Sprigs of Basil
2 oz. Hayman’s Old Tom Style Gin
0.75 oz. Demerara Syrup (recipe below)
0.5 oz. Aperol Aperitivo
0.25 oz. Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
Combine all ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker and shake hard for ten seconds. Double strain it through a fine mesh strainer, and serve it over one large cube of ice. Garnish with a basil leaf and enjoy!
To make the Demerara Syrup: Heat 1 cup of water to just below a boil. Slowly stir in 2 cups of demerara sugar until all granules have dissolved. Let cool and store in an airtight container in the fridge.
7. You have a fantastic brunch menu. Do you recommend making a reservation for brunch? And what are the days and hours brunch is available?
Our popular brunch is available on Saturdays and Sundays; Sunday is more popular, so there may be a wait. For brunch, we offer 4 different Bloody Marys. We have old school cocktails made with actual milk punch. We take Cinnamon Toast Crunch and infuse it with milk and then strain out the Cinnamon Toast Crunch; almost like when you were a kid and would drink the cereal milk. We combine that with a little bit of rum and a little bit of whisky and top it with a Cinnamon Toast Crunch. That’s only available during brunch.
We do not take reservations; walk in only. But really, unless it’s Friday at 9 or 10 o’clock, the wait is only 5-10 minutes. Occasionally, the wait may extend to 30-45 minutes. Our busiest time is usually Friday & Saturday nights 9 to 10 o’clock. Our kitchen is open until one am on those nights so we do get people who come in later.
Forest Hills Station House is expanding. They’ve done so well that they’re now ready to open a new location in Astoria called The Astoria on 31st Street and 30th Avenue with a rotating tap downstairs and cocktail bar upstairs with a menu of 150 cocktails. Burns says, “when it comes to destination neighborhoods, people think of Brooklyn or the Lower East Side”. So the owners are trying to put Queens on the map with their two locations. He says “We have a lot of Queens pride and want others to come and see what we see!”