The Brothers Buoy
"No, they're not really brothers, but honestly they might as well be,"
I walk north on 1st Avenue in Manhattan’s East Village, moving with the standard New York hustle as I cross over E.13th street and hit send on this iMessage. It’s a response to a friend asking who I’m meeting for brunch.
I reach up and flip my white baseball hat backwards, in a simultaneous attempt to wipe what seems to be a perpetual bead of sweat running down my face. And just
before I slip out of cell service, the marble cased iPhone in my hand vibrates again.
“Oh, how’d they become The Brothers Buoy then?”
I instinctively look up from my phone, smiling. And as the L train doors ding closed for departure to Brooklyn, I begin to replay the story I was told that answers that exact question.
"We met working together a few years ago," Graham begins. "At the Apple Store at Grand Central..."
"Well actually," Jackson interrupts. "Before that, I saw him from afar when we worked together at a different Apple Store. And I just thought, 'You know, maybe I'll do a podcast with that guy one day.
Graham looks at him, lets out a laugh and puts a follow up response in Jackson’s mouth, "You just felt it. 'That guy looks super handsome. I wish I knew him.'"
Fast forward a bit, and soon Jackson and Graham, along with another friend they worked with, realize they all coincidentally have the same day off, Friday. Someone (still unclear who exactly) suggests they start exploring brunches through the city and reviewing them for their friends.
“Hey how about ‘three boys, one brunch?’” Jackson laughs.
(Apparently alcohol plays a strong hand in this next part...)
“And for zero reason at all,” Graham adds. “I said, ‘what about three BUOYS one brunch?’”
That was 2013, and honestly the rest is kind of history.
Hear the boys tell their version of the story:
"I can't believe you've never been here,"
Jackson leans across the bar, looking at me through a brand new pair of sunglasses. My mind wanders for a minute, remembering that a only week ago he tragically lost
his usual pair while diving face first into a wave at Rockaway Beach.
Graham’s voice and sweet smile bring me back as he turns with one arm open to hug me. I let out an exhaustive sigh as I sink into the corner bar stool. Blindly feeling
my hands beneath the bar, I find the cold metal hook and hang my bag—which seemingly became much heavier on my sweaty walk from L train.
A wave of relaxation washes over me and I reach for the drink menu.
“This place almost makes you feel like you’re at somebody’s home, you know?”
Graham catches my eyes drifting past him, my gaze focuses on the walls. Sectioned by dark, aged wooden beams, the wallpaper displays countless colorful patterns like
cartoon drawings of trees, baseball diamonds and farm animals. Sunlight pours in from Bedford Avenue while The Marvelettes "Mr. Postman" softly plays beneath patron conversations about what to order or Saturday night story-telling.
As if he’s reading my mind, he adds,
“All of my favorite restaurants transport you some place new, and they do that so well here.”
Allswell cozily sits essentially in the heart of bustling Williamsburg, but hardly feels like it. The restaurant prides itself on an ever changing farm-to-table menu in an atmosphere that does in fact make you feel like you’re deep in the heart of some homey neighborhood.
The nearly perfect-sized dining room smells overwhelmingly (wonderfully) of crispy bacon and seemingly contains a collective group of blissful in-the-moment humans, cheerfully unconcerned with even a second beyond their Sunday brunch.
“This is one of the only places in the world I’m comfortable eating at alone,”
Jackson proudly admits. “And I do it a lot.”
hear Jackson tell a favorite story about Allswell:
I look at Jackson as he speaks and all I can think is, “I can’t believe I’ve never been here either.”
The two of them sit comfortably across from me in a small corner booth by the door, each backlit by the window’s light streaming in behind. They’re wearing their usual, respective uniforms--individually utter opposites but together somehow perfect complements.
Jackson’s very much lived in black t-shirt reads “wear sneakers” which today (and most days) he follows suit with his signature at-one-point-these-were-white converse.
He adjusts the purple bandana around his head, as possibly the most New York way to keep the sweat out of his eyes.
Graham sits next to him in a pale green button down and removes his customary accessory, his camera, from it’s black bag. He runs a hand through what Jackson has recently deemed his “iconic” hair and smiles softly at our twenty-something waitress,
“We’re gonna need another minute.”
I can't help but smile. I mean honestly around these two I can't help but laugh most of the time either. Seriously. I consider myself a decently funny human, but it's like perpetually being inside a sketch comedy series with them, rendering any potential contributing wit promptly defeated by uncontrollable laughter.
And the craziest thing? I've only actually known these boys for less than a year. But I knew long before we met IRL that we’d get along very fine.
On a very distinct chilled winter morning about a year and a half ago, I read a Media Law text book over a cup of freshly french-pressed coffee in my college house in
Columbus, Ohio. The boys must've commented on an Instagram of mine, promptly sparking my navigation to their website.
Within seconds, I found myself lost in their hilarious podcast and witty bios, surely distracting me from some likely unimportant form of school work for over an hour.
Over 500 miles away in flannel boxers and an oversized “Beat Michigan” sweatshirt, I sipped coffee between out-loud laughs at these Brooklyn boys whom I'd never met.
Yet somehow, they felt hardly like strangers. In fact, they felt like life-long friends.
"Another drink, dear?"
I look up into the faces of those boys I just daydreamed about and the waitress’s question ropes me back to reality from my reminiscence. And despite realizing my first
Randy Dandy (basically a Bloody Mary with gin, aka my personal heaven) remains about 25% full, does an answer other than “yes please” exist to that question?
I smile and nod.
"Correct answer," Jackson replies and my smile grows a little bigger.
As we begin discussion of our order, I defer to the boys. This is their place, after all.
Check out their go-to brunch order at Allswell:
"Can you pass me a knife?"
Graham reaches across to me. It's inevitable that the who's who of water jugs, cups, plates, etc. gets entirely shaken up during the photo taking process. I look down at
the chair next to me and see a wrapped set of silverware I likely moved from his place setting while standing on my chair. Smiling, I apologize and hand it to him.
"So wait, which photo on your account is your favorite?"
I ask in between bites of quite possibly one of the most uniquely delicious avocado toasts I’ve ever had in the city, realizing that the question isn’t even one I had originally planned on asking, but rather simply one of genuine curiosity.
I know very well which of their photos I like the most. I remember how in interviews, the question “What are your favorite Instagram accounts?” comes up almost every time, and I always without hesitation say @thebrothersbuoy.
Direct quote from an interview I did with Yahoo Food (RIP):
"This is seriously one of my favorite accounts of all time. These guys just rock.
They’re all over the Brooklyn and Manhattan food and drink scene, posting KILLER photos along
the way. But my favorite part of their account? The captions. I felt like I knew these guys well before I
actually met them in person because they really have a voice that tells a story and shines through every
post. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll want to eat everything they post—I’m telling you, just trust me.”
And I damn well stand by that. I look up at them and smile, anticipating the IRL version of those voices I spoke of to answer my question:
"We really just keep getting better,"
Graham laughs as he drags one final forkful of blueberry pancake through a puddle of syrup and into his mouth.
We finish the meal, happy as any kid in Brooklyn could ever be. And now a few drinks in, I figure it’s time to get to the things you really want to know about these boys.
Because sure, I could listen to them talk about food all day every day, but the real magic of their friendship lives and breathes merely within their dynamic as humans, individually and together. It’s contagious.
So naturally, I start to ask some quick fire questions, knowing well their answers would be as insightful into their characters as they would be hilarious.
Hear the full and hilarious interview here:
It's now nearly 3:30pm, and the previously bustling brunch crowd dissipates to the remaining survivors determined to savor every last drop of "just one more Bloody
Mary." We gather our things and head for the door. I look back on the restaurant with just a touch of sadness, feeling as if I'm truly going to miss something I only met a few hours before.
Graham calls after me and my smile returns. I grab the door and step outside. With my face toward the sun and my eyes closed, I take a second to readjust to the New York heat.
"So do we keep drinking or what?" I ask. And Jackson smiles at me, eyes just visible above his sunglasses and replies,
"I don't think we have a choice."