Archive for the bars Category

The Richardson

Posted in alcohol, bars, food, Tom with tags , , , , , , , on October 20, 2008 by criticalreviews

The Richardson

451 Graham Avenue (the corner of Richardson and Graham) Williamsburg, Brooklyn
After last Sunday I was surprised to find myself walking around in Williamsburg again, and possibly headed to one of the same locations. We were on our way to check out Spuytin Duyvil’s No Joke Oktoberfest Celebration, but when we got there is was a little too crowded for our likings…and luckily had a back-up plan. This back-up plan involved heading back north. We walked down Havemeyer from Metropolitan to where it turns into Whithers, and then zig zagged a bit over to Graham Ave. I didn’t realize that there were so many Italian restaurants and delis in the area that is so close to my house…one of which we procured some delicious fresh cavatelli for dinner. The point is we ended up making our way to The Richardson. After the various write ups on Greenpointers (this is the most recent of the bunch), and the reviews on Yelp! (almost all 5 stars) how could we not try it out.

The Richardson is a big place with lots of tables, a huge bar, beautiful wallpaper, and a cozy feel (although it was a little cold with the doors open, it was still a really pleasant vibe). The first thing I noticed was the wallpaper, chandelier, and pumpkins (nice way to set the fall mood). We sat at the bar, and were the only people in the bar for a while but more patrons trickled in slowly. While at the bar klk tried one of their signature cocktails (and a couple fabulous drinks made with Hendricks Gin), while I was in the mood for beer (hence the Oktoberfest as the original plan) ordered a couple Troegs Hopback Ambers, and a Southern Tier IPA. The cocktails were made the old fashioned way, and I was really impressed by the well thought out beer list…this is sometimes a rarity at a cocktail bar (the only other thing I ask for is a stout or porter other than Guinness).

While the bar was pretty quiet we had the wonderful company of the barkeep. He was extremely friendly, and good for conversation…as well as makes excellent cocktails. Sometimes you go to a new hip bar, and kinda get the cold shoulder, but he was genuinely friendly…and this was more or less the icing on the cake. Leah stopped in to meet us for a drink, and had a Manhattan which was also delicious (I can’t pass up trying a whiskey drink when offered a sip).

We ordered some roasted nuts (part of their new menu), but were slightly underwhelmed. This might be because we are more or less experienced nut roasters ourselves. Some of their other food did sound quite tasty.

On top of the wonderful staff, and nice decor the bar keeps a consistent theme. The bartenders all have a loose rocker/greaser theme going on, and the music is all pre-1970 (if not older) rock n’ roll and r & b. A really nice touch that really ties the place together.

This place is perfect for a date or if you have a large group , and they have something to accommodate everyone. I’m adding this place to my regular rotation of drinking spots (and it doesn’t hurt that it is pretty close to my house).

Photos by Marcus in NY (via flickr)

(Tom)

Various Unpleasant Experiences in Williamsburg on a Sunday

Posted in bars, dog related, food, restaurant, Tom with tags , , , , on October 13, 2008 by criticalreviews

Yesterday was a great day, until we decided to take the dog for a walk in Williamsburg. Although very close to Williamsburg, we technically live in Greenpoint (and prefer to walk, live, and hang out in Greenpoint), but we decided to walk over to Roebling Tea Room.

At Roebling Tea Room we were in the market for some loose leaf high quality tea. We didn’t require too much attention, but when we walked in the people behind the counter weren’t friendly and acted like they didn’t have time to answer our questions. I know that waiters/waitresses are very busy, but that doesn’t mean you should turn off potential customers by being gruff. While it was a rocky experience with the waitress, and no loose leaf tea came out of it, the restaurant it’s self was very cute…despite the unpleasant experience with the waitress we will probably go back to give it a try the atmosphere, the tasty looking menu, and the excellent tea list.

Our next stop was one of my favorite bars in Williamsburg, Spuyten Duyvil. I had a great evening here on Friday (the beer selection is always wonderful), but Sunday was a very different story. I was, what I thought, very courteous and left the dog outside while I went in to ask the bartender if they allow dogs in their back patio? I got a really snotty over reaction for answer: “Dogs are not allowed out back, inside, out front, or anywhere near the bar.” I didn’t think my question was ridiculous…for gods sake…dogs are allowed in so many beer bars in Williamsburg and Greenpoint that they should be happy I asked before I brought the dog inside. Does anyone know if Spuyten Duyvil has a “NO DOGS ALLOWED” sign posted outside? Whatever. I know the dog isn’t allowed now, and I’m not going to stop going to this bar, but I was surprised by the really unfriendly answer I received.

So after these two bad experiences where do we head next? The Diamond. You know the Diamond will make everything better.

On our way to the Diamond… we walked down N. 14th. This is the street that the Gutter is on (a notoriously dog friendly place). But beware if you are walking down North 14th street… There were several people hanging out inside and outside of a motor cycle repair show with the garage doors wide open. As we were walking down the street one of the guys even made eye contact and smiled. We thought all was cool. When we get in front of their shop their very large, very mobile, collarless three-legged dog attacked our very friendly dog. The owner of this mean dog had a very hard time getting control of him, and stopping it from biting our dog. This was the worst experience of the day. For one dogs aren’t supposed to be off the leash in general, unless they are in a park, and this is for all dogs. Mean dogs should never be off the leash. The street is a public place, and if you have mean dog it is your responsibility to control it. We let them know they were wrong, and they knew it too…but wouldn’t even apologize or look us in the eyes.

Finally, after three shitty experience we made it to the Diamond. A couple beers and a cheese plate in my favorite bar can make almost anything better. Thank you Diamond bar.

(Tom)

D.B.A. in the East Village (Williamsburg location to open maybe by 2009!)

Posted in alcohol, bars, News, Tom with tags , , , , , on July 9, 2008 by criticalreviews

First off some news: DBA is going to open in Brooklyn this Month! That is right, DBA will open a second New York City location on North 7th Street between Berry and Whythe in Williamsburg**. This was confirmed by the several signs for the new location that we saw in the already well established East Village location last night (and Brownstoner).

Now for a review of the Manhattan location:

41 First Avenue, New York City, NY
(between 2nd and 3rd Street)

DBA is one of those bars that I have been going to since I moved to New York two years ago. The bar is on the largish size, with a long bar on the left when you walk in, and tables down the right. There is one of those PacMan/Space Invaders tables towards the back, and a really large outdoor patio that always seems to have a seat for you no matter how large your group is.

DBA’s slogan “Drink Good Stuff,” and they pretty much keep with that slogan. They have a great selection of pretty much everything that will get you drunk, but I have taken particular notice to the excellent bourbon and tequila (they have a much more extensive selection than most bars), as well as, of course, the beer. Beerwise they have an extensive bottle list, 16 taps, and two casks.

DBA really isn’t the place for people who want to swill Bud, Miller, or PBR. I remember hearing this conversation on one visit:

Woman: I’ll have a Miller Lite.
Bartender: I’m sorry we don’t have Miller.
Woman: How about a Bud Lite?
Bartender: I’m sorry we don’t have that either, try this Pilsner…it’s made by Lagunitas.

They always have a really quality selection (but if required you can find your Corona and Stella in bottles). Last night we were drinking the Sierra Nevada Torpedo and Avery Brewing’s Maharaja Imperial IPA. All of the normal strength beers(7% abv and below) are typically $6 and served in pints (great deal on the Torpedo), and the stronger ones/obscure imports are between $6-$8 and served in goblets. Happy Hour is $1 off (not sure what the Happy Hours are though…we were there at 7:35 and it was not happy), and you can upgrade a pint to an imperial pint for an extra $1(even during happy hour).

I can say that the service at the bar is not consistently great. The bartenders are always at least decent, but on occasion you do get ignored (I have had a couple bad experiences, but not so bad that I don’t return). It is also really frustrating when your order is taken, and the bartender proceeds to take many other orders and serve them first. These problems don’t happen all the time (last night was great!), but they have happened more than once. Fortunately there is a way around the bar service problem! If you sit on the back patio there is table service, and the waitress last night was really good…even remembering drinks of people on the very crowded patio.

They occasional have food events like Cheese Night (Cheesy Mondays if I am not mistaken), and free bagels with cream cheese and lox are available during brunch hours on the weekend.

Overall I guess what I am getting at is that DBA is just a good bar. Decent selection of everything (liquor/beer/wine), reasonable prices (I hope the Brooklyn one is a little cheaper than the , but we will see), mostly pleasant staff, and a clientèle that isn’t obnoxious (which at least in the East Village on the weekend can be hard to find).

DBA is a welcomed addition to Williamsburg, and it is one more place that I see myself frequenting. In the NYC beer scene DBA seems to get less attention than it should, but I think they can give Mug’s Ale House some competition and that is a good thing.

I hope the new Williamsburg location is as dog friendly as the one in the East Village…Cooper likes to hang out at the bar.

Williamsburg photo courtesy of Brownstoner
East Village photos courtesy of NY Magazine

(Tom)

**Update as of 8/18/08. Please note I keep checking to see if the new location is open, and so far it has not. I’ll update this post as soon as I see DBA Brooklyn’s doors open.

***UDATE as of 11/13/08.  I heard from a friend looking for a bartending gig that they are supposedly going to start hiring staff soon.  This might be a good sign.  I was kinda convinced that it was never going to open.

The Diamond

Posted in alcohol, bars, food, Tom with tags , , , , , , , , on June 24, 2008 by criticalreviews
43 Franklin St
(between Calyer St & Quay St)
Brooklyn, NY 11222
(718) 383-5030

The Diamond is located in a slightly less commercial section of Greenpoint, a little off the beaten path as far as bars go in the area (in between Williamsburg and Greenpoint proper), but it is well worth the walk. The bar itself is pretty average in size: with a long bar to the right when you walk in, a shuffle board table to the left, a two tables by the front windows, a couple more tables towards the back, and a small basement that opens up as a dancefloor on the weekends. There is also a largish garden area too with a quoits court.

I have been to the bar three times since I moved to the neighborhood, twice on Thursdays and a late night visit on a Friday. The scene was a little different each time but I think that was due to the time of day. My first visit was two weeks ago, and we got there around 8pm. The bar itself had very few people in it, but the patio was packed. We took a couple seats at the bar, and ordered some food and a couple beers. The second visit was this past Thursday with a little little bigger crowd, and quite a bit louder. And the third was late this past Friday, where the bar was kicking, but we had no problem rolling deep and finding a spot for our largish group.

The food is pretty limited, but that isn’t to say that it is not amazing. They savory pies and rolls from Tuck Shop, a cheese plate (the cheese change regularly: sm $7/lg $12), and a pickle and olive plate ($4). We ordered a Tuck Shop pie($7) and roll ($5), but they were out of the pies so we got two rolls. These were served with hot sauce, and were actually pretty substantial. I was really impressed. Not what you would expect. The Tuck Shop roll was a delicate pastry with delicious veggies inside. I will definitely eat this again as well as try the pie!

As far as beer goes they are pretty esoteric, and that is a complement coming from me. I have worked in the beer industry for three or so years now, and I know most breweries (or at least ones that show up on the East Coast), and their beer list really is wonderful. The first time I went they had a beer from Two Brother’s on called Cain and Able: a hoppy red brewed with rye and palm sugar. This was an excellent beer from a really obscure brewery. And the tap list has always been consistently great. They divide their beers in to Session Beers (low alcohol) and High Alcohol; with two menus. I’m pretty sure even the experienced beer drinker is going to find something that they haven’t tried at this place, and even if they have tried it they might have an older vintage! The taps change regularly (I know this because two kegs kicked late on Friday, and two new wonderful beers were put on). And it appears that they always have Reissdorf Koelsch on tap, and even serve it in a Kranz!

For a complete beer list check out the website.

Besides amazing beer, and a beautiful bar they have a killer jukebox. How many bars will take the a chance and put one let alone three Ween albums on their jukebox (The Pod, The Mollusk, and 12 Golden Country Greats)! Included in the mix were two Dinosaur Jr.’s, two or three Guided By Voices, a great two disk Kinks collection, Minor Threat and Embrace, New Order, and tons of other jems.

Other highlights are that every Wednesday there is a shuffleboard tournament, quiots tournaments once a week, and every Sunday there is a reasonably priced small plate and beer pairing.

I hate to say it, but I think the Diamond just replaced Well’s Ales and Lagers as my favorite bar…and The Diamond allows my dog to come with me! I will no doubt become a regular with it being so close to my house!

Photo from Newsday.com

(Tom)

The Rusty Knot

Posted in alcohol, bars, food, Leah, restaurant with tags , , , , on May 14, 2008 by criticalreviews

I read quite a few reviews about the Rusty Knot before it had even opened its doors to the public. New York Magazine was hyping the classy-dive far at least a month before its opening. The Rusty Knot was hailed by founders of both Freemans and the Spotted Pig. I haven’t been to Freeman’s, but my office threw a x-mas party at the Spotted Pig once, and it was pretty amazing…Jay-z and LeBron James actually stumbled (accidentally) into our private room. Anyway, I like the premise of the Rusty Knot: nautical decor meets cheap booze meets prog rock jukebox meets gourmet bar food. I mean really, who could ask for anything more?

Last Tuesday, a planned meeting of old friends presented the perfect occasion to scope the Rusty Knot. I work in Soho, so I decided to walk over to the (waaay) West Village location. It was a painless trek, because the weather was nice, but I nearly walked straight to 14th Street. The Rusty Knot has a blue awning that simply says, ‘West. Bar and Lounge,’ and all of the shades were drawn. It’s a good thing that I knew the address. I was about a half hour early, so I took a seat in the lacquered wood 70’s style patio furniture and took in my surroundings. I thought that Taavo Somer (notorious taste-maker and co-owner of Freemans) made some wise, yet predictable decorating decisions. There was a smattering of ship’s wheels, a nice fish tank, flourescent beer signage, and many mounted fish. I don’t know if this makes sense, but the bar gave off a New England-old-man-bar in Hawaii kind of vibe.

The reviews that I read described the drinks at Rusty Knot as being utterly affordable. I guess that if you take target demographic into account, beers were aptly priced. I paid $6 for a red stripe. I think that cans of Tecate were $5 and you could supposedly order a shot of Busch for 99 cents, although I don’t really see the point in that. I did find myself wishing that the beer selection was better, however appropriate it was. Mixed tropical drinks, like Mai Tais and Zombies were varied from $7 to $12, and served in Trader Vic’s style ceramic glasses. I’m not the biggest fan of fruity concoctions, so I steered clear. But, people seemed to be enjoying their beverages.

Once my friends arrived, and also ordered Red Stripes, we decided to sample a couple of things on the menu. The chef at the Rusty Knot is a co-owner and chef at the legendary Momofuku restaurants, Joaquin Baca. I ordered a pretzel dog, which is basically what it sounds like. For $4, you get a hot dog, that is baked into a salted pretzel, and served with a horseradish-y mustard.

I wish that I could say that I enjoyed the pretzel dog, but I didn’t have the opportuntity. Two bites in, and my hot dog slid out of the pretzel and onto the floor. My pal Ravi suggested set screws to keep unwieldy dogs in place. Nobody else at the bar seemed to have any problems. Joleen, a strict vegetarian, ordered the beer balls. We expected fried, gooey, cheesy goodness, but instead received 4 or 5 little baked rolls with some sort of preserve (possibly apricot). They were tasty, but we expected something a little more savory. Finally, Nancy ordered the much-hyped chicken liver and bacon sandwich. Most reviews that I have read focus on this sandwich as the crowning glory of Rusty Knot’s kitchen. It was quite delicious, although chicken liver and bacon together makes for one salty sammie.

I would definitely recommend a visit to the Rusty Knot, based on my experience, although I don’t believe that it lived up to its hype. The service was great, but the crowd was not my flavor – nor were the food or drinks.

-Leah

Flickr photo props to:

A Continuous Lean
Sarah Payton

Welcome To The Johnsons

Posted in alcohol, bars, Tom with tags , , , , , on April 28, 2008 by criticalreviews

123 Rivington St., Lower East Side, NYC

So Welcome to the Johnsons is a dive bar with a 1970’s basement theme, wood panels, pool table, old tv playing old shows, dark, dingy, couches with plastic covers, PBR, and one of those amazing video games that is also a table (which I have unfortunately never gotten to sit at). It definitely has a quirky feel, but at the same time it isn’t pretentious and just about anyone can be found in this place(very eclectic crowd probably drawn by the theme and cheap booze). I hadn’t been in a while , but we started what turned out to be a really late night there on Friday.

Happy Hour is from 3-9pm and well drinks are $2 and PBR $1.50 (some of the cheapest in the city). We got there significantly later than happy hour, and drinks were still reasonable ($2 PBR and $4-6 liquor drinks). The bartenders from my experience are attentive and quick.

So the music is a mix of everything over the bast 30 or 40 years, ranging from totally awesome (Built to Spill, Pixies, Dead Kennedys, and even some classic rock and ’80’s) to questionable (really bad 90’s rock ala Goo Goo Dolls or some shit like that, Rancid, and you name it it gets played). It’s a mixed bag, but suits the bar pretty well.

While this place gets really crowded but our significantly large group was able to carve out a comfortable portion of space. I can’t say that this is the type of place to go by yourself, or on a date, or anything short of getting really drunk (whether you are starting or ending the night)….but it is a good place to get cheap drinks with a bunch of friends. By the time we left (almost 2am, we started pretty late) it was hard to get from the front of the bar to the back. But still not to hard to get a drink. I can’t say it is my favorite bar, but it does serve a purpose…and it tends to be fun if you go with enough friends. And it is also a neat place to take people who are visiting the city from out of town.

welcome to the johnsons front window by AugustHeffner <via flickr>

plastic couches inside by Yorkshire4 <via flickr>

(Tom)

Lenora’s Way (formerly known as Wells Ales and Lagers)

Posted in alcohol, bars, restaurant, Tom with tags , , , , , , on April 16, 2008 by criticalreviews
303 Bedford Ave. (between South 1st and 2nd Streets)
Williamsburg, Brooklyn

So I started going Wells Ales and Lagers sometime last fall, and it has quickly become my favorite bar (I’ve been there twice in the past week, and that says a lot about it considering how far uptown I live). I was talking to a bartender on a recent visit and found out that one of the original owners was bought out, and that is why it is now called Lenora’s Way (the person who got bought out took the name Wells with him). There really hasn’t been any changes since the name has changed: same bartenders, atmosphere, and great beers (I still call it Wells, I just can’t used to saying the new name, and they still have the Wells sign). This has become our stand by in Williamsburg, and even though it is a little south we always hit it up before going to a show (a short walk to Musichall of Williamsburg, and a really short walk to Death By Audio or Glasslands).

This bar has a really new feel. A long wooden bar runs down the left side of the establishment and a couple tables down the right side (it is a very narrow space). There is one booth in the very front, and they have a largish garden area for when the weather is nice. Behind the taps there is some really nice tiling, and the lighting is dim and pleasant. Musically it is really diverse, but the thing that really attracted me to the place was that the first time I was in they had on some really chill roots and dub reggae. Other than reggae frequent musical selections are jazz, 90’s indie rock, and just once…Slayer.

Drink wise they have about 10 beers on tap (roughly 5 American Craft beers at about $5 per pint, and 5 Belgian or European ranging from $6-$9). One big plus is that one of the American’s is usually one of the higher alcohol Lagunitas beers (Lumpy Gravy from the Zappa series, and Maximus IPA recently). They also have over 100 bottles of beer, many extremely reasonably priced for what they are (most between $4-$6), and a carefully chosen wine list. Unless you exclusively drink hard liquor Wells will have something for you, and if you can’t decide the bartender can help you. Service has always been excellent

They have a small food menu of paninis and appetizers, all of which are a bit on the gourmet side. I have only tried the vegetable panini and the hummus…and they were both wonderful.

I highly recommend this bar…great atmosphere (never too loud, always good for conversation), music, and bar staff…unlike a several of the other bars I have reviewed I have visited this place many times, and have yet to have a bad experience…I hope it stays that way.

Oh and I almost forgot…if you are still thirsty on your way out they sell any of their bottles to go! So no need to stop on the way home to get more beer.

Photo taken by Uptick.

(Tom)