597 Manhattan Ave, Greenpoint
Rating: 5 out of 5 L’s
Is it possible for a still unnamed bar to be the place where everybody knows your name? This three-month-old spot with the unmarked wood-paneled exterior—subdued yet conspicuous on the commercial strip of bodegas and bakeries—isn’t trying to be your Cheers, but it just might become it.
In a borough overrun with preciously muddled this and infused that, the simple bar setup is refreshing. With $3 cans of Gennesee, five respectable but not especially crafty beers on tap, a well-stocked liquor shelf, and a non-existent cocktail list, this is a place to indulge in a straightforward drink.
Left to her own devices when asked for suggestions, the bartender’s creations ranged from classic (a perfect Old-Fashioned) to casually inventive (ginger liqueur mixed with sparkling wine). The staff’s warmth is a little surprising, given the bar’s established badass lineage. Co-owners include the team behind nearby motorcycle shop Works Engineering and the sometimes raucous Bar Matchless, just down the block.
The drinks might be standard, but the space is not. Entering is like stepping inside the tidy jigsaw of someone’s imagination—one that is both humble and rich and smells like the inside of a cedar chest. While there’s nothing nautical about the entranceway tapestry depicting a bighorn sheep or benches upholstered with embroidered textiles, the efficient use of space and planked wooden ceilings evoke the interior of a boat.
Overall, the vibe is modernist opium den—a place where Spock, Lord Byron, and Rumi might mingle. Details are eclectic, ranging from the thoughtfully homespun (light fixtures made from repurposed sieves, burlap sacks tacked to the walls) to slick 70s gloss in the heavily mirrored upstairs bathroom. Latticed metal divides sections of banquette seating with graceful curves.
I step over a dog lazing on the floor to sit at the bar dotted with fresh flowers. At the end, there’s a shrunken booth lit by a green banker’s lamp, where DJs start at 10pm. Acoustics are clean and warm, and the music selection—like the design—is wide-ranging yet discerning. Themed nights include Reggae Tuesday and Metal Saturday,and the sound of Mick Ronson (via iPod) is intimate and immediate, as if heard through headphones on loud.
The building boasts a yard that dwarfs the bar itself. Discovering it is like falling for someone, then finding out they’re rich, too.In the ski-lodgy back room, a curved couch overlooks a floor-to-ceiling window with a view of a giant tree. There might as well be a fireplace with all of the make-outs bound to happen in that cozy nook. There are plans for a summertime pagoda out back and rumors of a basement pinball machine and food offerings including beef jerky and noodles. This is the type of place where things unfold organically—from snacks to neighborhood friendships to a name.