A Clean, Dimly Lighted Place: Congress

03/12/2014 4:00 AM |

208 Court Street, South Brooklyn

“I heard it’s romantic,” a friend said after we told her we’d visited this charming bar—and she’d heard right! The new spot, from one of the owners of Franklin Park and one of its now-former bartenders, is lighted with candles and lamps pointed at the walls, fashioning the proper ambience for courtship. And! The space is shaped sort of like a tuning fork, so that it’s a straight shot with more seating in a wall-separated nook (where you’ll find an ATM in case you didn’t realize it’s cash-only); because a partition separates the bar from much of the contiguous back—where two-seaters are placed along a padded semicircular bench—three people could sit in three corners of the peculiar room and not be able to see each other. Which is to say, it’s private, too; the room’s not that big!

Perhaps the unusual shape is a remnant of the address’ history. Until recently, 208 Court Street (oddly, a few blocks from Congress Street) received mail addressed to Jim & Andy Fruit and Produce Market—where, a Village Voice commenter writes, they handed out free shots of whiskey around the holidays, a tradition worth preserving!—and the old business’ thin hand-painted sign remains outside. But the only pomicultural products you’ll find here now are in the cocktails, like a Collins-y Bohemian Fizz whose touch of flowery St. Germain complements and enhances its sweet lemon flavor. Most of the drinks on the cocktail menu seem meant for sunnier months, so for the next few weeks it’s probably best to stick with the Maple Retox (heh, retox), which blends bourbon with maple syrup and maple bitters; it gets a kick from lemon and cayenne but also retains an overarching autumnality more appropriate for present weather patterns.

Cocktails aside, a comprehensive liquor list boasts offerings from Breuckelen and Widow Jane, starred (along with others) to indicate they’re distilled in New York; the few wine offerings include a Gruner with a punch (which made us regret eating that piece of dried mango minutes earlier, as one sip made the flavors in every morsel stuck in our teeth suddenly explode); and the draft lines feature a few well-considered and non-cliched choices, like Bell’s Amber. That brewery, popular in the Midwest, recently expanded into the city, so you know this bar is on the cutting edge! Which we say even though we couldn’t find the turntable, ballyhooed in a DNAinfo article, meant for customer use; instead, we listened to a bartender’s iPod mix of contemporary soul, hipster and non. But we didn’t leave wishing we could have spun our own 331/3s. We left thinking this was a lovely little bar bashfully tucked away on Court Street—a hipper, in-the-making younger sibling to shit-show Smith Street.