415 Myrtle Avenue, Clinton Hill
On an otherwise spotless bathroom wall, there’s one short line of graffiti: “Long Live Rope.” That was the beloved dive, primarily patronized by Pratt students, that occupied this space until its lease expired in August. “Interesting case of a gentrifier being out-gentrified!” one local told Brownstoner last summer. A friend of mine puts it differently: “It’s the end of an era.” I’ve brought him, an alum of the nearby art school who once spent many a happy night at Rope, along to Splitty as my guide, to usher me through his nostalgia for a bar representative of a neighborhood that’s changing, like present-day Crown Heights or early-21st-century Williamsburg, faster than anyone can keep up.
“The sign’s the same,” he tells me outside—that is, the letters spelling out ROPE have been removed, but the same flat rusted front remains. That’s not true of the windows below: they’re now surrounded by a metal protuberance that gives the exterior a boxy-50s-diner look—or, like someone almost drove his entire camper through the front wall and then ditched it. I think the intent is the latter (“splitty” is slang for a split-windshield VW bus) though when we step inside my friend says it looks more like “a boat and a bathroom”: the former because it feels like a ship’s cabin, all rounded edges and varnished wood; the latter because the booths are lined with ceramic quarter tiles, like an old-fashioned public-restroom floor raised up to the sitting surfaces. “This table has handles,” my friend says. “There’s no reason for the table to have handles. Nothing’s normal here!”
He’s more amused than critical, and not entirely right: everything here is slightly familiar but then slightly different—like, the room and the pleasant backyard remind you of Rope, but they also don’t look like it at all. The beer selection is familiar without being downright cliche (Abita, Boat, Hitachino, etc.); the cocktail list is heavy on classics with a few inventions: an Old Fashioned with bacon bourbon; a “Ginger Rickey” with fresh ginger juice. And the food menu features steamed buns, which are served with potato chips; pork buns are popular in New York, but the choices here are pastrami and Swiss; a vegan mushroom-and-onion number; and a dessert-y banana-nutella.
As my friend and I settle in, we notice the ceiling is made of pegboard, and we start to appreciate the room’s mix of textures, plus its recreational gamingness. On a not-too-busy Tuesday evening, it feels a little too new, a little sterile and unused (though I like a place where people do their homework at the bar, especially law school homework); with some friends in good humor, though, this place might feel as warm as the best finished basements. When it was Rope, college kids would hang out and play Jenga. People might do that yet at Splitty—though weak $7 whiskey-and-sodas will probably attract a different class of player.
Photo by Fiorenzo Borghi