Brooklyn, for the purposes of bar-going, exists in two parts. The first is contiguous Brooklyn — the swath that begins in Cobble Hill/Brooklyn Heights, swoops down all the way to Red Hook, up and out past Clinton Hill and Bed-Stuy, over through Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Windsor Terrace, and out to Sunset Park. “Brooklyn Classic,” let’s call it. A rapidly gentrifying patchwork of brownstone-ish neighborhoods, filled with increasing numbers of excellent bars and restaurants. This is where I spend most of my time, only because it is where I live.
The other Brooklyn is Williamsburg-Greenpoint. There’s been lots of lazy lifestyle reportage hating on Williamsburg and its “hipsters” of late, but I think that what these tired pieces are trying to get at is: Williamsburg has metastasized at an amazing rate. Because of my iffy relationship with the G train, I end up there infrequently enough to be amazed every time by all the new shit that’s sprung up. And unlike Brooklyn Classic, where for every new bar you get a baby boutique and a yoga supply shop, Williamsburg’s growth seems to be heavily dominated by booze emporiums.
Which, obviously, is great. Yay, booze. But sometimes, for non-residents, it can be intimidating. Of the 12 new bars I saw walking from the train, the 30 I already know I like, and the 25 I’ve heard are good but haven’t been to, which should I choose? It is recommended in such situations to have a home base. A local away from home, a snug, safe place to retreat to when the DJ that is actually just some chick sleeping with the bartender decides to play too much Ram Jam. Allow me to recommend: Clem’s, at Grand and Havemeyer, just down the way from Trash Bar (which, though it looks obnoxious, actually has a lovely stage and even lovelier 9-10pm open bar.)
Though it’s easy to walk right past it, do not be fooled by its unassuming exterior. At Clem’s, the paneling is wood and the bartender will share his french fries with you. Strangers chat, and free rounds are given even to relative newcomers. Though it gets retardedly full later on in the evening, Clem’s is the base camp in your attempt to scale the Everest of trying all the new bars in Williamsburg. Good luck, little friend, and don’t forget your oxygen tank.