141 Broadway, Williamsburg
Alla Lapushchik and Sam Glinn’s first venture was an elegant bistro and craft-cocktail bar called Post Office. Their new spot, also on the Southside, is based on a gimmick as well, but it’s no less an elegant bistro, with excellent cocktails and rare spirits. Named after the now-defunct storefront gambling parlors, OTB is a stately, high-ceilinged reconstructed warehouse adorned with horse-racing memorabilia and vintage payphones. As grown-ups are to candles and tablecloths, and kids are to crayons, Brooklyn twentysomethings are to appurtenances of working-class nostalgia.
You can bet you’ll be well-fed and -boozed at OTB, though. Like its sister establishment, it’s spirits-centered. The menu features a rotating selection of “Winner’s Circle” liquors, with enticing blurbs about origins and tasting notes. There’s a single malt Scotch-style liquor from Sweden’s only whisky distillery, Mackmyra, that’s “soft and gentle, a sensitive lover, you might say.” Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey offers a heady contrast with its “caramel cinnamon spiciness.” While there are only a handful of options in the Winner’s Circle, the bar is also stocked with a good range of domestic and international spirits with which you could expand your palate. Saddle up to the bar to survey the options before settling into a glass.
OTB’s cocktail menu has two columns: classic drinks and creative variants. The list includes a classic Margarita and its weird sister, the Mary Fizz, with Hacienda Reposado tequila, honey, and sparkling wine. The Ruby Rum is a twist on the classic Hemingway’s Daquiri, with fresh grapefruit juice, mint syrup and aperol, served with crushed ice. It’s distinctive and more elaborate than the famously straightforward author’s favorite cocktail. Unfortunately, OTB’s minimal wine list is disappointing—both reds I sampled were pretty darn poor. There are three draft lines with American craft beers, three more options in bottles, and three in cans, making the beer list substantially larger—and better—than the wines. Perhaps wine doesn’t quite fit into the masculine image of off-track betting?
The kitchen serves up French bistro-style fare with classic American touches. For snacks, there’s escargot, and fries with cheese and gravy, and for dessert there’s an ice cream sundae or apple “tarte tatin.” The lip-smacking chicken wings can be served either fried or grilled, spicy or not. There are just three entrees, smartly chosen and succinct: cheeseburger, steak frites and coq au vin. On paper, the food sounds safe, but Chef Glinn finesses it for maximum flavor. The Caesar salad features fried Sicilian capers and the raw hamachi gets a boost from tart apple slivers and a soy reduction.
The bar’s atmosphere is a bit of a contradiction: it’s fancy and Parisian-looking—with glitzy chandeliers and molded, mint green walls—as well as retro-silly, with a smattering of things like old trophies and a vintage horse-crest floor inlay. Some might find this appealing, others confusing; I can’t imagine anyone would call it “cozy.” It’s a bit off-key—or, you might say, “off-track.”