Jack O’Neill’s 130 Franklin St, Greenpoint Rating: 4 L's
Despite being anointed the “next big neighborhood” over the last five years by seemingly everyone who ever sat behind a keyboard (TONY apparently just got the memo last week), Greenpoint still retains a homespun dowdiness that Williamsburg has long since relinquished. The best candidate for total gentrification is Franklin Street, the increasingly picturesque stretch between bustling commercial Manhattan Avenue (now with two Dunkin Donuts!) and the industrial wilderness of West Street.
I arrived at Jack O’Neill’s as the light was fading on a cool Tuesday evening and was relieved that the bar was just crowded enough for me to feel comfortable having a beer alone. Aesthetically, it’s a close cousin to the other new additions on the block, featuring a large glass storefront, which, following a spring rain, had its doors and windows thrown wide open. The bar area was well populated by couples and small groups speaking quietly, not having to shout over the music, which sounded like the soundtrack to a really mellow 70s blaxploitation spy movie.
The interior is tasteful if unremarkable, the only stylistic conceit being the bar stools, whose seats are thick, sloped rectangular wedges that are surprisingly comfortable. There’s a plan to have food, which would explain the somewhat incongruous dining area towards the back, complete with daisy bouquets on each table and small rustic touches like the metal Italian coffee maker perched in the back wall’s window sill. There’s a back patio too, surrounded by freshly stained fencing that calls to mind a new house in the suburbs. The bartender, who was training a staff member, apologized for a slight delay in taking my order. The draft list is modest but satisfying — Guinness, an IPA, Blue Moon (a Belgian style white beer) and Old Speckled Hen. Happy hour had just ended but there’s a $4 Sangria available. I opted for the Speckled Hen, looking around at the crowd as my glass was filled. True to form, they were young and hip, but thankfully, no one seemed to be trying too hard — they were just a little dorkier, their jeans a bit less skinny, than their more au courant brethren to the south. Walking home I passed a new super-trendy vegetarian café that looks like it was airlifted straight off Bedford Avenue. Soon the line between the two neighborhoods will blur imperceptibly, but for now I’m glad to have Jack O’Neill’s in a place where “not annoying” is high praise.