323 Graham Ave, Williamsburg
4 out of 5 L's
“It’s Repeal Day! Have a drink because you can!” One block from the Graham Avenue L stop, this incentive, scrawled on a sandwich board, drew me into Ba’sik, where I was welcomed by the bartender and patrons. “Gold Soundz” on the stereo, a warm glow all around… I could get used to this. Thirsty, I chose the Greenport Harbor Porter ($8) out of three draft options; it was nutty, minerally, and suitably robust. A few sips in, I was joined by an impromptu drinking buddy who was in for a beer while doing his laundry next door. He settled into a nearby stool at the butcher-block bar and knocked back a pint of Captain Lawrence Pale Ale ($6). Beer is not the focus here, though: the booze selection is simple yet spectacular, sure to please cocktail geeks from here to San Francisco.
One beer in, a little snack was in order, and $4 hotdogs (also advertised out front) seemed in order. Jay Zimmerman, the charming bartender/owner, gave me the rundown. Two different dogs were available that evening: the Ba’sik Dog, with half-sour relish, white onion and celery salt; or the Wisconsin Dog, with house mustard, white onion and aged sharp cheddar. Wisconsin dog, eh? “As a young DC punk, this was my favorite dog from Frank’N Steins, a local dive that only sold hotdogs and beer,” Jay explained. I dug it, alongside a basket of excellent S&P chips. Jay (former bar manager at the Breslin) and co-owner Derrek Vernon (Gallery Bar) plan on rolling out a menu of snacks, salads and sandwiches as they grow into their new space, with dreams of brunch on the horizon. Look for treats like deviled duck eggs, boquerones, sausage and peppers, and a roasted squash, eggplant and portobello sandwich that shouts out to Phoebe’s, the veggie joint that occupied this space for a decade or so.
As with cocktails and cuisine, the “ingredient driven” design approach to Ba’sik achieves elegance through rustic minimalism. The crackled eggshell paint of the back bar plays with the buttery textured plaster walls; chicken-wire glass encases the triangular kitchen nook, complete with French doors—an open kitchen straight from the imagination of Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Large parties will enjoy the spacious backroom, where the walls are tiled in a Provençal rainbow of reclaimed baseboards, all of which leads to a patio big enough for some serious summer dance parties. As we took in some fresh garden air, his laundry dry hours ago, my new friend and I raised our glasses one last time to health, happiness and getting back to the basics..