The Jake Walk 282 Smith St, at Sackett St, Brooklyn
A stumbly “jakewalk” is what happened to your body when you drank too much Prohibition-era Jamaica Ginger — an alcohol-based patent medicine contaminated with neurotoxins that poisoned your brain. But people afflicted with the jakewalk are all dead, LOL, so the Jake Walk as it exists now is an elegant, unfussy little Prohibition-romanticized bar on Brooklyn’s Smith Street that specializes in wine, scotch and cheese (brought to you by the Smith & Vine and Stinky Bklyn folks). And, as they say on their menu, they’re “celebrating our good fortune to live in an age where we need never resort to drinking patent medicines to give us a little lift after a hard day’s work.” Which, yes, is true, but also smacks of that mirthful, mature little murmur that middle-aged mothers make when indicating that they’re in on the joke, yes, oh, mmmh, so true.
Anyway, beyond the too-special name and mission statement, it is indeed a very pleasant bar with plenty of elements in its favor, but outweighing them all, immediately, are the too-bright lights. Why serve hundreds of excellent wines (from $5 a glass to $275 a bottle), dozens of top-shelf scotches and whiskies, infinite pounds of lush and worldly cheeses — in a place lined tastefully with red-and-gold velvet wallpaper and exposed brick — when someone drinking there can read a newspaper if it’s accidentally been dropped on the floor, and clearly see the unattractively dry skin on the back of her hands?
I’d prefer to enjoy a Cotton Cocktail (vermouth, rye, orange bitters and absinthe, $9), a Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheddar ($4) and a pile of shaved prosciutto ($5) — or American Caviar ensemble ($38) — without feeling the temptation to stare so obviously at my very close and very well-lit neighbors. Another strange, although not exactly bad, part of the bar is the huge, naked window that looks out onto Smith Street’s sidewalk. Walking past the bar one night, I stopped and stood in front of that window and stared in. “It looks nice,” I said. The people inside, a few inches away, stared back at me. The elephantine window and the gargantuan (and gorgeously, rustically gilded) mirror over the bar do make the diminutive space feel bigger, but they also make it feel like a dollhouse whose owner bought it mismatched furniture for varying-sized dolls. But all this would be fine, even appealing, if they’d just turn down the lights. Too bright!