Laying Low Near the Gowanus: Lowlands 

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Lowlands, 543 Third Ave, Brooklyn
Rating: 4 out of 5 L's

It doesn't look like much from the outside: a narrow storefront on a drab street a couple blocks away from the newly Superfunded Gowanus Canal. Walk in on a sunny spring day and you'll be glad you took the chance. The bar, from the owners of cozy Carroll Gardens spot Abilene, has one of the more charming back patios in the area, sturdy wooden benches resting on red brick under a canopy of leafy shade.

When I arrived a group of guys was hooting with laughter, rolling dice on their table—not back alley-style, but for a slightly nerdier (but no less fun) game called Settlers of Catan. That's the kind of place this bar is: call up your friends down the street, bring a board game and waste away a Sunday afternoon drinking Sixpoint Sweet Actions until night comes and they light up the bulbs strung overhead.

Not to say that the inside of the bar isn't nice, because it is, decorated in a style I can only describe as "bohemian garage sale." A ceramic ballerina popping out of her golden picture frame, a painting of two sad, floppy-eared puppies, a fringed chandelier drooping overhead. Not everything is purely decorative. The turntables spin an eclectic record collection including everything from Frank Sinatra to The Dirtbombs, while the little toaster oven is busy warming satisfying sandwiches like the Cuban Mojo (roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese and pickles) and the Slow Ro (roast beef, caramelized onions, Swiss and horseradish), all served on firm ciabatta and all better than they need to be. You could eat them from their source, Luscious Food in Park Slope, but then you couldn't enjoy them with the alcohol your body so desperately craves.

The focus here is beer. The taps spout 12 different brews, mostly craft beers like Allagash, Southern Tier and Goose Island, although imports like Guinness and Stella are available as well. Cheeky deals line the chalkboard: a can of Porkslap and a well shot is $6 while a bucket of six 7 oz. bottles of Miller High Life, Corona or Bud is $10. Consider it bottle service for the creative underclass. It's all relatively cheap even without the deals, with most beers ringing in around $5 and plenty of cheap options, like $2.50 cans of Genesee, an inexpensive way to get your head spinning if you have the stomach for it. That way you have more money to buy board games to bring with you next time you visit. May I suggest Settlers of Catan? It certainly looked fun from where I was sitting.

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