Lucky Us, 303 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn
Rating: 5 out of 5 L's
It is normally our policy to hold off on reviewing a bar until it has a full liquor license—after all, it doesn’t seem fair, really, to judge an establishment based on half its inventory. Well, fuck it. New Williamsburg bar Lucky Dog is doing more than fine without the hard stuff, and might just be my favorite bar to open in Brooklyn in a long time.
The key to its appeal is staying on one side of a very fine line, with immaculate taste in beer on one side and irksome pretension on the other. I love to support small local breweries (and, you know, drink the beer), but I don’t need to feel like I’m part of some special club just because I enjoy things that have actual flavor and are made down the street (or one state over). Certain Brooklyn beer bars have gone too far in emulating the fussiness of the wine bar, pushing a culture of expertise that often has more to do with price points than taste (I mean, $18 for a glass of beer?!)—so Lucky Dog’s blanket price of $5 a pint (with a few at $6) is refreshing. And they’re not too beer-nerdy to be above offering cheap-ass pitchers of Genny Cream Ale. Yup, they sell everything by the pitcher, too. See what I mean about lack of pretension?
At around 20 taps, Lucky Dog rotates American craft beers with a half-dozen smaller German breweries, with the odd cask ale for real beer nerds. Recent standouts have included the Penn Kaiser Pils, from Pittsburgh (as close as I’ve found to a true, crisp German pilsner, without the heavy aromatics of American hops), a Reisdorff Kolsch, perfect for the late summer heat, and an amazing classic ale, the Fire Island Lighthouse Ale.
This no-fuss—but thoughtful—approach to beer curation is reflected throughout the bar, from the tear-in-your-beer jukebox (George Jones to the Smiths and back again!) to the great bar staff (how can you all be so attractive without being jerks?) to the mellow, smoking-friendly back garden (complete with chiminea, perfect for stout-drinking in October), to the $6 meat and cheese plate.
And then there’s the look, which is closer to traditional Rust Belt tavern than classic New York dive: dark, rough-hewn reclaimed wood everywhere; vintage beer cans lined up on the high shelves, like your grandfather’s woodshop; classic stained-glass light fixtures; dogs curled up on bar stools; a stand-up shuffleboard game in the corner; and there’s no TV, the easier to make eye contact with your drinking buddy.
There’s a lot of heart in this bar, but caring isn’t always enough. Lucky Dog is filled with good decisions, made in great taste, and one can only imagine how successful it’s going to get when the brown liquor starts flowing.