366 Metropolitan Ave, Williamsburg, 718-218-7632
Rating: 4 out of 5 L's
The Commodore has all the trappings of a sick 70s basement—smoked mirrors behind the bar, a Schlitz light box here, a mounted fish there, and wood paneling almost everywhere. Seems as though they've drawn decorating inspiration from the basement of the Knights of Columbus on Long Island where my Grandpa Larry goes to play cards. But that isn't a silver-haired Italian gentleman holding court at the corner table; it's one of the guys from TV on the Radio. Hey, there! Tall white swivel chairs line up against the bar, and booths make cozy group seating. When the barroom fills up, there are a handful of tables in a separate dining area, closer to the kitchen.
The illustrated drink menu is printed on teal paper placemats, with a little palm tree replacing the capital-T in The Commodore's logo. A drawing of the bar, situated in the old Black Betty space at Metropolitan and Havemeyer, renders the building's façade on a little dock, where swaying palm trees replace squat fire hydrants and illustrated boats pull up out front instead of taxicabs. Down a few rounds of their signature cocktail—a frozen pina colada with an amaretto floater—and you may find yourself getting whisked away to that imaginary tropical paradise. They've got more umbrella-worthy drinks, too—Planters punch, hurricanes, frozen mojitos and margaritas—and High Life bottles to wash them all down. Plus, they pour a Manhattan that would make any card-shark granddad proud, and after a few sips of their refreshing slow gin fizz, we wished we could drink 'em by the pitcher and not by the glass.
But since everybody's slinging tiki drinks and grandpa cocktails these days, the real draw at the Commodore is the simple-yet-soulful food offerings. Steve Tanner, formerly of Pies 'n' Thighs (and currently of the sludge metal band Harvey Milk), runs the kitchen, cranking out killer bar snacks, like incredibly juicy chicken thighs. Compared to their counterparts at P 'n' T, there's more of an emphasis on the thick and mega-crunchy batter here. (Three thighs with three little biscuits cost $9.) The crisp batter for the $8 "Hot Fish" sandwich packs a lot more heat, tempered by two big slabs of soft white bread. If you're too tough for drinks that transport you to the tropics, this fresh, thin, fried-just-right fillet will send you to a more rough and tumble seaside locale. They've got burgers, grilled cheese and black-eyed pea stew, too, and before you savor your last plastic-sword-pierced maraschino cherry, a $6 side of local ramps, charred to perfection, brings you back to the safe, pastoral greenmarkets of home sweet Williamsburg.