South 4th Bar and Café is not a trans-borough destination bar. It may not even be the kind of place where you’d want to have a birthday party or special occasion, even if you lived next door — it is, however, a nearly perfect spot to spend time by yourself. And I’m not talking about the kind of self-pitying alone time that entails slowly drinking bottle after bottle until you reach a deep, dark stupor, but rather those rare New York moments when you don’t have to be anywhere, when you can turn off your cell phone, sit down with a pint of beer, and catch up on your reading (it doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s good to know where to go).
An inconspicuous corner bar on a quiet block, South 4th doubles as an early morning coffee place, ideal for playing hangover hooky from work (especially when it’s a hangover you earned at the very same barstool, only eight hours previous); as with everything else about South 4th, the coffee is not flashy, but is very good. And that’s just it about this place — unlike numerous other bars that have opened in Williamsburg in the last five years, South 4th doesn’t expect anything from its clientele, it doesn’t have a hook. You don’t have to be particularly fashionable, you don’t need to be knowledgeable about music or beer or wine — you can just relax and go about your business. In this respect, South 4th is a lot like a French café, serving the needs of its locals from seven in the morning all the way to last call in the wee hours.
As for the details, they are easy to recount: a surprisingly good selection of beers on tap includes Belgian standout Three Philosphers (a dark, fruity pleasure), O’Hara’s Stout, Duck Ale, and, curiously, Molson Canadian; a perfectly workable stack of board games, should you actually feel like socializing; an unobtrusive selection of local art on the walls; a friendly staff who will remember your name, but won’t chat your ear off if you want to work; and perhaps the most charming detail (for this reviewer at least) — his and hers dog dishes just outside the door, perpetually full for your pet’s drinking needs.
South 4th isn’t the kind of place to take people to if you’re trying to impress them, but it’s an ideal spot for New Yorkers who are tired of always trying to be impressive.