Photos Cody Swanson
A Mortal Kombat II arcade machine grows in Brooklyn. A bar grows around it, but the relationship feels incidental. I’ve plunked several dollars into the game, high hopes and nostalgia for bloody murder dashed by the discovery that repeated sweeping at the heel doesn’t work against any character besides Jax. I have yet to see anyone else place two quarters at the bottom of the screen, making me wonder if the machine serves much of a purpose at the back of this bar.
I could say the same thing about the bar itself. Uncle Barry’s, which opened last year within shouting distance of three other bars, doesn’t seem to be filling any rampant need. A windowpane decal inviting Park Slope to have a pint in the proverbial Uncle’s rumpus room reads: “A Bar.” The words are apt, if uninspired. So is Uncle Barry’s, a mixed bag of parts pieced together into a space that welcomes all but never quite feels like home.
That impression isn’t necessarily a bad one. After all, what higher cause can a neighborhood bar serve than to take in those who have no business tipping their glasses at the wine bar down the block? Here, the Beatles have been awarded stereo tenure, half the seats are free on any given evening, and pretense moves aside for the stock fixtures of a Brooklyn watering hole. Candles dot tables without a hint of romance. Excepting trivia night (Wednesdays at 9pm) and late nights (when music turns to distraction), barflies and passersby come and go as they please, free to chat with the friendly barkeeps but just as easily spending their visit without incident.
Respecting craft beer and Miller High Life in the same nod, Uncle Barry’s offers a decent set of drafts. The going rate is $6 a pint, with a two-dollar discount during happy hour—ending at 7pm on weeknights and resuming at 2am on Fridays and Saturdays. Current highlights include Anchor Porter (dark and rich without being a burden), Anderson Valley Summer Solstice (mild and creamy, with a strong hint of caramel), and Breckenridge Avalanche (a refreshing, red-tinted ale). While the “Can-hattan” cocktail ($8) is insipid, and wine is a duty best deferred, a cold glass of beer on the joint’s cozy back patio is unlikely to fail you.
On the way to the back door, reach for two quarters and try doing a more dignified job than I’ve ever managed with Mortal Kombat. In the nondescript assembly that is Uncle Barry’s, the game isn’t really a mark of distinction. But under the right circumstances, distinction doesn’t really make a difference.