166 Smith Street, Cobble Hill
Despite its storybook name, there’s nothing remotely outstanding or unusual about Ugly Duckling, a new bar on Smith Street, just off the Bergen Street F stop. It’s got all the aesthetic hits: walls made from what is presumably reclaimed wood, hanging copper-plated lights, exposed brick, a well-organized bar, and a prominently displayed wide chalkboard, which featured a drawing of a street the day I dropped by. The atmosphere is calculatedly inoffensive and unremarkable. The radio alternated between hits from Elton John and Fleetwood Mac, with the occasional Van Morrison and Beatles songs dropped in. It’s a place meant to evoke an atmosphere both hip and family-friendly, a beacon for the cool parents of the neighborhood to bring their baby as they knock back a brew. Your own parents would love this place.
The exceedingly friendly bartender proffered a menu that has a 30-beer-long draft list that only features either brewery or beer names (never both), the ABV, and no pricing whatsoever. On the flip side of the menu, you can choose from the long-ish list of gastropub bites, all priced from about $5 for sides to as much as $25 for certain entrées. Of note, the Ugly Poutine, which consists of potatoes drenched in brown gravy, provolone, and a not-so-generous helping of sweet barbecue duck confit. Too fancy? Then go for the chicken and waffles or fettucini alfredo-like aged balsamic and herb-encrusted chicken on a bed of homemade pasta. All of the offerings are slightly gussied-up comfort food, in a slightly uncomfortable price range.
Those interested in the magic that comes with nearly 30 taps would be much better served (literally and figuratively) at 61 Local or the nearby Bar Great Harry, where curation of and enthusiasm for beer rule all. But, if you’re in the market for an unfussy, if somewhat uninteresting, post-work drink, dropping by Ugly Duckling certainly won’t be the worst decision you’ll make that day.