“You don’t have to drink at home anymore! We’re open!” proclaimed Sweet Revenge’s promotional postcards last fall; I picked mine up by the register at Bedford-Stuyvesant’s twee-est coffee shop. At last, the Prattles and bargain-hunters currently smudging the border between Bed-Stuy and Clinton Hill have a local they don’t have to take the G train to get to. It should be noted, however, that Sweet Revenge is in fact located next door to another bar. One that’s been there for some time now, or at least longer than the neighborhood’s newest residents have been drinking skunked deli Stella in their (epiphanically spacious! sub-$1,000 per month!) studio apartments. It’s just that that bar doesn’t have, you know, retro-kitsch decor and a Happy Hour special on hot toddys.
Still, for a harbinger of gentrification, this low-lit room is hardly ostentatious; and its clientele is not nearly as monochromatic as its bowling-shirt-green design scheme. On the evidence of which, incidentally, our obsession with Eisenhower-Kennedy plasticity seems unlikely to abate any time soon. Sweet Revenge’s centerpiece, replicated on its postcards, is the wedge-shaped shelf behind the bar, festooned with Bakelite knickknacks and swooping like an Impala fin. Between that, the vintage aluminum signage and the wallpaper seemingly salvaged from a Florida motel, it’s like the tiki lounge Rock Hudson probably would have taken Jane Wyman to in All That Heaven Allows, were it not for society’s cruel censure of their class-defying love.
To the extent that Sweet Revenge does nestle into its block, it’s because the vibe is actually more mellow than melodramatic. The amenities are modest — a half-dozen vaguely adventurous draught beers and two cans of PBR for $5; Hot Pockets upon request; a stack of board games; a Happy Hour lasting until 9pm — and the space is narrow, the bar jutting into a banquette by the front window and leaving just enough room for a single table in the back. The rest is open floor — maybe because of the DJ alcove tucked into the wall, and the concomitant music nights. (A different genre every night; naturally, soul and rockabilly both get their spins.) Say this for drinking at home: there’s always a place to sit down, which isn’t necessarily the case if you arrive once that booth and table are filled. Kind of defeats the purpose of being the bar around the corner, but this will be less of a problem once it’s warm enough to stretch out on the Christmas light-lit back patio. Then again, this is still Bed-Stuy: forget those postcards, if you want to drink outside, well, that’s why god created stoops. If the deli’s out of Stella, then settle for Corona.