Whiskey Soda Lounge
115 Columbia Street, Columbia Street Waterfront District
I took a seat at the bar. Tables line the wood-paneled walls here, tables and booths where you can sit under drooping strands of colored Christmas lights and kitschy signs that say things like “White Cock”—things that aren’t supposed to make you laugh so much as smirk. But because I was alone, I sat at the bar, which is small and L-shaped, with room for eight or so stools. A man and a woman—a couple—were already there, and we were close enough that I could listen in on their conversation, which was good because that was what I’d wanted. I hadn’t brought a book.
Whiskey Soda Lounge is a bar/lounge run by the team behind Pok Pok Ny, and it functions as a sort of holding pen for all the people who used to have nowhere else to go on this once desolate, still pretty empty stretch of Columbia Street while they waited for a table at the in-demand restaurant. The drinks menu at both places is pretty much identical, but the food on offer doesn’t overlap much (except for Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings), so Whiskey Soda Lounge feels less like a stopping off point and more like a destination—albeit one with a decorating scheme that mixes old-school Brooklyn social club with 70s basement rec room.
And much like what’s on offer in many a basement rec room, there’re only a couple of beers on tap (Evil Twin Low Life pilsner and a rotating selection) and a small selection of bottled beers, mostly from Asia, including Singha, Saigon, and Beer Lao. Plus soda. The soda, though, is made in-house, a mixture of seltzer and Pok Pok’s flavored drinking vinegars, many of which are also included in the mixed drinks, like the tart and refreshing Apple Gin Rickey, featuring (obviously) apple drinking vinegar.
“What is it that you want?”
I looked up from my menu when I heard the question, thinking it was the bartender, but it was the man sitting near me.
“You always ask me what I want. But what is it that you want?” he asked again. He leaned in toward her, and she reflexively moved closer to him before pulling back again, bracing her foot against the rail at the bottom of the bar.
“I want,” she said, craning her neck, scanning the room, lowering her voice to a whisper that I could still hear, “not to feel so bad anymore. I want... I want to just be friends again.” It was then that I noticed his wedding ring. Obviously.