In this city overflowing with superlatives, calling something average is definitely not a compliment. Average is a solid C, a middle manager, a half-assed hamburger patty sweating for too long under the warming lamp. We’re supposed to want the biggest! tallest! most expensive! in the world! Bring us the $60 Wagyu beef and foie gras burger, garcon. We drink only martinis made with artisanal Estonian vodka, infused with pureed saguaro cactus and shaken between the thighs of comely virgins.
Except that… fuck that. Sometimes you don’t want the best. Sometimes you just want a really good average. That’s harder to do than you think. To find a bar that when you walk in is such the Platonic ideal of barness that you don’t even notice its quiet perfection is a rare feat. These bars don’t have hidden entrances or waitresses wearing 1940s swimwear or giant sculpture installations of any kind. They host no “named” parties, nor fancy DJ nights, nor rated-x hot body contests for children whose parents gave them not enough attention. What they have is warmth, and drinks, and regulars. They’re neighborhood bars, sure, but they’re also ur-neighborhood bars — bars neighborly feeling enough to make you want to move near them. They are a special breed, these above-averagely average bars.
One such place is Abilene. It’s cozy, it’s Brooklyn-y, it has a funky chandelier. Sixpoint and Blue Point are on tap, the music is good, and the proportion of loud jerk assholes to nice people is unbelievably low, given that they serve booze. If you closed your eyes and imagined your local in the best of all possible worlds, then somehow got to Court and Third Place with your eyes still closed, then opened them, it would seem like your vision had magically come to pass.
Another perfectly average bar is Lotus Lounge. It’s a homey, book-lined, iBook-filled coffee shop by day, a homey, book-lined, chit-chat-filled bar by night, with an excellent happy hour to help smooth the transition. Plus, as an added bonus, snacks. It’s a bastion against the idiots consuming the LES, and always contains the exact right amount of people —enough to be full, but not enough to be pushy.
So if you can’t take another re-created speakeasy or high-concept lounge, bathe in the soothing waters of the unpretentious average. Your soul and your wallet will thank you.
Abilene 442 Court St, Brooklyn
Lotus Lounge 35 Clinton St, LES