683 Washington Ave, Prospect Heights
Rating: 4 out of 5 L’s
British Sci-Fi 101: Dr. Who. The Doctor is the last of the Time Lords. He travels through space and time in a big blue police call box called the TARDIS, making clever quips and fighting aliens that look like armored trash cans.
Andy Heidel, “Anders” to his friends, is not a Time Lord. He did, however, build a model TARDIS, which houses the bathroom of his Prospect Heights bar. To my knowledge, it doesn’t travel through space or time, although it does attract plenty of fanboys and girls, including a couple who drove all the way from Virginia to see it. Heidel has some serious geek cred; he wrote a collection of short stories, Desperate Moon, which ranges from sci-fi to horror, plus he wears a nifty vest and wiry glasses. He even has a friend with a wacky name, Doc Wasabassco, who fashions steampunk devices in the basementÔfunky ray-guns, jetpacks and suchÔthat Heidel hangs up on the walls.
Despite not having an actual time machine, the bar does its best to convince you that you’ve traveled to some Victorian-era boudoir with its fleur-de-lis wallpaper and red leather banquettes. Everything is appropriately scuffed and rusted, from the dinged hardwood floors to the antique gold-framed mirrors, with a healthy dose of quirky curios for good measure.
I last visited on a Saturday afternoon. The place was surprisingly bright during the day for a steampunk drinking den, a wall of large windows letting in the waning sunlight as neighborhood types played with a dog and surfed on laptops. I ordered a Kelso Nut Brown Ale on tap and sat at the worn-in wooden bar. A few more brews on tap would be nice, but luckily Heidel makes up for it with a nice selection of specialty cocktails like the Way Station, a mix of Lucid Absinthe, Cointreau, seltzer and fresh lime. Things heat up at night, when everyone from local indie acts to tin pan bands take the small stage in back.
Yes, there are a thousand bars in Brooklyn with the same vintage aesthetic, but there is something different about Way Station. The anachronistic sensibility seems to come from a more earnest place, a yearning for an alternate reality instead of the usual knee-jerk aping of Old Europe. It is a beacon for the neighborhood’s nerdy, a place where you can mention the Cybermen or Cthulhu with any random stranger and they’ll probably know what you’re talking about. Also, in case you haven’t heard, it has a fucking TARDIS.