33 Nassau Ave, Williamsburg
Rating: 3 out of 5 L’s
A man hops into his Porsche with a lithe blonde, cranks the engine and drives away. As the noise dies down, I notice a group of shaggy-haired little boys fighting over an iPad as if it were a Frisbee. A balding man in a Harvard t-shirt walks past them to reach his friends on a sidewalk picnic table littered with beer glasses.
I’m watching all of this from my marble-topped table near Spritzenhaus’ wide-open windows and, as much as I want to dismiss it all as the final nail in Williamsburg’s hipster coffin, I have to admit I’m enjoying myself. It’s hard to complain when you’re sipping Captain Lawrence Liquid Gold in the sunshine. Yuppies aside, the new endeavor from Robert Shaliman, the man behind such L.E.S. douche-tinations as Fat Baby and the now-closed Mason Dixon, is a perfectly pleasant place to spend a warm summer afternoon.
Outside, tables line the sidewalk, all with a view of McCarren Park across the way. Walk inside and it’s hard not to be impressed by just how large the place is. The cavernous, 6,000-square-foot space, outfitted with white subway tile and crisscrossed by thick iron beams, wouldn’t look out of place in, say, Tribeca. During the day, it’s extremely airy and relaxed as people wander in for a post-brunch beer. Tattoos and children seem equally abundant, scattered between the groups of men in backwards hats. At night, it’s a whole different ballgame: the beers pile up, the volume increases, high fives are exchanged with unsettling frequency.
Contrary to what you might have heard, there are not 100 beers on tap here; instead, there are four sets of 25 taps. Everything they dispense is pretty good, including German brews like Radeberger and the Spaten Optimator along with a strong list of American craft beers from breweries like Sixpoint and Lagunitas.
What’s more surprising is how solid the food is. The kitchen doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel; instead, it stays true to its beer-hall theme and turns out hearty German and American comfort fare. Ordering a sausage here can actually be cheaper than ordering a beer; try the Optimator Bier Brat ($7), served on a chewy pretzel roll with onions and tangy mustard. Feeling too thin? Pair that with a side of bacon from Faicco’s in the West Village, sadistically drizzled with Mike’s Hot Honey. Almost all of the sausages are good, the salads less so, and the entrees perfectly acceptable.
Spritzenhaus may very well signal the end of bohemian Williamsburg as we know it but, hey, at least the beer is good.