Photo by Austin McAllister
The Lock Yard
9221 Fifth Avenue, Bay Ridge
“The prophecy has been fulfilled,” I thought when I walked in. The Lock Yard, formerly the owner’s uncle’s locksmith shop, first got attention a year ago when Tommy Casatelli told the Brooklyn Paper he was opening it for the hipsters moving into the neighborhood. Locals were livid at the prospect, and on the sleepy Wednesday I first stopped in, just days after the official opening, their fears appeared founded: four customers occupied the front room, all of them guys in their 20s and 30s with beards and/or thick-frame glasses. Plus me made five. But in fact we weren’t the only people there; the large beer-garden backyard, where the old locksmith sign has been reinstalled against the north wall, was full of people, too: older people, women without glasses, and the decidedly non-hipster dudes for which Bay Ridge is best-known.
Still, this is one of the few places in the neighborhood that’s not only new but also feels new, like it grew out of the 21st century and not the 20th. It’s not so much the way it looks as it is the ethos. The place looks Coney Island-ish, the name on the cartoonish sign spelled out in lights; inside, there are painted stripes in primary colors like the base of the Parachute Jump, menus and signage pitched aesthetically somewhere between Norman Collins and Larry Millard. In a nod to its past, the bathroom walls are papered with vintage ads for various facets of the lock-and-key business.
The menus are more modern. The five “domestic” beers on draft are all from New York State; the “imported” beers come from the other contiguous 47. The two red wines and the two white wines, served on tap, are also green: sourced from two vintners, one in the Finger Lakes and the other in Sonoma, they’re “sustainable,” meaning they’re shipped in light-weight metal barrels without excessive labeling or packaging. The food is almost all hot dogs and “artisanal” sausages, the meat sourced from local butchers. (There’s also a falafel and carnival/deli foods like fries, pretzels, corn, knishes, etc.) Off-menu, there’s a cheap and tasty veggie sausage, best topped with the RC Cola caramelized onions.
When I went back on the following Saturday night, the whole of Bay Ridge past and present had turned out: new friends, friends I hadn’t planned to see, friends I hadn’t seen in 10 years, casual acquaintances I thought I’d never see again. It was like a decree went out from Caesar that all the world should be registered, and the Bay Ridge natives had gone back to their own town—and the Lock Yard specifically—to be counted. (If I owned Greenwood Park, I might be nervous I’d lost my customer base.) These were locals, mostly middle-class and blue-collar Brooklynites you couldn’t peg as hipsters. And yet here they were, enjoying sustainability, artisanal food and locavorism, demonstrating perhaps that at root the Lock Yard’s just serving American craft beers and well-made food—like 21st-century foodie philosophy is essentially mainstream.