Old Stanley’s Bar
226 Wyckoff Avenue, Bushwick
In the heart of Bar Land (Bushwick), Old Stanley’s is the kind of everyman’s bar that quickly becomes your favorite neighborhood watering hole. I enjoy an artisanal cocktail with hand-carved ice as much as the next gentrifier, but sometimes you just want a cold beer, some peanuts and sports on the TV. The Big Buck Hunter in the corner is the only clue that we’re still in Bushwick.
Old Stanley’s, which opened back in April, is a team effort helmed by Ben Quackenbush, Chelsea Altman, Ben Altman, and Matt Webber, a crew whose individual bar experience includes Allswell and The Narrows. Their most recent venture is refreshingly unpretentious. Sports memorabilia, vintage movie posters, and a couple (faux?) taxidermy animals adorn the wall; Christmas lights are strung throughout, and exposed wooden beams lend the place a homey ambience. It feels spacious too—on one side are periwinkle vinyl booths, a dart board, and the aforementioned Big Buck Hunter, which shares its corner with a Playboy-themed pinball machine. Across the multicolored, backgammon-patterned floor and up a step is the bar, backed by a large, illuminated stained glass work and lighted by low-hanging lamps. The nearby jukebox is full of discerningly-selected punk: Latterman, the Methadones, and Teenage Bottlerocket sidled up next to the Replacements and the Damned.
When I visited on a recent Tuesday, Old Stanley’s was comfortably full, but the vibe was still warm and welcoming. “It feels inviting,” my companion noted, as we settled in at the expansive, half-moon oak bar. The only specialty cocktail on the menu is the weekly revolving Stanley’s Cup, which will set you back $8. Otherwise, it’s beer and your standard liquor selections. The beer collection is fittingly low-key and inexpensive, with drafts like Victory Prima Pils, Sixpoint Sweet Action, and Bronx Pale Ale going for $6. Bottles and cans run from $4 to $7, with options including Miller High Life, Dale’s Pale Ale, Tecate tall-boys, and Shiner Bock. If you’re feeling fancy, you can quaff a Chimay for $12. Well drinks come in pints and cost $7, and there’s a frosted-mug-and-shot deal for $6. Like any no-frills dive worth its salt, shelled peanuts are free at the bar, day and night. There are also pretzels and sausages.
At 10pm, several people seemed to be on casual dates—maybe the only kind you’d go on, on a Tuesday. A couple of gregarious groups were packed into the booths. The rest of us were bunched at the end of the bar, where the TV was playing the NBA Finals (decidedly pro-Spurs crowd). The bartender attended to us all with a calm grace, in keeping with the time-slowing effect Old Stanley’s has. I stayed for hours.