There are plenty of bars to choose from in Brooklyn, but the still-transitioning neighborhood of Greenpoint seems to have more than its share of watering holes. Greenpoint is shifting from a largely Polish immigrant neighborhood to something a bit more hip. Franklin Street has become the epicenter of boozing in the neighborhood. Its bedraggled beginning tapers off after the Greenpoint streets begin their alphabetical descent into the water. As you draw nearer to Queens from Williamsburg’s Euro-Disney streetwalkers, bars begin to litter the landscape.
Though it may be tough to tackle all of them in one night, I’m a fairly tough human. These 10 bars allow drinkers to truly understand what will be, what is and a little of what was in Greenpoint. So here you go, 10 Greenpoint bars in the order that I encountered them.
What a well-designed beginning to a long night. Sitting out back in their playfully cultivated outdoor seating always delights me. Slide me a Slylock Pilsner or two as the sun retreats, give me the option of playing some shuffleboard and let’s get started.
Everyone needs a little food during and/or before a bar crawl. Jimmy’s mix of comfort food and all-day breakfast accompanies their ultimate reward: $3 Black Labels. Of course the beer list is deep and plentiful. But it’s NYC. $3 beers don’t grow on trees and bank accounts don’t pad themselves. Plus, a Black Label accompanies Jimmy’s exquisite taste in background music perfectly. I snagged a can alongside the excellent fried okra po’ boy before moving on.
Sometimes you just want to drink. You don’t need the fancy accoutrements or long, heady beer list. You need an Old Capital or Coors Banquet. You need lamps found in the street and an old TV that belongs in a museum. You need regulars. Sometimes, you need an empty place to discuss the meaning of modernity with an old roommate with a motorcycle propped up near the restrooms. Sometimes you need Big Star by request. Sometimes you need the Safe House. I had an Old Capital and a healthy dose of nonsense conversation and it got me right for the rest of the night.
Image credit: Shayz Lounge, Facebook
If a bar can perfectly encapsulate both the old and new Greenpoint, Shayz does it. The outdoor area and glass entrance invites the vacationers, but the loud and bombastic punk rock coupled with the 90s skate videos on the corner screen show the true colors of this raucous joint. For those looking for the cheap way home, they got $5 High Life and a shot. I had a pair of those. They offer a variety of beers, of course, but I’m a simple man when it comes down to it. And a cheap one.
Once the light is gone and Franklin Street fills with the night owls, Broken Land begins humming. A covered patio and a list of wonderful cocktails makes the bar a wonderful watering hole. Plus, the bartenders once told me that the place is Journey-free zone. That’s important. I was a little drunk to go for big liquor drinks, but luckily they like customers who drink beer too. The weekends get dancey, but any night works. After an Ithaca Flower Power IPA, it was easy to linger in a spacious bar with good music. I was getting pretty drunk, though, and I had a long trek still to go.
Image credit: Pencil Factory Bar
You may not find a better place to stretch out than this joint. By now, I was at Greenpoint Avenue and Franklin – the most traveled area on the street. The outdoors and indoors are usually crowded, but not overly so. One of the best reasons to drink on Franklin, for now, is that the amount of bars overshoots the amount of foot traffic. You want a big, spacious bar with some cool humans to talk to? Pencil Factory serves the purpose and a beer you’ll want.
The last thing I needed was another liquor-filled monster at the price advertised, but that’s what Ramona is. It’s the future of Franklin Street. Some may argue that the future is bleak, but at some point bars can be beautiful and serve gorgeous drinks. They can be handsomely dark instead of shellacked with the smell of old spirits. They can have an upstairs and a downstairs where patrons can look out upon the sea of folks walking by. They can serve me a blackberry bourbon cocktail called the “Boxer, Beetle” and it can be delicious and 13 bucks. And they did.
Image credit: Moonlight
Give me whiskey or give me death. I should have that scrawled upon my gravestone over the glass casket I am planning on buying on my deathbed. Bury me not in the world I lived in, but the world I created—one filled with small bars that have tons of whiskey. Had it been a one-stop night, I would have indulged in their whiskey flights. A Reissdorf Kolsch, a Dead Guy Whiskey and a scenic look at the historic (and way too pricey to live in, trust me) Astral Apartments (where Mae West lived!) filled the void nicely. I have time to plan my death later, at this point I had to worry about living.
Image credit: TBD bar
Time to zone out a bit. They have TVs here. Games are on. They got tables kind of removed from humanity. They have a massive backyard with a grill. They have everything you need to drunkenly disconnect from both desire and debauchery. Or you can play ping pong. By bar 8, however, I probably could have played actual tennis better than I could play table tennis. I also could have probably talked about metaphysics just as coherently as I could my own shoes. I don’t know, man. This place was cool and I had a Budweiser. TBD is huge.
What do you want to finish a night? Is it a pint of Coors and a shot of whiskey? Is it deep cuts from the ‘70s? Is it a small but really palatable local beer list? Or the friendly bartender that knows you’ve been served a damn sight of alcohol but takes care of you anyway? I mean, isn’t that the dream? Oak & Iron rules and I had the Two Roads Ol Factory Pilsner. Then I had a shot and a beer because remembering the end of the night is for chumps sitting in their homes. Blacking out is for winners; for people who understand the value of a good Coors while everything spins into oblivion
I wish I could publish the notes I took from the night—they provide a glimpse into madness of drinking in 10 bars. Instead, you get the truth: Franklin Street totally rules. You can get the full drinking experience: expensive craft cocktails, swill beers, whiskey joints, shot-beer combos, cheap booze, good views, mass appeal and outdoor spots. It’s all there right now, so long as you don’t get too caught up in the future.