Williamsburg Bars: A Top 10 List

Williamsburg Bars: A Top 10 List

by Brendan Spiegel
08.07.2008

Every New York neighborhood is a clash of identities, but none more than Williamsburg. Open any local publication, and you will unfailingly find an article proclaiming that Billyburg is on top, so over, or back again. Long-time neighborhood crews, hipper-than-hip artists, and fresh-from-Manhattan fashionistas all lay claim to “the real Williamsburg.” Whatever side you line up on, one thing is clear: the party is here. From decades-old dives to spanking new hotspots, the following is a very un-scientific guide to Williamsburg’s Top 10 spots.Bembe Brooklyn

1. Bembe
On a still slightly scary block running next to the Williamsburg Bridge, there’s a run-down industrial building with a solid wood door guarding a non-descript entrance. Clearly this is a hipster hideaway packed with skinny jeans, distorted music and endless PBR, right? Wrong. Step inside this exotic, bilevel venue and you’ll swear you are closer to Brasilia than Bedford Avenue. Latin DJs and live drummers get the serious-about-dancing crowd moving, while those looking on sip fruity concoctions in an artsy, island vibe, with interiors crafted from all recycled materials (just to remind you that you’re still in Brooklyn).
(81 S. 6th St. Brooklyn, NY 11211, 718.387.5369)

2. Spuyten Duyvil
If you needed proof that Billyburg has moved beyond the cheap and dirty beer-from-a-can scene, look no further than this renovated railroad apartment. You’ll be hard-pressed to recognize a name on the 80-plus beer list, but it isn’t difficult to enjoy the exotic selection of imports – from Flemish to Japanese to Sri Lankan. Despite the uppity brews, this alehouse keeps the aesthetic decidedly Brooklyn, with thrift shop furniture, a chalkboard menu, and a jukebox that jumps from Miles Davis to Zappa to Feist.
(359 Metropolitan Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11211, 718.963.4140)

3. Bushwick Country Club
As Williamsburg continues to evolve into the City’s most exciting nightlife scene, venues further and further from the L stop are claiming to be part of the ‘hood. (Listen – if you can see Queens, you’re not in Williamsburg, OK?) But despite a setting on the edge of Williamsburg proper, this bar has taken the opposite route – appropriating a name from the edgier Bushwick nabe. And the country club part is truth in advertising as well – there’s a makeshift mini-golf course in the backyard. Just leave the plaid pants at home and replace that Arnold Palmer drink with a frozen rum-and-coke whipped up in the on-site slurpie machine.
(618 Grand St., Brooklyn, NY, 11211, 718.388.2114)Galapagos Art Space Brooklyn

4. Union Pool
The Manhattan overflow crowd doesn’t make it past the BQE to this as-hipster-as-it-gets hotspot, and that’s more than fine with the grungy regulars that have made this former pool supply store a Williamsburg institution. In summer months, the industrial backyard patio is the neighborhood’s undisputed focal point, with angular haircuts, ironic mustaches, and stage-worthy costumes as far as the eye can see.
(484 Union Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11211, 718.609.0484)

5. Galapagos
Call it an art gallery, bar, nightclub, theatre or just all-around happening – simply put, Galapagos is Brooklyn. Set in an old mayonnaise factory, guests walk across a metal grating over a dark reflecting pool to enter this cavernous, Cathedral-like space, which in summer includes the neighborhood’s most spacious rooftop. Events range from the expected neighborhood staples (indie rock, discopunk, burlesque), to highbrow artsy (baroque music, Shakespeare), to out-of-nowhere craziness (mud wrestling or trapeze show, anyone?)
(70 N. 6th St., Brooklyn, NY 11211, 718.782.5188)

6. Barcade
Donkey Kong. Tetris. Super Mario Bros. Centipede. Barcade is that dorky kid you were friends with in grade school just because he had every single awesome game. Now that kid is grown up and he has 20 rare microbrews on tap as well. You know there are better things you can do with your time than getting wasted playing video games…oh, come on, no there aren’t – Barcade is heaven in a dingy old loft space.
(388 Union Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11211, 718.302.6464)

7. Radegast Biergarten
The newest spot to make this list, Radesgast finally brings an outer borough must to Williamsburg: the Polish beer garden. Complete with oversized beer steins and spacious picnic tables, rowdy good times are made to order here. The shoddy alehouse vibe is almost ruined by the fancy retractable roof panels, but they also provide for year-round drinking, so all is Surf Bar Brooklyn forgiven.
(113 N. 3rd St., Brooklyn, NY 11211, 718.963.3973)

8. The Charleston
There’s a point in any Williamsburg bar crawl when you’re gonna need a break from being too cool for school. That’s where the Charleston comes in. A cheesy-music-only jukebox, down-home pub décor that wouldn’t be out of place in any bar in small town America, pizza by the slice, and – wait for it – plenty of room to move. There’s nothing amazing about the Charleston – and that’s exactly why it’s a welcome sight on over-the-top Bedford Avenue.
(174 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11211, 718.782.8717)

9. Surf Bar
Surfing? In Brooklyn? You gotta be pretty hardcore if you think you can catch a wave at Rockaway. But a surfing bar, that’s something we can get behind. Formerly known as Hurricane Hopeful, this straw-covered tiki hut brings the beach to the ‘burg, with fried clams and lobster rolls, sand on the floor, and a fearsome shark mounted above the bar. For those New York winter nights when you wonder why you don’t live in California, Surf Bar is the answer.
(139 N. 6th St., Brooklyn, NY 11211, 718.302.4441)

10. The Greenpoint Tavern
There are few things in Williamsburg that the old school rough-and-tumble set, the trendy hipster crews, and the newcomer condo crowd can all agree on, but this Bedford Avenue dive bar is one of them. If the year-round Christmas lights don’t provoke a seizure, it’s hard not to have a good time at this no-frills pub, where a diverse crowd keeps the red booths and barstools occupied seven nights a week. What’s keeping them all happy? An increasingly rare find around these parts: cheap drinks. Most notably, $3.50 for a 32-ounce cup of Bud - hard for anyone to argue with that.
(Bedford Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11211, 718.384.9539)

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