Passing the Bar: Lights! Camera! Drinks!

Written by Amre Klimchak on . Posted in Eat & Drink, Posts.

Though Williamsburg teems with restaurants, bars and clubs, and boasts two bowling alleys within blocks of each other, the neighborhood has long been missing a movie house to satisfy cinephiles hungry for a steady diet of first-run features. Now, Nitehawk Cinema, a twostory theater and cafe that opened in June, has filled the void—it not only delivers fine new films on three screens, but heightens the cinematic experience with classy cocktails and a full menu of sophisticated snacks and comfort food on which to nosh.

To design Nitehawk, owner Matthew Viragh enlisted the help of architects Caliper Studio and RePop, a vintage furniture shop in Clinton Hill. Upstairs, the theater’s lobby is dominated by a refurbished 19th-century bar, with eight rotating, mostly local, craft beers on tap and a full bar with a list of film-themed specialty cocktails devised by Jen Marshall, formerly of Prune. Patrons can sip libations before or after a show, but not in the theaters, since New York laws prohibit it. Inside the theaters, seats are paired with small tables that are lit from underneath to make it easier to order from the enticing brunch and dinner menus crafted by Saul Bolton, the Michelin-starred chef of Saul in Boerum Hill and The Vanderbilt in Prospect Heights.

Downstairs, a sleek, serpentine bar offers stools to sit and enjoy the same drinks offered upstairs, while maroon vinyl tufted banquettes, tables made from repurposed wood and elegantly crafted metal chairs fill the cafe space.

On my first visit to Nitehawk, I caught Tabloid, Errol Morris’ new documentary about beauty queen Joyce McKinney and the "Manacled Mormon" case. After the movie, I went for a cocktail downstairs, since the lobby bar felt more like a pre-show spot. I was intrigued by the low-lit, relaxed atmosphere of the ground floor cafe. The menus rotate regularly, and Marshall and Bolton create food and drink pairings for each film. I bypassed the themed cocktail for my flick, the Chloroform ($11), since its mix of Bache-Gabrielsen cognac, Peychaud’s bitters and simple syrup with an absinthe rinse and twist of lemon seemed too heady for my taste. I opted instead for the Ty Webb ($8). A nod to Chevy Chase’s playboy golfer character in Caddyshack, the Arnold Palmer-inspired drink blended housemade mint lemonade and black tea. Though it was cool and refreshing, it tasted slightly diluted and wasn’t quite as tangy or sweet as I had expected.

On another visit to Nitehawk, I began with the Orchard ($11), the themed drink for The Tree of Life, which was a festive concoction of Laird’s applejack, lemon juice, maple syrup and allspice dram that the bartender said tasted like Christmas.

Though it did have a yuletide aroma, the allspice was nicely balanced by the apple and lemon. Next, I tried the Colonel, a tart, potent mixture of Old Forester bourbon, strawberries, lemon, sugar and mint that could have used a bit more sugar and a hint more mint to cut the sourness of the lemon. The cocktails, overall, were palatable and well conceived, but the ingredients sometimes tasted disproportionate. Perhaps these are simply the kind of kinks that all new establishments have and can work out over time.

For those who prefer beer and wine, Nitehawk has it covered. In addition to the craft beers on draft, which have recently included local brews such as Brooklyn Brown Ale ($6) and Kelso India Pale Ale ($6), as well as Maine’s Peak Organic Summer Session Ale ($6), Nitehawk offers inexpensive canned and bottled beer like Pabst Blue Ribbon ($3) and Lone Star ($3). International red, white and sparkling wines go for $7 to $11 per glass.

Nitehawk’s fusion of high-quality film, drinks and food with an informal, easygoing approach make it an appealing spot to while away a few hours (and dollars). Whether with friends or a date, it’s a pleasure to spend an entire afternoon or evening there shifting from theater to bar to cafe in an environment entirely devoted to the love of film. 

>> Nitehawk Cinema 

136 Metropolitan Ave. (betw. Berry St. & Wythe Ave.), Brooklyn,