Passing the Bar: Matt Torrey’s

Written by Joy Y. Wang on . Posted in Eat & Drink, Posts.

CARNIVAL-THEMED BARS, biergartens, speakeasies and dives— this city has them all. But sometimes, I just want to tell New York to shut the hell up and pour me a beer. Don’t put a piece of fruit in it, don’t tell me about its provenance, just serve a drink and leave me alone. Happily, Matt Torrey’s, the Williamsburg bar that opened in early March, will do just that.


No frills, the bar is clean and simple, like an honest opinion or an egg-andcheese sandwich. The owners are the same three men who conceived of Harefield Road four blocks away and The Pencil Factory in Greenpoint: John Birmingham, Sean O’Rouke and—you guessed it—Matt Torrey. Birmingham claims ownership of Harefield and O’Rouke is behind The Pencil Factory, so it seemed time that Torrey had a place of his own.

Opening Matt Torrey’s also made sense since, in the four years since Harefield opened around the corner, the crowd has exploded. Trying to pop into Harefield on a Saturday night these days is as nearly as claustrophobia-inducing as angling yourself into any East Village bar.

Dropping into Matt Torrey’s on a random Tuesday night, though, I found Torrey and Birmingham belly-up at the nearly empty bar. The former was manning the taps, which consist of 18 New York State brews, as well as Guinness and Blackthorn Cider, while Birmingham was scanning the day’s paper. The two chatted amiably about baseball games and bar décor.

The name, Torrey admits with a sheepish grin, is the result of a coin toss— thought he won’t ’fess up the alternative.

Birmingham says that they opened Matt Torrey’s simply because, sooner or later, someone was going to snatch up the space on the corner of Bushwick Avenue and Ainslie Street. Large panel windows from the Williamsburg metal company Metal Dimensions form the storefront. “We wanted big windows because it’s kind of a desolate corner,” says Birmingham, explaining that he was afraid passersby would miss it otherwise. The hinged glass looks like it’s just begging for a warm spring day to give the bar a proper airing and a cheerful indoor-outdoor feel.

There are a few constants at the three sister bars. Order a Guinness and it’ll always be poured properly—slowly, layerby-layer and with obvious care. Torrey also describes the décor at all three as “rustic,” while Birmingham gives it the adjective “comfortable.” Namely, it’s outfitted with solid wood and ample class. The floor in Matt Torrey’s is reclaimed oak from Virginia, and the bar is made of enough ash to have fashioned dozens of baseball bats.

Torrey promises that the bar will be serving simple fare like sandwiches and maybe even a cured meat and cheese plate within the next month. Unlike Harefield, though, the bar will not be serving brunch, since it has only a rudimentary kitchen. It will, however, screen the World Cup using its projector.

But Matt Torrey’s isn’t about food or sporting events. It’s just a bar that’ll give you ample space to get away from all of New York’s crap and chaos—namely, exactly what Williamsburg needs.

>> MATT TORREY’S 46 Bushwick Ave. (at Ainslie St.), Brooklyn, 718-218-7646.