MANHATTAN’S FAVORITE WEST Side watering hole, The Rusty Knot, recently started a party bus service from Williamsburg. On slower nights, a vehicle complete with stripper poles and free beers will pick you up from Bedford Avenue and take you to the land of pretzel dogs, obscure tiki drinks and nautical-themed decor. Even though a trip on the drunk-mobile sounds fun, there’s no reason to head across the river anymore. New Williamsburg haunt The Commodore, taking up the space where dear, departed Black Betty once was, fills all of your upscale dive bar needs. In fact, you could call it Rusty Knot East. If you wanted to sound like a dick.
The new spot rocks the 1970s basement rec-room vibe. It has wood paneling on the walls, an old Miller High Life sign beckons from above the DJ station and a giant dead fish hangs like a trophy in the main bar area. With the critters in the Ace Hotel Lobby and The Jane, it’s almost impossible to open a spot without some sort of dead animal these days. The taxidermy serves The Commodore well, as does the random photo opportunity nestled in the corner. What other bar lets you put your head through a piece of wood and suddenly become a gorilla? (Hint: the more you drink, the more convincing it is.)
If you’re into said monkey business, there are plenty of offbeat drinking options. A menu of cocktails is playfully printed on placemats although there’s nothing too inventive on the list: a few standard rum punches, a stiff Manhattan and a frozen Pina Colada are all drinks that you’d find on the final exam at bartending school. Even if the libations don’t knock your mixology socks off, the kitschy vibe gives you the permission to get cheesy with your order. Would you ever order an Alabama Slammer unless invited to? The Planter’s Punch is a fruity glass of red Hi-C, kind of nostalgic, except for the potent kick of rum that hides underneath the saccharine grenadine. The Boat Drink is a simple mix of dark rum, lime and soda. After one of those, you shouldn’t be allowed near a boat, or any motorized vehicle for that matter. The mixer works, though, if you plan to sit in Williamsburg on a hot day and knock ’em back.
The food is more inspired than the drinks. Food here is served at dive-bar prices—a burger for $6, a gigantic chicken sandwich for $9—but there is nothing divey about what comes out of the kitchen. The spicy chicken sandwich is a plate of fried glory, and the side of asparagus topped with an egg is the perfect snack for those who still want to feel sophisticated when tipsy. The bar also offers heartier comfort food options; the plate of fried chicken with biscuits could easily sell for an additional $10 at one of the more upscale restaurants in the hood. Ramps were recently on the list, a seasonal touch that is almost unheard of in low-key drinking establishments. Michael Pollan might not write a book about this place, but he’d definitely stick around for another beer.
Let your lemming friends catch the bus to Manhattan—who needs the Knot when you can tie one on at The Commodore?
>> THE COMMODORE 366 Metropolitan Ave. (at Havemeyer St.), Brooklyn, 718-218-7632.