Passing the Bar: The Emerson

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

Part lounge and part art gallery, The Emerson aims to cultivate a new kind of transcendental experience in Clinton Hill. Nestled near the corner of Emerson Place and Myrtle Avenue and named after the poet Ralph Waldo, The Emerson mixes intoxicating libations with literary inspirations, Art Deco aesthetics and a commitment to the neighborhood to elevate an appealing space from a simple bar to a community hub.

The three minds behind The Emerson— Sam Barron (co-owner of Maggie Brown’s, a comfort food haven also on Myrtle Avenue), Tom Wentworth (a writer and TV producer) and Gina Jankowski (an artist and Pratt alum)—converged on the idea of crafting a bar that could foster the artistic spirit of the neighborhood, which is home to The Pratt Institute and many of its students. And though the doors opened only a few weeks ago, the bar is already drawing a crowd eager to appreciate the lively, low-lit space in an area that’s particularly lacking in watering holes. Jankowski and Co.’s attention to detail is obvious in every corner of the interior, from the vintage light fixtures to the glowing red bar that echoes the shape of a nearby decorative early-era jukebox.

Patrons can pull up a seat at the sparkly bar if casual conversation is the idea or, for more privacy, relax into one of the cozy banquettes that hug rough-hewn wood tables. Or they can head to the back, and play a round at the well-appointed pool table that invites a leisurely game, but will also be a fitting arena for the Wednesday-night league the owners plan to launch soon. The walls nearby serve as The Emerson’s gallery, and, on a recent Monday night, were covered with the intricate spooky drawings of Drew Morrison, the first of many planned bi-monthly solo exhibitions.

The drink choices are similarly broad in possibility. The list emphasizes craft beers and signature cocktails to satisfy all tastes— and it doesn’t disappoint. The Emerson’s 10 taps (which will change mostly with the seasons) focus on delicious and reasonably priced offerings primarily from East Coast breweries, and recently included two Pennsylvania brews, O’Reilly’s Irish Stout ($6) and Tröegs Hopback Amber Ale ($6), as well as Southern Tier Pale Ale ($6) and Original Sin Cider ($6) from New York, and Brooklyn’s own Kelso IPA ($6), with seasonal brews like Southern Tier’s Old Man Winter Ale coming soon. The charming literary-inspired cocktails include The Emerson ($9), which blends locally distilled Breuckelen Gin, fresh ginger and mint, lime juice and Prosecco, and The Longfellow ($11), a tangy mixture of cucumber, cilantro, Hornitos tequila and pineapple juice.

You don’t have to be a college student (though it seemed at least half the crowd was on a recent visit) to appreciate The Emerson’s happy hour, with 2-for-1 drafts and well drinks, and $2 off the fancy cocktails. And if you’re feeling peckish, the low-priced bar menu delivers some light repasts with variations on the classic grilled cheese sandwich (including an Italian, pizza-like sandwich with mozzarella and tomato sauce for $5; with pepperoni it’s $6) alongside some all-natural Niman Ranch Fearless Franks ($4), with local mustard from SchoolHouse Kitchen and pickles from McClure’s.

The Emerson has caught on quickly with the Pratt crowd and an eclectic array of locals for good reason. With its imaginative cocktails and handcrafted brews, and a congenial environment that makes room for creative expression, it’s living up to its aspiration to transcend the limits of the ordinary bar experience.

>> The Emerson 561 Myrtle Ave. (betw. Emerson Pl. & Classon Ave.), Brooklyn, 347-763-1310.