Passing the Bar: The Manhattan Inn

Written by James Mulcahy on . Posted in Eat & Drink, Posts.

STEPPING INSIDE The Manhattan Inn, you’ll be hard pressed not to say “Yowza.” Greenpoint’s newest lounge is quite the looker. The spot is warmly lit and constructed mostly out of recycled wood—throughout you’ll find creative touches that keep with the eco-friendly theme. School desks are re-imagined as bar tables. Old auditorium chairs are used for seating at the worn wooden tables in the bar’s back room. The lounge’s showpiece is a baby grand piano, which sits directly in the center of the dining room. And that baby’s not just for show—a pianist tinkles at the keys while you sip your cocktails. If you’re not impressed with the décor, you’re probably taking that jaded New Yorker thing a little too far.

Will the other aspects of this spot make you exclaim a funny sounding word? Not so much. Like many beautiful things, the Inn is slightly lacking in substance. Its specialty cocktails are on the bland side; the Warsaw Mermaid (green tea vodka, creme de violette and lime) is remarkable only because it’s so sweet. The small plates menu offers a few shout-outs to the neighborhood’s Polish roots, but the borscht is bland and the pierogies wouldn’t impress any Polish grandmother worth her salt. On one recent night, only the warming combo of the Shepherd’s Pie ($16) and the Manhattan’s Manhattan ($9) put us in the mood to sit around and hear another tune.

And the square dining room seems designed for such leisurely sitting.The sight lines aren’t just great for watching the piano player, but they’re also perfect for checking out the other tables. If you snag one of the corner booths, you’ll have a roost from which to scope the entire room. It’s a subdued crowd for this neighborhood; if your idea of checking someone out is “accidentally” elbowing them while in line for $3 beers, then you’re better off at a bar down the block. If you’re into playing eye contact games with someone sipping a $6 pint of Belgian-style Ommegang (the beer list is light on the discounts but heavy on impressive craft labels), you’ll find a suitably hip date here.

For a neighborhood that is known for jukeboxes or live bands, the piano music takes a little getting used to.The back room is small, and the sound of the ivories is loud as it echoes off the exposed brick walls. Each time the pianist starts playing, there is an awkward moment of silence in the crowd. Everyone peers at the musician in the center of the room, clearly thinking, “How can I keep loudly talking about getting laid last night while that poor guy is playing the piano?” Once everyone realizes that the instrument is meant to be background noise, the conversational hum of tits and asses resumes.

The place has its faults but, damn, she is pretty. It’s easy to overlook a few missteps when you’re in such a gorgeous environment. It’s even easier after a few sips of their gigantic specialty Manhattan. After our table’s plates were cleared, we decided to stay for another round of drinks.We settled into our corner booth, stopped talking about prophylactics for a few minutes, and absorbed the environment. It was like we were in some cozy winter lodge.Yowza, indeed.

> The Manhattan Inn

632 Manhattan Ave. (betw. Bedford & Nassau Aves.), Brooklyn, 718-383-0885.