Passing the Bar

Written by Daniel Fabiani on . Posted in Eat & Drink, Posts.

LOT ON TAP isn’t hard to miss trekking down West 30th Street from 10th Avenue. It’s juxtaposed between a construction project and the beautiful new section of The High Line: a true urban beer garden straddling the grit and beauty of everyday New York for your drinking pleasure.

I met with two friends by the barricaded entrance, where the breeze swirled a choking stench of fresh black top and dust that could turn anybody away, but I also caught a whiff of golden carbonation and my liver quivered, ready for its weekly exercise. Drink tickets are sold from a ticket booth; buy as many as you want if, well, you want to drink. Beer is $7, wine is $9, water is $2 and juices/ sodas are $3.

Lot on Tap was opened by famed Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio (and sons). It’s a good old-fashioned biergarten full of music, food and laughs, but with a New York tinge

(you can literally see the huge neon New Yorker sign in the distance). Everything was open, airy and friendly. Food trucks were sprinkled about in the back, contributing the smell of delicious grease vapors.

Tickets in hand, we moved to the huge bar stretched in front of the seating area. The taps stuck out like bad hair and our beers were served with a good frothy head (and it seemed no one expected tips, which was fine by me). The back walls are lined with bright orange boards, but I wasn’t sure if this was a cute way to match the ongoing construction project or an inadvertently apropos style choice. The beer menu is small (only five seasonal brews from Brooklyn Brewery), but I was told they rotate to spice things up. I went with The High Line Elevated Wheat all night, a Belgian pale ale with a light flavor and hint of fruit made especially for the new addition of The High Line. I was feeling especially fruity that night.

By the time the sun went down, the patrons turned clique-y. Hipsters scrambled to one corner, tourists to another, and my two friends and I were left sliding into one of the dozen finely polished wood tables, happily buzzed after a few drinks. (Word of warning: Be careful if you sit on the edge of a bench by yourself; you will tip it over.) Looking above, we waved to High Line stragglers peering their heads over the side. Then fluorescent lights were lowered from the tracks, temporarily blinding us.

Music blared from a few old speakers, reaching every part of the lot. The mix was as eclectic as the crowd; I never heard the same song twice, a phenomenon that bogs down so many bars in the city, and I barely heard the same genre twice. It was as if the music represented the people who cross The High Line daily.

I was drinking on an empty stomach, so my friends and I headed to the food trucks, which operate on a rotating schedule and are worked by a butt-load of hipsters who take cash only. The popular guys seemed to be Rickshaw Dumpling and Eddie’s Pizza, so I indulged. Six dumplings for $6 gives three choices: edamame vegetable, Thai or Chinese. Go for the Thai if you’re drinking pale ale.

Still hungry, we hobbled over to Eddie’s Pizza and created our own whole wheat pie. Starting at $7, these "bar pies" are made fresh to order. The pie was thin as cardboard and drenched in oil, but our time at Lot on Tap meant we didn’t care.

Upon leaving, the Van Leeuwen ice cream truck (known for its artisan, chemical-free ice cream) started calling out to my sweet tooth. Reading the list of abstract flavors like palm sugar and red currant, I just couldn’t resist topping off my night at the tap. A small cup or cone is $4.50 and you don’t need any more than that, trust me. I played it safe and went for old-fashioned vanilla, not regretting a thing as I saw the sad look on my counterparts’ faces as they dove into the palm sugar.

"We need water to eat this. Too sweet." "Water?" I asked incredulously. "Have another beer!" 

>> LOT ON TAP Southwest corner of W. 30th St. & 10th Ave.,

Passing the Bar

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

IT’S HARD TO miss St. Vitus if you know what you’re looking for. This is, of course, the point. At the northern tip of Greenpoint, an all-black, windowless speakeasy storefront on Manhattan Avenue offers access to those searching for heavy sounds, stiff drinks and some general spookiness at the dark new rock-centric bar and music venue that’s named for Black Sabbath song "St. Vitus’ Dance," which is a term for a movement disorder.

Three musicians, Justin Scurti, Arty Shepherd and George Souleidis, who’ve collectively worked at No. 7, Bar Matchless and Lil’ Frankie’s, teamed up with Josh Cohen and Blair Papagni of Anella to create the just-opened St. Vitus, which spans 2,500 square feet. Though it’s above ground, St. Vitus has a subterranean feel. Painted black from floor to ceiling, red prayer candles illuminate the bar and tables in the front room, and tiny white bulbs cast additional light in a separate back room, which has three round booths, a stage for live shows from across the rock spectrum and a skeleton slumped in the corner. Shepherd’s personal collection of Catholic ephemera, which includes crosses, bibles and a Last Rites box, adorns the bar. A print of "The Last Supper" hangs nearby.

Many of the beverage choices at this haven for metalheads and hardcore fans are on the inexpensive side and come in, for the most part, at under $10. St. Vitus’ eight taps emphasize New York beers, and recent options included Ommegang Witte ($6), a Belgian-style white crafted in Cooperstown, as well as Brooklyn Pennant Ale ($6) and Kelso IPA ($5). Brews from afar make appearances, especially when they suit the theme of the bar, such as the Back in Black on draft ($6), a rich, black IPA from 21st Amendment Brewery in San Francisco, and Weihenstephaner Vitus Weizen Bock ($8), a German wheat beer in a bottle. Cheaper choices abound, from the Bud, Bud Light and Sessions Red and Black in a bottle for $4, to the Coors Banquet tall boys ($4) and Genesee ($3) in a can.

In addition to the standard cocktails, like Old Fashioneds ($9), Scurti has devised a few sacrilegious concoctions to suit the mood. The bar’s signature cocktail, The Saint Vitus ($11), combines Maker’s Mark bourbon, honey, fresh lemon juice and Nero D’avola wine. His beer-and-ashot specials include the Pope, a Coors Banquet tall boy with a pickle back of Tullamore Dew Irish whiskey and pickle juice from Brooklyn Brine for $9, and The Priest, 12 ounces of Genesee with a shot of Evan Williams bourbon for $5.

To soak up the potent tipples, Cohen has designed an assortment of delicious little buns, which feature international fillings stuffed in soft white pillows for $3 each and are served with a pickle on the side. One night, the bun preparer recommended the barbecue tofu bun with kimchee, and its tangy, spicy ingredients didn’t disappoint. The Greenpoint, which comes with meaty or vegan sausage, Brooklyn Brine sauerkraut and mustard, was a close second, and an eggplant number had a richly spiced, almost smokey flavor that was complemented by lovely pecorino cheese.

As would be expected from the name of the bar, Black Sabbath was in heavy rotation, as were Nation of Ulysses and Fugazi, but I couldn’t help singing to myself, "I wanna see the sun blotted out from the sky." And with an an interior as black as coal, and which, at times, seemed even blacker than night, St. Vitus will inevitably become a destination for any rock-obsessed reveler. 




Passing the Bar

Written by Jamie Peck on . Posted in Eat & Drink, Posts.

BACKED IN PART by the owner of local fixture Clem’s,The Richardson—open since late September— seeks to adapt the recent trend of fancy retro cocktails to the laid-back Graham Avenue neighborhood.The only competitor in the area is the beautiful but pricey Hotel Delmano two L stops to the west, so a bar in these parts could potentially gain a following by filling in the gap between fancy and divey, especially considering the “not a college kid, not yet a grown up” phase many locals are currently living out. Unfortunately, this newcomer has a ways to go before it can compensate for what it lacks in local charm with stunning mixology, or vice versa.

Upon entering, one feels the whoosh of air circulating in empty space; the bar’s large size belies its aspirations as a serious drinker’s spot. An unbroken expanse of floral-patterned wallpaper makes the eyes cross, and its slick newness hampers efforts at old-timey coziness. No one gets in each other’s way; but isn’t the first rule of bar-ology that strength of drink times proximity of patrons to one another divided by douchebag quotient equals the probability an average individual will get laid? Crank the music a bit and the empty space could easily become a dance floor, but that would take the focus off the carefully crafted drink menu. Then again, given its shortcomings, that might not be such a bad idea.

Though they feature interesting descriptions and high price tags, most of the house concoctions go down like juice.The “ginger-lee,” made with lemon juice, orange bitters, ginger syrup and rum, promises ginger but fails to deliver more than a faint aroma of it. Likewise, an interestingsounding drink made with ginger beer, club soda, amaro liqueur and red wine, while delicious, lacks the palate-teasing complexities that prompt one to slowly savor a $9 cocktail instead of gulping it down like so many rum and Cokes.

The Richardson is not without its bright spots; its hot toddy proves a bonewarming harbinger of nicely spiced seasonal drinks to be added to the menu. And, not to be overlooked, the beer list boasts many reasonably priced local brews, while the wine list has helpful descriptions like “crisp green apple and a hint of yeast”—yum! There’s even a small assortment of gourmet nibbles. Much effort is evident in how the menu is put together, and the dapper staff is never anything less than helpful. Speaking of which, it’s nice to be able to order a drink in Williamsburg without pushing through crowds of handsy guys and shrill girls.

This all makes me hope The Richardson will iron out the kinks. The space calls for antique lamps, cushions, maybe a throw rug. The vast Siberian quadrant would be a good spot to put more tables, because who likes to drink a $9 glass of booze standing up? The Richardson has great potential to serve the ever-pricier neighborhood around it, but it’s going to have to feel a bit more lived-in before it can bring wary locals along.

The Richardson
451 Graham Ave. (at Richardson St.), Brooklyn, 718-389-0839,