One of the great things about doing a pub crawl in New York City is that we get to explore different parts of the city. We also get to revisit areas and see how things have changed. So, while we’ve visited Cobble Hill before and have stopped at various pubs on Smith Street and Court Street in Brooklyn, it’s been a few years, so I thought we should do it again and see what’s new.
First stop was Uglyducklingat 166 Smith Street (near Wycoff), a 10 minute walk from Atlantic Terminal. The Uglyduckling was established two years ago in what many considered one of the ugliest buildings in not just Cobble Hill, but all of New York. According to their website: “And what was once an ugly duckling has grown into a thing of beauty. The Uglyduckling Crafthouse & Eatery was designed to celebrate the beauty not just of its historic Cobble Hill location, but the ever changing landscape of Brooklyn.”
A good bartender should be a good listener. In the case of the Uglyducking, Candace was not just a good listener but also a certified mental therapist. So not only did we get great advice on which beers to drink, but also an impromptu Saturday morning therapy session. Drinker #1, we’ll call him the “Quiet One”, has difficulty making decisions on his own, so he went with the “Bartender’s Choice” flight, where Candace selected 4 beers for him to taste, thus relieving him of the stress of having to make a decision on his own. She chose: Single Cut Half Stack IPA, Neshaminy Creek Cream Ale, Flying Dog Numero Uno Mexican Lager, and Jack’s 212 Flat Iron American Pale Ale. After a short consultation with our advisor/analyst, the second crawler of our group chose Jack’s Abby Hoponius Union Strong Pale Lager. As I was debating which beer I should order, Candace advised me to get in touch with my inner self. And since my inner man had this strong desire to have a second breakfast, I ordered a cup of coffee and a plate of deviled eggs topped with smoked paprika and pepper bacon. Which was actually not a bad way to start a pub crawl!
Ready to face the world, we ventured over to Strong Place at 270 Court (near Butler). The first thing you notice about Strong Place is their exotic selection of sandwiches. We went with the Avocado & Sweet Potato, the Egg Salad & Beets and the Peanut Butter, Banana & Walnut sandwiches. All quite delicious. What I liked about Strong Place is that they serve many of their beers in four sizes: 4 oz., 8 oz., 12 oz. and 16oz. I always like to pace myself when on a pub crawl, so went with two 4 oz. tasting glasses: Founders Oatmeal Stout and the Speakeasy Payback Porter. My partners in crime both went with the New York Organic Smart Beer, a golden ale brewed with orange peel and licorice root. What I didn’t like about Strong Place was the slow service (seemed like they were short of staff the day of our visit). Also a negative, was that the Chardonnay ordered by our fourth crawler (who had just joined us) was warm. But we were sitting outside on a beautiful Spring Day and I was enjoying a great beer and sandwich combination; so I was perfectly contented with our visit.
Continuing down Court to Sackett Street was Buschenschank, a farmhouse style tavern inspired by the German-speaking Alto-Adige region in Italy. In addition to a large bar area, there is also a downstairs ratskeller and a large open patio-like room. For drinks we went with the Finback IPA, Peak Organic Summer Session, Evil twin Ashtray Heart Smoked Imperial Porter and a glass of the house Pinot Grigio. The unique menu which features both Italian and German dishes was intriguing, but we were rather full from the sandwiches at Strong Place, so we just ordered a platter of pickled vegetables. I made a mental note to return for some food in the not too distant future. In addition to the German Potato Pancakes, which had caught my eye, the pizzas (which are prepared by a small in-house outpost of South Brooklyn Pizza) looked amazing.
Back to Smith Street for a stop at Fawkner at 191 Smith, between Baltic and Warren. Fawkner is located at the former location of Ceol, an Irish bar that closed in 2014 and is the latest establishment from the team that manages The Bell House, Union Hall and Floyd. It is also the “Thomas’ English Muffin” of bars, with numerous nooks and crannies. Here we enjoyed Singlecut 18 Watt IPA, Peak Organic Ginger Saison, Narragansett Lager and a glass of Chardonnay in the comfy lounge in the back. Actually more like a formal drawing room in a English country home than the back room in a bar.
Our final stop was in downtown Brooklyn, where an old bodega has been turned into a beer and cocktail bar. Livingston Manor is a Catskills-inspired bar located at 42 Hoyt Street (between Livingston and Schermerhorn) and is the latest venture in the Brooklyn bar scene by Matt Roff, the former owner of 5th Avenue’s Southpaw (now gone) and Franklin Avenue’s Crown Inn. It is also an unlikely oasis between check cashing stores and construction sites in the evolving landscape of downtown Brooklyn. Bartending veteran Erica Broad helped design the drinks menu, which featured unique spirits, craft cocktails and a great selection of craft beers. While there were numerous tempting local beers on tap (including appropriately enough, a beer from the Catskill Brewery), the beer drinkers decided to end the day with some Scotch (Jameson’s and Jura). I decided to join our guest crawler in a glass of Surrau Branu Vermentino. These were enjoyed in the vest pocket garden behind the bar.
On our way back to Atlantic Terminal, we passed by St. Gambrinus, a beer shop on Atlantic Avenue between 3rd & 4th Avenues. Looked intriguing, but we all knew it would be the proverbial “One bar too many” and decided to head directly home. And had things changed since our last visit? Without a doubt. But change is a way of life in the bar & restaurant trade, so a return trip is always a good idea. Just don’t expect to find things the same!