PACIFIC STANDARD

82 4th Ave at St Marks Pl, Park Slope

The Place: A chill, West Coast-themed bar in Brooklyn that was showing the Democratic National Convention.

The Time: Tuesday, July 27 8pm. I’ve been pretty much entirely consumed with politics this election season, and finding myself a rare free evening, I decided to go to a bar to watch the convention as opposed to live streaming it on my computer in my apartment. This is my version of going to a bar to watch sports. The only times I’ve ever gone to a bar with the intention of watching something has been for this and the Oscars, and I’m totally fine with what this says about me.

The Vibe: It feels cozy and friendly from the minute I walk in. There’s a nice bar space in front with a screening room in back, projecting the convention on a big screen on the back wall. It’s also playing with subtitles on the TV at the bar, so I sidle up and make myself at home. The atmosphere is like a kid who plays lacrosse at Oakland decided to make his dorm room into a dive bar. There’s tons of California memorabilia lining the wooden and brick walls – license plates, giant beer caps, athletic flags. The last of the summer light pours in through the large front windows. The bar top is one of those slated old style ones like they have at Dutch Kills, which annoys me but it’s just my personal grievance. Groups of two pepper the bar: friends, friendly couples. The back room starts to fill up with larger groups, clearly here for the DNC, but there are also plenty of locals enjoying their neighborhood bar on a Tuesday night. The music is 90s and 00s pop and hip hop, and I find it hilarious to watch the DNC with subtitles while “Sexy Can I” by Ray J circa 2007 plays in the background. I really dig the vibe of this place, but I find it kinda strange to have a West Coast-theme bar in NYC. Then again, it’s definitely weirder to have an NYC-themed bar in NYC so I accept it.

The Drank: A classic Dark n Stormy, made with both Gosling’s rum and Gosling’s ginger beer. It’s got the right amount of lime too and for $9, I’m a very happy camper. They’ve got a great selection of draft beers and a pretty good wine selection as well. They also have classic pub food, like tacos and hot dogs, with both meat and veggie options, because this is Brooklyn after all. And it was Taco Tuesday, so you could get two tacos for 5 bucks! I stupidly ate before I came here, otherwise I would’ve been all over this.

The Bartender: First, there was one bartender, a woman in black with glasses and a loose bun. Her voice cuts through the light din of other voices, yet it took me a sec to realize she was talking to me because she was doing shit somewhere else, cuz duh, she’s a busy lady. Then a second bartender rushes in, hangs up his bag, puts a bar rag in his pocket and is ready to rock. He wears a Joshua Tree t-shirt and is super sweaty. Pretty soon, the other bartender is done with her shift, so she chills at the corner of the bar for a while with a whiskey and a Bud Light.

Was I Hit On? No but I made friends with a guy named Mark who stood next to me as the bartender, also named Mark I found out, slid his whiskey to him. I told Mark I’d never actually seen someone have a drink slid to them before. When Bartender Mark asked me if I’d like another round, I said I was intrigued by the $4 prosecco special (!) but wanted a drink slid to me. So Bartender Mark put prosecco in a rocks glass and slid it to me!! I’ve never felt so cool. Other Mark and I chatted for a while. He works at the bar across the street, “only during happy hour, I need the light, can’t work in the dark no more,” and he stops in to see his buds at Pacific Standard for a Jameson before hopping the train home to Queens. He’s also a born and bred New Yorker who was vegetarian for several years. When he left, I told him I’d come by his bar sometime. Yay to making new friends and having pleasant conversations with strange men who aren’t creepers!

Should You Drink Here Alone? Yes! So happy I found a chill new bar to hang at when my version of sports is on TV. And they have trivia nights! And stand-up nights! And non-creepy men! You guys, come here alone and with friends. You definitely won’t be disappointed.

THE GANDER

15 W. 18th St btw 5th and 6th ave, Flatiron

The Place: A nice, big restaurant right in the middle of Union Square/Flatiron hullaballoo that is directly across from the studio where I’ve been rehearsing for the last month.

The Time: Thursday July 14, 5:45pm. It was a really hot day, as each day seems to be at this point in summer. I had an audition earlier not too far away and was meeting a friend in the same area later so there was plenty of time to kill. Then, as summer likes to do, it started torrentially downpouring unexpectedly and I ran into reliable, overpriced City Bakery for shelter, only to be kicked out 20 minutes later because they were closing. I knew The Gander was right next door and I had no better ideas.

The Vibe: I don’t know anything about this place, but for getting here before 6pm, it was already filling up pretty fast. The hostess says hello but doesn’t tell me anything else, so I make my way to the enormous bar. There’s a nice big marble bar top. The space inside is huge, with a large area in the back slightly sectioned off, presumably for the “finer dining” experience. But nobody was in it. The front section where I was was populated by couples and small groups. At the bar, there were two single guys on their phones, a couple, and a group of three guys on the corner. There was no unifying factor of people except a mid-30s, post-work feel. There are these really tall illuminated panels on the bar made up of bottoms of clear wine bottles. It’s a neat trick. The music is all over the place, like it’s being controlled by the guy at the party with iPod ADD. But the general vibe is very pleasant.

The Drank: A mule off their 3-drink-long happy hour menu that I asked to be made with gin instead of vodka. Thank god for happy hour, because otherwise cocktails are normally $16 but now it’s $10. I really only ordered the mule because I’m cheap and the other two options didn’t appeal to me (a sazerac is too heavy for this time of day, and my other choice was a mysterious “rum punch”). The mule was fine, pretty basic. I wanted more ginger. They have two frozen cocktails in those big machines usually reserved for tiki bars and 7-11. This strikes me as odd because their regular cocktail list isn’t that innovative and has a lot of dumb names: Itza Spritza, Less Boozy Suzy, Matcha Scotcha. Like, come on guys, this isn’t a Dr. Seuss book. After a while, I ordered a side of cauliflower as a little snack, and the bartender tried to put a placemat down for me, which was awkward for both of us since I like to spread out all my stuff and pretend the bar is my home office. Food came out super fast, and was really yummy–it’s a giant hunk of roasted (“charred”) cauliflower and I think it’s the closest I’ll come to feeling like I’m eating steak.

The Bartender: I was waiting at the bar for a while before anyone showed up. Eventually, a tall dude with a bushy beard dressed in all black made an appearance. He was very nice and got his stride quickly, but spent most of the time running around, pouring and repouring beer. They have this big fancy white wine contraption built into the bar, and I ask him about it. He tells me it basically makes bottles of wine come out on tap, but “it’s not working right now, and we’re having trouble with the keg too.” Rough night to work at the Gander. 

Was I Hit On? The solo guy to my left asked the bartender for another glass of wine without looking up from his phone. Rude. Then he sneezed and I said bless you and he didn’t say thank you! Ruder. Then when my food came out, he goes, “god that smells good,” gets up and literally STICKS HIS NOSE IN IT. Rudest! THEN he has the audacity to look at me and say, “Hi, I’m Gary.” Yo, Gary, see all these bar stools? Sit the fuck down. I say nothing and elbow him out of the way to get to my cauliflower. He leaves shortly after that.

Should You Drink Alone Here? I’m gonna say sure, but also, I wouldn’t seek this place out again. If the cauliflower I ate is any indication, come for dinner because it must be good. But the bar scene at The Gander isn’t anything special, even though it’s a nice spot. And I sure as hell don’t wanna run the risk of seeing Gary ever again.