Thursday, September 01, 2005

Closer To Home

I went out to order a brisket to smoke for a family barbecue and walked by a place close by that I hadn’t visited yet but always wanted to pop into, Sam’s. I also saw a new place, Blue Star, that didn’t open until later so I figured I would visit Sam's and then head out again in the early evening. That also gave me a chance to stop into another place that doesn’t open until later, Brooklyn Social.

768) Sam’s





Not far from Staubitz Market, one of my favorite butchers, is Sam’s at 238 Court Street. This place has been around since 1930 so it is a real neighborhood place. When I got there it was just opening up so I had plenty of time to talk to Louie whose father owns the place and still works there at times. Louie was quite a character and grew up not far from here. We had a most interesting discussion about what would happen if a big hurricane ever hit New York. He is an avid boater and knew a lot about past Nor’easters and the topography of New York. He had some very interesting opinions, particularly about what would happen when the Gowanus Canal backed up, among other things. The Gowanus Canal is in the heart of downtown Brooklyn and is, to put it mildly, a cesspool. In fact, it is at least six blocks from Court Street and because yesterday was hot and humid and the wind was blowing the right (or wrong) way, you could smell it from there.

But, I digress. The bar has no stools or chairs but enough room to stand and have a drink. No foot rest either. There is an illuminated half-circle overhang above it. Behind the bar are just some shelves holding the liquor in front of an old mirror. There are two statues of young boys sitting on swings hanging from the ceiling and they each hold a small lantern that provides a bit of light. Sitting on one end of a bar was an arrangements of plants that had what looked like memoriam cards and an American flag inserted among them. To the right of the bar, closer to the door, are two very old wooden telephone booths with glass paneled doors that are now being used for storage.

The wall opposite the bar is lined with booths with bright red seats and backs. The tables have blue tablecloths with a white linen napkin positioned as a diamond in the center. They are covered with clear plastic though so your arms stick and if you spilt your drink it would just run off into your lap. Small white statues and green containers of pink flowers sit on a ledge next to the booths. A replica of Michelangelo’s David probably served as an inducement to order their sausage and meatball special. On the wood paneled walls above the ledge are pictures of Italian gardens, street scenes, and seascapes. A small overhang above them has clear plastic panels with small fluorescent lights behind them. There are also tables in the center of the floor similarly decked out with the plastic covered tablecloths and another room in the back. The floor is light and dark tile and the ceiling is the kind of tile you often see in basement recreation rooms.

As I said, this is an old neighborhood place and you can see by the way Louie interacts with the customers that he must know them all, or will before their visit is over. A real classic Brooklyn Italian restaurant and well worth the visit if you want something a bit more authentic than the newer places over on Smith Street.

I had a Brooklyn I.P.A., straight from the bottle. Louie was drinking a Manhattan Special Espresso Coffee Soda.

769) Blue Star



Up the street at 254 Court Street and right next to American Beer Distributing Company, one of Bar Man’s favorite places to shop for beer and where I picked up some Aecht Ochlenferla Rauchbier (Original Schlenkerla Smokebeer) for the weekend, is this seafood restaurant and bar. It is fairly new and has, well, a somewhat eclectic décor. You can tell it is a seafood place by the mounted plastic fish mounted on the overhang above the wall opposite the bar and the old harpoon hanging on the wall. On the wall up front is another mounted fish and a wood silhouette of the hull of a boat complete with portholes. On the other hand, there is a large space themed painting with what looks like planets and shooting stars on a white speckled black background behind the bar. At one end of the bar is a display of crab legs and oysters below a fishmonger type scale hanging from the ceiling while on the other end of the bar is an old wooden spinning wheel. Below the over hang opposite the bar are large round planet-looking wall hangings with more shooting stars. And some of the mounted fish wear straw hats for some reason.

The bar hass a light grey shiny plastic top with a light and dark turquoise mosaic front. The foot rest is light sea-foam green blocks. The seats are chromed diner style stools with turquoise seats. There is a line of turquoise benches opposite the bar with tables and chromed chairs with matching turquoise seats in front of them. The walls are bright turquoise above blue and white mosaic that matches the front of the bar. Up front is another turquoise bench with the same table and chair setup and five small tables with a couple of chairs each.

The setup behind the bar is fairly simple, just shelves and tiered shelves of liquor and there are old fashioned looking inverted helmet shaped white glass lights hanging from the ceiling. Kind of a funky looking place but neat in its own way. They have live music a couple of nights a week and $1 beers to go with your oysters. A small outside seating area as well.

I had an East India Pale Ale.

770 Brooklyn Social



Over at 335 Smith Street is this former prohibition era speakeasy and subsequent Italian social club that doesn’t look like it has changed much over the years. Narrow and dark and easy to walk by. Dark wood paneling lines the bottom half of the walls with yellowish cream colored plaster above. A few benches with black seats are tucked into three corners and black round tables with a single wooden chair each sit in front of two of them. Old photos of what looks like former club members adorn the walls and there are a few trophies circa 1970’s in some small shelves.

The bar is a nice dark wood and has a dark wood footrest. There are chromed bar stools with black seats. Old fashiioned fat disk shaped white glass lights hang above the bar. They make some classic, and maybe not so classic, cocktails here and use fresh ingredients. In fact a glass filled with fresh rosemary sat in front of me and its smell permeated my immediate area. Kind of weird, the place looked like I should be smelling of stale cigarette smoke. They use the rosemary in a drink called an Almalfi (don’t ask).

The ceiling is red hammered tin and the floor is plain tan linoleum. There is a pool table in a small back room whose walls are covered with black and white photos of boxers. There is a small outdoor area with benches beyond that.

The bar back sports a large distressed mirror with an old looking wooden frame with chipped paint. Below that are tiered shelves for the liquor that sit atop an old set of wooden shelves holding glasses. On each side of the mirror are two small semi-circular wooden shelves mounted on the wall holding a couple of bottles and above the mirror is a large old clock. There is also an old faded pea-soup green refrigerator back there.

I had a Brooklyn made with straight rye whiskey, orange brandy, and a dash of bitters. It was a bit sweeter than I expected it to be, but not bad at all.

A nice little neighborhood jaunt with three places visited bringing my total for the year to 770 and leaving 230 to go. There does seem to be a light at the end of this tunnel.

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