131 Atlantic Ave., nr. Clinton St., Brooklyn Heights 718-858-5810
Named after a beloved bar in the owner’s wife’s home state of Iowa, this neighborhood spot is modest Middle America meets cool Brooklyn Heights. Turn-of-the-last-century portraits and worn upholstery trim the libraryesque front corner, and the jukebox is equal parts honky-tonk and indie rock. A menu features housemade beer cheese, but you’re also allowed to BYO food, so you won’t catch flack if you come bearing cupcakes (unlike many snootier Manhattan spots). It’s an easy place to entertain—reservations for larger parties are accepted, an indoor boccie court serves as your token birthday “novelty recreation option,” and multiple subway lines nearby mean your friends can toast you at Brooklyn prices while steering clear of the bane of the borough—the G train.
Best Birthday Bar
So what exactly does “best” mean in a city with thousands of pizza joints, hundreds of celebrity masseuses, and museum-worthy concept shops on every corner? Well, in the case of this, our annual “Best of New York” roundup, there’s a heavy emphasis on what’s new or what has somehow remained virtually unheard of (until now, of course).