Its name portends a high school photo lab or a basement make-out kegger, but the Darkroom, popular with rocker-types, is a bright spot on the LES. Despite the ultralow ceiling and bunker-like stone walls, a new floor plan and some redecorating have made this basement bar far less claustrophobic than its predecessor. A pair of L-shaped bars bisect the cavernous box into two large rooms offering plenty of drinking space, and the low dark brown-leather banquettes are a welcome relief from the shoddy barstools and filthy sofas of many a neighborhood joint. Maybe it's the way a Knob Creek and soda catches the red light that lends Darkroom its charm, or maybe this feeling of warmth stems from a truly happy hour. Three months from now, neighborhood hipsters will bemoan the invasion by uptowners (and even sooner than that, the influx of NYU kids); until that develops, they can enjoy many happy hours, some DJ-led late, late nights, and, at the right angle, a light-saturated Red Stripe that lives up to its name.
Picnics with a view, roller-skating nostalgia, and a party for gay headbangers.