Before descending downstairs into the basement space thatis Bar Below, you must first enter the tasty pan-Asian restaurant Faanand get through a bouncer who is strict about the “no athletic gear”policy. From the looks of the futuristic, funky and evenforeign-looking layout (the bathroom doors are marked with a “W.C.”),you wouldn’t imagine there’s been a past problem with brawls.It’s working out nicely—there’s a mixed crowd ofhip-hoppers, B & T’ers (before they go out clubbing), and even somelocal young professional types sprinkled in. The long paisley-shapedpeninsula of a bar divides the space into two different zones—in thefront, a dual-leveled, white-tiled curvy seating area looks like asauna, in the back it’s dark and loungy with people relaxing to the music. Once the DJ takes to the turntables, though, the “no dancing”sign, which already hangs upside down, seems even more futile.Attentive bartenders serve up the Kool Aid (vodka, peach schnapps,cranberry juice and amaretto, $6) and the dessert-like Snickers Martini ($7), which indeed satisfies (although it tastes more like a Milky Way).
• 209 Smith St., at Baltic St.; 718-694-2277; Fri-Sat, 7 p.m.-4 a.m.
Locals immediately took to the converted Sicilianmen-only club that retains the look and feel of an old-time hangout(although they’ve relaxed the gender requirement). The word got out,and now Brooklyn Social draws previously skeptical but now curiousManhattanites who are finally ready to see what the fuss across theEast River is all about. With good reason, too: The attention paid tothe $7 cocktails, such as the real ginger used in Matt’s Ginger OldFashioned, and the fresh rosemary and tangerine slices in thevodka-based Riposto, isn’t lost on the discerning drinker. Theold-time Brooklyn photos hanging on the walls and a beat up pool table inthe back room help give off the old school Kings County feel. Addtheir hot pressed sandwiches ($6), made from ingredients bought fromthe neighborhood’s Italian food stores, and the ghosts of Paulie, Tonyand Vincente come alive. But they didn’t listen to the Fela, Clash andreggae tunes found on the jukebox.
• 335 Smith St., between President and Carroll Sts.; 718-858-7758;Mon-Thu, 6 p.m.-2 a.m.; Fri-Sat, 6 p.m.-4 a.m.; Sun, 5 p.m.-2 a.m.
With no sign in front, Boat is sometimes referred to as “thered bar” or “the phone bar” because of the pay phone right outside.Once inside, the award-winning jukebox cranks out a steady stream ofindie rock, and the red walls and light provide a divey feel althoughit’s not quite dirty enough to fully earn that distinction (if the bathrooms get any worse, though, it will). A stack of board games,including Battleship and Yahtzee, get much play, impromptu tournamentstake place on the puck-sliding bowling game and although the antiquepinball machine doesn’t always work, it looks cool. The lively beerand whiskey crowd appreciates the cheap beverages, especially duringhappy hour (5 p.m.-8 p.m. daily), when drafts, bottles and rail drinks are threedollars, making it easy to become a regular here. Irish Car Bombs(mostly filled pints of Guinness with a shot glass filled with Jamesonand Baileys dropped in, $8) are popular, but are as dangerous as the name suggests, so occasionally the bartenders have to put a ban on them. Because as the night progresses, Boat can really start rocking.
• 175 Smith St., between Warren and Wyckoff Sts.; 718-254-0607; Daily, 5p.m.-4 a.m.
Brooklyn’s most notorious tiki bar is small, but Zombie’sdrinks are tall and will get you wasted in a hurry. After a couple of$8 Gilligans (vodka, three types of rum and OJ) you’ll feel like you’ve beenwashed up on a deserted island.The walls are covered in bamboo and adorned with Polynesian masks andtrinkets, giving off a true hut-like feeling. Music ranges from Eminemto Simon and Garfunkel, but always manages to sound good, even if it’sJourney that’s on. People can often be found making out on the couchesin the back after meeting at the thriving single scene up atthe bar. The social $20 four-person Frozen Foursome margarita can be fun, along with the other sickly-sweet, oddly-colored drinks served with kitschy plastic stirrers. But if island cocktails aren’t your thing, PBRs are always available for $2 along with other reasonably priced beers.
• 261 Smith St., between Douglass and Degraw Sts.; 718-875-3433;Sun-Thu, 5:30 p.m.-4 a.m.; Fri-Sat, 5p.m.-4 a.m.
This place has a little bit of an identity crisis—it looksposh and exclusive but feels local. Mobster wannabes, gays, SmithStreet newbies and the real locals—the Italian-Americans who grew upin the neighborhood—all convene to have comfortable conversationsand relax in a friendly, no-attitude atmosphere. The selection of beers on tap isunimaginative but is offset by the variety of bottled beers available,along with $8 cocktails such as the “Bada Bing” Banana Split completewith whipped cream and cherry on top, and the Goddess, made withGodiva White Chocolate Liqueur and mysterious “special goddess dust.”Although it may not look it, Quench brings in a crowd thatpre-dates the boom probably more than any other bar on the SmithStreet strip.
• 282 Smith St., at Sackett St.; 718-875-1500; Daily, 5 p.m.-4 a.m.