Brooklyn bars have rightly developed a reputation as hipster hangouts. It’s difficult to find a watering hole in King’s county that isn’t overrun by man buns, electro-pop artists, craft kombucha makers and urban homesteaders. But take a closer look through that vape cloud and you’ll discover a few bars that don’t require you have an ironic neck tattoo to enter. Here, 11 Brooklyn bars where you can avoid the hipster crowds.
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Frank’s Cocktail Lounge
Clinton Hill Frank’s is a family operation, helmed by the eponymous Frank Perkins and his sons. The place dates back over 40 years, to when it sat on a row of Fulton Street known as “The Strip,” where workers from the Brooklyn Navy Yard could find cheap thrills both legal and illicit. Frank’s was a classy gem in the rough back then, but now it sticks out for its straightforward quality. The music has diversified into hip-hop, house and R&B lately, but the bar still offers the occasional live jazz session, the same regulars show up decades on, and the stucco ceiling above the bar is as endearing as ever.
Prospect Heights This sports bar dedicated to international soccer brings in a pretty diverse crowd of footballers from around the globe. On English game days, expect to find the bar crowded with fans drinking imported beers at 9:30 a.m. If you show up later, try the jalapeño mac ‘n’ cheese, the perfect pub food for when that lengthy match heads into overtime.
The fact that Mugs has remained (nearly) hipster-free right smack dab in the middle of the hipster enclave of Williamsburg is nothing short of a miracle. While “beer nerd” can easily be a euphemism for a certain kind of hipster, Mugs’s beer nerds are the geeky, honest sort, who come daily for the bar’s extensive selection and congregate at bimonthly homebrewers meetings. They gather en masse at the bar’s yearly Split Thy Brooklyn Skull Barleywine Festival (now in its eighth year), trading bottles, swag and extremely opinionated reviews.
Three Jolly Pigeons
Bay Ridge Travel far enough south on the R train and you’ll find yourself wonderfully bereft of hipster tagalongs. This century-old Bay Ridge staple still maintains some of its early 20th-century pub roots, like the stained glass partition that once separated the menfolk from lady drinkers. Classic rock is the usual soundtrack, except for Friday night karaoke, and the bar’s Yelp page recounts a number of geeky gatherings, from a weekly D&D club to a Star Wars art show.
Manhattan Beach With a location in the East Village, in addition to Sheepshead Bay and Manhattan Beach, this Franco-Russian hybrid cafe-bar-restaurant features an extensive menu of infused vodkas and Russian-French bistro mashups like stroganoff crepes. While the annoying set is distracted by the easily accessible Manhattan location, you can escape to the South Brooklyn locations, packed with Russian clientele and servers. Walls are decorated with old casks and tiled mirrors, while the ceiling is tin. Settle in with a carafe of horseradish-infused vodka and take in some live music on the weekend.
Williamsburg From the overly aggressive security outside, to the machismo flying around inside, this is exactly the kind of Midtown bar you might leave Manhattan to avoid—but if you’re bummed by the wait for Brooklyn Brewery nearby, you could do worse than a whiskey and a game of skeeball here.
Park Slope As the name implies, you can drink scotch here (or other worldly whiskies), but you can also play shuffleboard or pool with a microbrew in hand, or linger over a $6 Boilermaker while you choose a forgotten board game from the ‘80s from the tumbling stack. Solid wings and their well-loved “Irish nachos” (French fries loaded with the usual nacho fixins) will supply the fuel as you waste away a Saturday in front of the bar TVs. The place can get crowded and bro-y, but don’t let that deter you from the solid food and drinks.
Prospect Heights Washington Commons is proof that hipsters are nothing but a phase for some bars. The bar was once overrun by the hipster set, but it has since regained some sense of normalcy, as the hipsters retreated to their speakeasy taquerias and silent discos. The nondescript exterior of this Prospect Heights bar belies the wonders within: chill vibes, a decent tap selection and a killer backyard. The bar even has a pretty liberal BYO-noms policy on the patio, so don’t be surprised to see people camped out with take-out containers in the summertime.
Turkey’s Nest Tavern
Williamsburg Just down the street from Mugs Alehouse, you’ll find this local’s hang still fighting the good fight against the tide of hipsterdom. Before DeBlasio instituted a city-wide styrofoam ban, the bar was known for its massive $7 Margaritas, served in the eco-unfriendly to-go drinkware, making the bar popular among Williamsburg’s latest inhabitants. While the hipsters certainly do still swamp the place in the early evening, they tend to clear out after midnight (when, we assume, their carriages turn back into artisanal pumpkin beer), so stick around long enough and you’ll find yourself among locals marking up lotto tickets and playing pool.
Rhythm & Booze
Windsor Terrace Ask a hipster to point out Windsor Terrace on a map and you’ll (hopefully) be met with a blank stare. The residential neighborhood, tucked like a baby bird beneath Prospect Park’s protective wing, is home to this classic local hang. The bar serves great wings, along with a full menu of pub classics. There are TVs. There are regular people. What more could you want?
Gowanus Putting your bar on a quiet sidestreet used to guarantee undisturbed chill vibes, but in the internet age that’s rarely the case. This hideaway off 4th Avenue has somehow maintained its secret mix of classic cocktails, killer grilled cheese, rotating taps and a great jukebox. There’s barebones outdoor seating, but the sparsely decorated inside won’t submerge you in kitsch either.