Saturday, July 5, 2008

Barfly's Beat: A Jewel in the Crown (Heights)

by Fredo

Crown Heights is Brooklyn. It is a multi racial neighborhood which is in the midst of economic and cultutral transition. When tensions flare they make national news but the neighborhood feel of the place is unmistakable. The turn of the century brownstones, the stretches of Eastern Parkway reminiscent of Parisian boulevards, the Hasidic temples, the East Indian churches, and the eastwardly expanding "gentrification" make for a vibrant mosiac. Clearly there must be a place to get a drink in a ward this diverse!

So on the Fourth of July, we decided to investigate the new beer garden called Franklin Park on the border of Crown Heights. The stop was part of a marathon day which began at Egg in Williamsburg for biscuits and gravy and Eggs Rothko, then a pop in at the Murakami exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, and a few more BBQs before trying to make it to New Galapagos Art Space opening in DUMBO.

After spending an hour viewing the "Andy Warhol" of Japan's 3-D Anime,pop murals, and forcibly removing a Murakami designed Louis Vuitton bag from the clutches of the female members of our party, we needed a break. Preferably one that included booze and open air. Well I had heard about a new beer garden off Franklin Avenue and remembered that we were in the vicinity. So we hotfooted the three blocks down from the museum. On the way we passed a Reggae DJ blasting his beats for the entire block, signs warning against "loitering and dealing", the S Train snaking along forgotten tracks, and a sign that offered LOVE at 797-9100.

Franklin Park is more like a refurbished garage with a long drive way that has been converted into an outdoor drinking area filled with long picnic tables. Also unlike the German style gardens in Astoria and Williamsburg, this haus is not trying to transport you to Prague or Munich, it is strictly Brooklyn. Beyond the "garden" area is a cozy little bar whose base is covered in black and white tile and complimented with a wall length wrap around banquette and a half dozen cocktail tables. Above the banquettes were scrapbook like murals as well as a black and white scene of a vintage soccer game. More important than the decor, the bar is stocked with an excellent selection of whiskey, bourbon, rye, and even gin!

"Welcome guys, it's Happy Hour!"

The bartender named Sean greeted us with the good news and I checked my watch. It was barely 2pm, but I wasn't complaining. The lads ordered a few of the 12 micro brews on tap which included several local beers, while the gals opted for the Rum Rickey which Sean was making from scratch. I liked that. The owner was there too, he is also a partner of the live music venue Southpaw in Park Slope but this was a completely different scene. FP is the kind of place you can relax outside reading the paper on a Sunday afternoon or get "loose" at the bar on a Wednesday night. But Sean keeps it under control but in a mellow way (or so he says).

We always stay for three drinks and by the time I was "sampling" Bulldog Gin, it was time for us to hit the next spot - a BBQ on Atlantic & Hoyt where rumor had it there would be scallops wrapped in prosciutto. As we left, the joint was beginning to fill up with an eclectic crowd. Luckily the summer is very long and a visit to Crown Heights's lounging jewel is now on the agenda.

Franklin Park
618 St. Johns Place btwn Franklin Ave. & Classon Ave.
Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
Telephone: 718-975-0196

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