Irene’s Pub is the most low-key of neighborhood bars. Even for Greenpoint’s Manhattan Avenue, an area that tends to approach desolation just past midnight, Irene’s takes the cake in its void of any raucous behavior or annoying crowds. Last Thursday, the only people in the place were a quiet Italian man drinking a glass of red wine at one end of the bar and two old guys arguing in Polish at the other. At some point one of the pair decided to spice things up by throwing some Polish techno on the jukebox. The Italian left. This instance aside, no matter when you go, you will likely be the youngest by a couple of decades and speak more English than anyone in the joint. Though this could sound boring to some, it’s perfect for few, a quiet place to sit, drink, and let the time pass.
From the outside, the bar is so nondescript you could easily live on the block and never notice it. The signless stonework corner of Manhattan and Nassau is dark, aside from the soft glow of the Pabst signs in the windows with house plants lining the sills. A VFW/Legion hall vibe emits from the door that’s always open, revealing Irene’s perpetual emptiness. Inside, the beautiful worn mahogany bar stretches down the left side of the space to the back area’s dusty collection of inoperative game machines. The rest of the small, wooden room is comprised of low black tables and chairs clustered about.
The walls are adorned with an appropriate amount of memorabilia, none of the corny signs or ironic objects that seem to plague most cheap bars. But, Irene’s isn’t that kind of bar anyway. It’s not going for anything at all, a little like drinking a Polish beer at your single aging aunt’s house. The behind-the-bar flare consists of fake colored tulips in ceramic vases sitting amongst the liquor bottles, white icicle lights hanging over them reflecting in the mirrors, and Magnums of champagne lining above them. A couple of little American flags scattered here and there, and that’s about it. Irene’s maintains her quiet dignity. Even the shots come with coasters.
The prices are reasonable. Yuengling and well shot for $6, PBR and well shot for $5, Sol for $4 and, oddly, $1 jello shots. It’s fittingly cash-only, and if no one is there will close without warning. The best times to go are in the evening or just after midnight. Go alone or with one friend, and treat the bar, the regulars, and Irene, who’s usually bartending, with the respect they deserve if you don’t want to get vibed back into the street.