Bringing the Change to Williamsburg

It was a wondrous day. The first day I really had the ability to walk the dog proper and smell the roses, which are stinking up the whole hood. As regular readers know, I got me some food poisoning at my regular Chinatown haunt last Monday and only came up for air Friday. With new vigor and without six pounds of me, Amanda and I strolled with Lulu towards the newish hotel King & Grove in Williamsburg. It surely is becoming the talk of the town, said I realizing that never before had I felt like I wasn’t living in New York anymore. Brooklyn/Manhattan really has become a tale of two cities, and the differences are becoming more and more profound as every nook and cranny of my hipster heaven is developed into stardust. Sure, there are Duane Reades and other chain store massacres popping up, but they are merely flea collars—annoying necessities to keep the dog moving. I still go into Manhattan every day but I am starting to rethink that.

I’m new to Brooklyn, having only been living and playing here for a couple of years. My crew are 10-years deep and they know others deeper. They pooh- pooh us "Johnny Come Latelys" and talk of the real art scene that’s becoming harder to find. Amanda points out all the strollers and kids rolling around. Her cutesie theory is they are a result of all those good parties and spring picnics in McCarren Park of yore. It’s only going to get worse now that the HBO hit Girls is screaming lust and lattes to the world. In the last few years, the invasion of frat boys and their sorority sisters has irked the deep hipsters, but they haven’t seen anything yet. With construction trying to keep up and rents still a bit better than Manhattan, Williamsburg is changing—lets say evolving—to meet its destiny. This isn’t anything profound or new, just a rant on a Monday morning from a sick old fool who can’t wait to see what happens next week on Girls (and don’t get me started on Game of Thrones).

This Saturday I went to see the Dirty Pearls at the Gramercy Theatre. It’s the second show I’ve caught there. I caught Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg a while back. It is that small rock theater some have been pining for. It has a big enough/small enough feel to it, great sightlines and sound, seating for those of us who need to do that, and a couple of adequate bars. With Hiro in the history books and Don Hill’s a nostalgic memory, this is the right spot for Nur Khan and his ilk to put on the right show for the right crowd. On the Dirty Pearls bill were Hussle Club, who are very much a part of the mayhem that I am part of Thursdays at Hotel Chantelle. "Hussle-ers" Carol Shark and Prince Terrence are two of the four DJs in the Basement along with Michael Cavadias and Miss Guy. Breedlove and Starkiller were also on the big bill. The Dirty Pearls are a buzz band poised to break out big in the metal rock universe. This show was completely sold-out, unlike most of the crowd.

I walked over Beauty Bar to say hey to Michael Tee who has been their Saturday night regular for three years. The place was pumping with a nice crowd, which had been pumping Tequilla and Mexican beer in themselves since…early, maybe years. I forgot it was Cinco de Mayo, which has potential to be as annoying as St. Patrick’s Day. I made for the curb and walked into the Hole Gallery’s pop up restaurant Hole Foods at 231 2nd Avenue at 14th Street.

"Artist Joe Grillo has completely transformed the restaurant into a multifaceted, experiential artwork. Executive chef Robert Rubba will be serving fancy comfort Italian in his customized Dearraindrop chef suit. For three months only!"

I arrived too late for dinner but in time to talk the talk with Paper mainstay Carlo McCormick and some familiar downtown players. The old meatball restaurant that existed just a minute ago was awash with color and colorful folk. Am I wrong, but knocking off the extremely successful Meatball Shop chain without understanding what made that work is…wrong and maybe plain dumb. Saturday was the first time I walked in to the place and I walk by  four times a week. I don’t really know the story of this location and this seemingly defunct or on its way to defuncting restaurant, but I do know the story with the Meatball Shop. Mike is my boy and he’s doing it right. I’m putting down pen…er closing the computer and hop, skip, and jumping over to Bedford Avenue for lunch.

Brugal Rum Throws Bash in Williamsburg, Hates Plastic Cups

This seems like a fun party for Brugal Rum. Glad I got here to King & Grove in Williamsburg before the sky opened up. It’s neat here at Upper Elm, the rooftop bar. The rain is lashing against the clear retractable roof, but there’s still light in the sky, giving the room a funky undersea effect. The DJ’s playing cool music. Here comes Daft Punk’s "Get Lucky." I’ll probably get sick of it at some point but for now I still like it. What’s that on the bar? It’s a clear box filled with red plastic party cups, the kind I used to drink cheap beer out of in college. It says "THE RUM THAT ISN’T FOR POURING INTO PLASTIC." I think I get it. Some people have only had rum the cheap way, with cloyingly sweet mixers. Brugal Especial Extra Dry rum is more refined, more sophisticated. It deserves to be served in proper glassware. Alright, let me try one of those cocktails they’re calling The Rivalry. Great, thank you. Hey, this glass feels lighter than usual. Wait a second, this isn’t a glass at all, it’s made out of plastic. What’s going on here? What am I supposed to think?

The party organizers probably didn’t realize that every rooftop bar in New York has to use plastic "glasses" these days in case some idiot chucks one over the railing. I’ve even had a martini in a plastic martini glass at Gansevoort Park Rooftop. Funny thing is they really don’t bother me, I kind of like them.

And Brugal’s point about plastic isn’t lost on me, just a little funny, considering every cocktail in this room is served in plastic. I’ve long felt that rum deserves more respect than it gets. Yes, a rum-and-Coke is a beautiful thing, but today’s best rums can stand on their own, and don’t need to hide in some sweet artificial neon-colored frankenpunch.

This Brugal right here can be sipped neat, or served on the rocks, or with a splash of club soda. It has that nice body that comes from the sugarcane it’s made with (well, the molasses that comes from the sugarcane), but it’s drier than most rums. I like that.

The older I get, the less I want sweet drinks. But I still like a good party, and this Rivalry I’m drinking is tasty. It’s the creation of bartender Danny Neff of Boulton & Watt, and has Brugal Extra Dry rum, apricot brandy, mango puree, lemon juice, tonic, and an orange twist. It’s not not sweet, but it’s definitely not one of those tooth-cracking sugar blasts that they serve–in plastic cups–at cheap beach resorts. It’s balanced. It’s grown-up. And it’s fun. 

Okay, Brugal, I’ll tease you about your wobbly stance on plastic cups, but you make a fine rum. ¡Salud!

Plastic Glass


[Related: BlackBook New York Guide; Listings for King & Grove Williamsburg, Boulton & Watt; More by Victor Ozols; Follow me on Twitter]