New Greenpoint Bar: Lake Street’s No BS Quenches

photo by Ciara CordascoMinnesotan musicians, including various members of Hold Steady, Spoon, and the Wanted, opened up a pour of home in July.

Lake Street Bar (706 Manhattan Ave) sits unassumingly at Norman and Manhattan Avenues in Greenpoint. Its window-front wouldn’t stand out to anyone visiting Brooklyn, though it’s something locals would notice with its bare-fisted lack of pretension. It’s a bar, no frills. And frankly, exactly what our sometimes congested neighborhood needs.

It’s a Sunday afternoon when I visit. All the bar flies look like they’ve spent the afternoon buzzing around Lake Street’s dozen taps. I explain that I’m here to cover the new-ish bar and ask the bartender which beers are the most popular. I’ve never spent time in the Midwest proper (does summer festival season in Chicago count?) so I looked forward to a back home brew akin to one in which Bob Stinson might marinate himself. The man behind the bar screws up his face in a way that instantly humiliates me—especially when he turned the question to the peanut gallery.

“Uh… what is a ‘most popular beer’ here?” He explains that he works only one shift a week there.

The hyena pack erupts into poorly stifled scoffs, grinning into their $4 pints. “Real gonzo journalism, getting right in there,” one dude offers when I lay bills on the wet counter.

I take my (New York) Captain Lawrence Kolsch—the bartender’s personal recommendation since no consensus surfaced for the house favorite—and find a perch in the sunny window. The brew is light and refreshing on one of the year’s last hot spells. I wait for my photographer friend and take the joint in.

There are two very distinct groups of people drinking at Lake Street that afternoon: The Bar and Everyone Else. A lot of jersey knit, some jean and leather jackets, tattered slacks… and not an inch of splashy-patterned leggings or high heels. The Clash, an iconic British band, rages the sound system. I hoped for an all-afternoon ‘Mats fest, but, oh well.

Occasionally I feel the patrons’ or bartender’s eyes on me, waiting to see if I’d rejoin the big-brother-annoying-little-sister banter and keep chipping at the frosty Minnesota wall (frostier and more opaque than my pint’s modest head). I don’t, but that’s because I’m enjoying the bar’s other option: invisibility. A judgement-free high-top stool upon which one can plant and fade into the exposed brick wall.

The beer menu isn’t particularly Minnesotan—something I didn’t realize I expected before stepping past the threshold. The drafts that day hailed from Illinois, Colorado, Missouri. (Wikipedia tells me Minnesota’s State Drink is milk, so, take that as you will.) Lake Street’s snack offerings, however, smack of Upper Midwest: Old Dutch Traditional Potato Chips. Bags come at $1 and come in various flavors—although dill pickle is by far the most savory.

A buddy of mine who went to school in St. Paul says he finds solace among the various Gopher State diaspora, together shouting along to Vikings game screened over the bar. It’s like Lake Street acts as a glowing beacon to attract Bread and Butter folk—and the rest of us. Those of us who want nothing more than a well-poured pint, a window seat and zero bullshit.

About Beca

Beca is fueled by shoegaze and vodka. She regularly contributes to Paste Magazine, VICE, Brooklyn Magazine and others. If you see her on the streets of Greenpoint, hand her anything with guacamole and she might kiss you on the mouth.