Minnesotan 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.

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  1. Kinda disappointed with the review. I usually go to Mugs Ale on Bedford Ave as it has a nice atmosphere, beer and great people working there. However, I wanted to branch out a bit and see what else is out there. I been to Barcade; great beer selection but the way they clean their glasses is SOOO unsanitary (you taste a hint of dish soap with your pale ale). I was going to try Lake Street but the review didn’t seem to appealing. Any suggestions for a local watering hole with great people, great beer and nice atmosphere?!?

    1. I like Habitat, which unfortunately stopped offering weekly wing/burger specials, but the bartenders and owners are great. Oak and Iron is good if you don’t want food. I take plenty of dates to the Richardson because it’s semi-fancy but still approachable.

  2. Here’s the deal, I agree with you that some of the bars that border Williamsburg/Greenpoint have started becoming a little less than appealing places to hangout BUT that is not the truth of Lake Street.It has a very unpretentious vibe and I am super happy that it’s around. Plus, the bathrooms make the place, just saying.

  3. I have to agree with the comment regarding The Clash. Any decent writer knows his/her audience and I have a hard time believing that readers of Greenpointers have no clue who The Clash were—especially since they are far from obscure and have received mainstream airplay for the last thirty years. This may also explain why your writer received the less than warm welcoming when she arrived at the bar. That being said—I dig Lake Street. The atmosphere is far removed from the pretentious that Manhattan Inn, Enid’s and No Name Bar cultivate.

  4. Oh shucks, guys. The bar is supposedly Midwestern themed, which is why I commented on The Clash being well, not from Minnesota. I know y’all know better.

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