The headlines said: “The Palace Café in Greenpoint is closing its doors on Saturday September 3rd after eighty-three years,” but whoever wrote those headlines was certainly no Greenpointer. Although a sign on the side awning advertised the restaurant as the Palace Café (206 Nassau Avenue), locals never called it that. To a generation of born-and-bred Greenpointers the place was always known as Goodman’s on Winthrop Park—which is actually the native Greenpointers’ name for McGolrick Park.
The bar, located on the corner of Nassau Avenue and Russell Street has been run since the fifties by the Irish-American Curtin family who did not need advertising. There was never a sign on the door announcing the name of the bar, but then again the bar was so well known amongst all Greenpointers that the bar didn’t have to advertise.
The back room for decades hosted the occasions that defined Greenpointers lives: birthdays, christenings, confirmations, funeral dinners and many more parties were held in the spacious dining hall next to the bar. Even until the 1980s many women in Greenpoint did not drink at the bar; girls nights out took place in the back room where the ladies shared laughs and secrets with a pitcher of beer.
There are legions of old-school Greenpointers who had their first drink in the bar at age 18 (New York used to have an eighteen-year-old drinking age until the early 80’s) and legions of others who lied about being eighteen because they were even younger, but wanted a drink.
The bar smacked of faded glory and drinking sessions of yore. The Palace had character and characters in abundance. The horseshoe shaped bar, massive bar back, the ramshackle mix-n-match chairs and Tudor style heavy timbered beams gave it a distinct old Brooklyn feel. The jukebox blasted out old-time rock-n-roll classics that gave the bar patrons the feeling of being transported in a time warp. The place was in many ways the classic local dive bar: a beer and shot place where a Jackie Gleason or Archie Bunker could have felt at home. The booze was cheap and the colorful neighborhood characters were both earthy and friendly. It was a no-nonsense, down-to-earth neighborhood joint and if pretentious people didn’t like it, then they were told in no uncertain terms where the doors were.
People have long loved the bar because there’s a timeless old-school Brooklyn ambiance to the place. Its very presence seemed to defy hipsterism and nouveau chic. The place was still an old-time Irish-American gin mill, even after Greenpoint had long since turned Polish.
Time seems to have stood still there, but that was just an illusion. The owner, Bill Curtin, passed away and his widow Geraldine grew tired of running the place. She wanted to retire. Her sons also wanted to do different things with their lives, so September 3rd will be the bar’s final day, although there will be a big farewell party on September 24th. A lot of Greenpointers will show up to have a final drink at a place that has been part of the fabric of their lives for years. Hurry there if you want to catch a drink at one of the most unique bars in Brooklyn and a Greenpoint icon.
Palace Cafe (Goodman’s) | 206 Nassau Avenue