There’s a new watering hole in town aiming to become your go-to local drink and date spot. Back in late August, Femme Fontaine opened at 245 S 1 St. with a starkly different look compared to the space’s previous tenant, Wilson Lives!.
Founded and designed by artist and experienced restaurant/bar manager Vané Russo, the aesthetic of Femme Fontaine is a callback to her Haitian roots. All of the interior and exterior design — including the mural at the entrance and wallpaper patterns — has been meticulously planned, curated, and created by Russo herself (throughout a process that started back in May) to create a special, inclusive cultural experience before even approaching the bar.
“I started with one picture to focus on, this really old photo from Cuba,” Russo reminisced. “I think roots are important. Even if it’s not packed, there’s a vibe.”
And vibe there is. The location — which was chosen by Russo due to her particular fondness and familiarity with the culture of Williamsburg closer to the JMZ line than the L (she used to live on S 5 St.) — definitely falls into “hidden gem” category, neighboring a salon and C Town Supermarket with little else on the stretch of block (East River Pilates is a handful of doors down), but Russo is pleased with the local foot traffic and reactions from visitors, including comments on the warm, inviting nature of the space.
“We’re starting to build up a community of locals,” Russo said. “As a woman owner, I want people to come here and feel comfortable. I want it to be the neighborhood joint. I love having people in my home, and that’s the experience that makes a difference.”
In keeping with Russo’s vision of Femme Fontaine becoming a regular meetup spot for friends, cocktail and music programs help to keep the vibes going. Developed and crafted by Camila Monsalve, in-house cocktails employ modern classic flavors combined with Caribbean flair and fresh ingredients like homemade syrups and flower accents. I tried the Violet Femme, a refreshing, balanced, and floral blend of tequila blanco, housemade lavender syrup, creme de violette, and lime. And yes, it’s tinted purple.
The music program is a cultural melting pot with an emphasis on Caribbean, Latin, Afrobeats, and Creole music with the occasional guest-DJ spot and dance party to keep energy flowing throughout the space (and into the backyard which I foresee being a big hit when the real feel isn’t 27 degrees, due in no small part to its hammock).
The bar also features a menu of drinking-friendly bites, including empanadas provided by The Empanada Project, tostones, and more. And starting on December 4, the plan is to partner with chefs on select Sundays for food and music popups with particular themes, the first being Southern cuisine and gospel music.
To check it out for yourself, happy hour starts at 6 p.m.