Back in August, Bar Beau closed after five years of coffee, cocktails, and shareable plates. And a mere handful of months — and loads of elbow grease — later, Mr. Melo has opened in the 61 Withers Street space as an approachable, accessible listening-lounge-and-bar hybrid.
Last Friday, following a preview night for family and friends, Mr. Melo opened its doors to usher in a new era of specially crafted drinks, comforting small bites, and, most importantly, good music. While the bones of the original location remain, it has been redesigned in a way that co-owners (and Greenpoint service industry veterans) Nikolas Vagenas and Nate Ulsh describe as “intentionally unintentional.”
But the care taken is evident. Right when you walk in, you’re greeted by a front bar area stocked for the basics, complete with overflow seating designed for quiet, comfortable conversation, before opening up into the back room housing multiple vintage speakers, an all-vinyl DJ booth, and creative menu. (And if “multiple speakers” and the nearby BQE sounds like a recipe for disaster, have no fear — the team spent a lot of time soundproofing the space to make sure nothing gets in or out.)
“We want people to feel like they’re taken care of from the moment they walk in the door,” Vagenas said. “We want people to enjoy themselves in the space.”
Part of that hospitality stems from Vagenas’ and Ulsh’s working relationship. Both have been working in the neighborhood for a collective 20 years, including stints at Bar Meridian, where they decided to go into business together, and Cafe Mogador, which influenced their food menu.
“It’s important to have sustenance at any bar,” Vagenas commented about their small bites, which include specialty drunk Greek fries, a pickle plate, crispy eggplant sando, and more.
But the real star of the menu is the cocktails, particularly the compost cocktails — a selection of drinks utilizing kitchen byproducts in a new, creative way, like smoked eggplant skins infused in tequila and leftover brine from whipped feta dip featured in a martini. Mr. Melo also has beer and shot specials, draft cocktails (including a non-alcoholic tamarind maté cooler), and other specialty cocktails including Tony’s Trinidad Tai, created in memory of a beloved and recently deceased Madre Mezcal rep who loved tropical drinks.
And not to be outdone is the aforementioned music program. The bar and DJ booth are designed for ease of movement and community building in equal measure, including an impromptu dance floor near the subwoofer and lounge space near the turntables where patrons can interact with the whoever’s spinning that night.
“I want interaction,” Ulsh said. “We’re not gatekeepers, we want everyone to feel comfortable.”
That lack of gatekeeping doesn’t just come to the music selection. Ulsh and Vagenas have taken care to make this feel like a community affair, from going business-to-business and door-to-door to solicit signatures to present to the community board to future plans for neighborhood-centric nights, collaborations with local businesses and record shops, and beyond.
Mr. Melo is open from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with live DJs Wednesday through Saturday. The bar is also available for private parties and large reservations. See more information here.