Williamsburg is a neighborhood of little architectural beauty; most streets are lined with a motley mixture of slapdash, recently constructed condos; forgettable, vinyl-sided two-story homes; and otherwise nondescript dwellings. Sure, there’s the occasional impressive relic of Williamsburg’s industrial past, and a few blocks with rows of graceful brick townhouses, but Brooklyn Heights it isn’t.
And yet, on any casual stroll through Williamsburg, the astute observer can’t help but notice that some of the buildings share one very specific and strikingly lovely feature: ornate metalwork gracing their exteriors, most often in the form of gates and fences. Places like Whisk, Iona, and Trash Bar boast swoops and scrolls of metal, rising and falling, sometimes taking on recognizable forms. All of this metalwork is the work of Kristina Kozak, a longtime Williamsburg resident and business-owner whose latest project is Billet and Bellows, a bar on Grand Street.
The bar itself shows Kozak’s artistry. Beautiful metal gates welcome customers in, and pretty much everything inside—from the sinuous green marble bar to the stools on which customers perch—is the handiwork of Kozak. Though not a bartender by trade (Kozak has owned this space for years now, but she used to run a quirky home goods store in the bar’s stead), Kozak felt that she knew what her neighborhood needed and set out to create an accessible, affordable bar that anyone could feel comfortable in.
Once at the bar, be sure to try a summery pisco sour or rosemary-infused greyhound, and nibble—or devour—a gooey-with-gruyère grilled cheese that tastes as decadent as it does delicious. And because Kozak has long excelled at creating beautiful things that also fulfill a necessary purpose (those gorgeous metal grates often do double duty as decoration and security), there seems little doubt that Billet and Bellows will soon reflect the duality of Kozak’s designs: attractive, yes, and lovely to look at, but also serving a distinct need. ♦