Is It Too Early to Say We’ve Found the Bar of the Year?

Photos by Jane Bruce
Photos by Jane Bruce

Is it a bit premature to call Fawkner—which opened on Smith Street just this last weekend—Brooklyn’s bar of the year? Probably. But if there’s a safe pair of horses to bet on in the industry, it’s owners Jim Carden and Kevin Avanzato, the duo behind seminal spots like The Bell House, Union Hall, and Floyd NY.

As the aforementioned establishments duly attest, Carden and Avanzato are hardly in the habit of outfitting one-dimensional spaces with stools and draft lines and calling it a day—instead, their bars are bacchanalias of bocce ball and beer cheese, double as music venues and comedy clubs, and serve as home base for spoken word nights, burlesque troupes, and live radio broadcasts of game shows. Divided into three distinct districts, the 2,300-square-foot Fawkner (loosely inspired by the ancient practice of falconry, 1940s travel advertisements, and various wings of the American Museum of Natural History) is cut from the same au courant cloth—a place where one can seamlessly transition from day into night, simply by migrating from room to room.

Flanked by a series of floor-to-ceiling windows, the first section is the sunniest by far (despite being presided over by a grim-faced, taxidermied mountain goat), decked out with spacious wooden tables serving as a siren call to freelancers, tapping on laptops between swallows of Dr. Brown’s soda and bites of gravy-doused poutine. Right down the hallway, a succession of cloistered booths are ideal for clandestine conversations, or perhaps just covert sandwich eating—devised by consulting chef Adam Shepard (of former Smith Street darling, Lunetta), it’s impossible to dissect sausages topped with frites and sriracha, or fried chicken piled with onion strings, corn pudding, maple syrup dip and chow-chow (i.e, a Southern dinner on a sesame roll), with a modicum of decency.

It all gives way to a turn-of-the-century-gentleman’s-club-esque area in back (à la Union Hall), suitable for ascot-wearing, mustache-twirling and cognac-sipping, whilst ensconced in velveteen loveseats or wing-backed chairs, and thumbing through tattered volumes of Dickens under the menacing gaze of black-eyed children in gilded frames. Or what have you. A quartet of cocktails is equally austere, comprising smoky, amber-tinted potions, focused on spirits like brandy and rye; clearly, Avanzato and Carden know better than go toe to toe with The Clover Club. Instead, they’ve doubled-down on what they do best—creating multi-use spaces with a fair amount of substance and a whole lot more of style—further cementing their considerable hold on South Brooklyn’s estimable bar scene.

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191 Smith Street, Carroll Gardens


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