A modern-day pioneer of New York City’s Ale Trail, and an undeniable influence to all craft-beer bars that have followed its seminal hoofsteps since arriving in 2009, The Pony Bar has a new sibling, neighboring its original location in Hell’s Kitchen: Kiabacca, opening today, specializing in “serious beer and brick oven pizza.”
The space at 639 10th Avenue was originally available before Dan McLaughlin and Pat Hughes opened a second My Little Pony Bar on the Upper East Side in 2012, but its claustrophobic layout, the final vestige of its previous tenant (a record store), was a major meh. After the building’s landlord (the same as Pony 1.0’s) presented a renovated, airier version ideal for a brew-and-chew establishment, however, the partners pounced on it. “I knew a sports bar or craft beer bar was bound to move in, and either way, I knew it would cannibalize us. Best it be us doing the cannibalizing,” McLaughlin says.
Kiabacca hopes to attract its sister-and-neighbor’s diehard beeronauts, and everyone else, with the allure of Neopolitan-style pizza. The nascent, pun-packed menu features 14 signature discs (a build-your-own option is also available), including Let’s Talk Dirty In Hawaiian, dressed with capicola, pineapple, crushed tomatoes, and roasted red peppers.
I initially assumed the name referred to an Italian relative of Chewbacca’s, or signified a Canadian offshoot of Panera was attempting to expand internationally, but Kiabacca is actually an exotic wood indigenous to the rain forest of St. Croix. There was none used to design the handsome room, but the offbeat dècor—concert posters of Phish framed by window shutters, painted portraits of John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln reimagined as modern-day bohemians, and homemade beer balls (a now-extinct, keg-like globe once sold by breweries such as Hudepohl and F.X. Matt) as lights—provide enough fodder for conversation.
A tattered American flag, predating Alaska and Hawaii, is affixed on the back wall and reinforces the all-domestic lineup of 20 draft beers and ciders alongside six wines and two cocktails (no bottles or cans). While no Pony-style electronic menu touts this beer-heavy lineup, Kiabacca’s pricing policy is similar to the thoroughbred’s: all pours are $6.50, served, depending on alcohol content, in nine or sixteen-ounce glasses branded with its logo, a purple cannabis leaf.
According to McLaughlin, the focus for liquids will be “low-alcohol IPAs, saisons, ciders, easy-drinking stuff.” The inaugural lineup is here and, beer-wise, features Lagunitas, Other Half, Allagash, and a proprietary brew, Neck Tattoo Session Red, made by Barrier on Long Island.
An unfiltered, single-hopped red ale showcasing Centennial hops, Neck Tattoo was inspired by a beer McLaughlin brewed with Sixpoint for his wedding in 2010. Craig Frymark and Evan Klein, co-owners of Barrier, and Sean Redmond, one of its brewers, all started their beercareers at the Red Hook facility.
Any patron to order takeout and wait at Kiabacca’s bar will receive a complimentary five-ounce nip of Neck Tattoo, which, along with the other 19 drafts, are also available to-go in 64-ounce growlers.
Kiabaccca opens today at 3:00 p.m.
Photos by Jane Bruce.