BROOKLYN — In a city brimming with bars full of "mixologists" that fuss over "cocktail programs," it's important to remember the humble neighborhood bar.
For DNAinfo New York’s version of March Madness, we’ve chosen some of the Brooklyn's best to battle one another. So far we’ve asked readers to weigh in on their favorite neighborhood institutions, artisanal products and burgers.
Now the time has come to pick the borough’s best neighborhood bar.
We’ve chosen a selection of watering holes where locals gather for no-frills drinking. Each has its special charm, whether it's the late-night taco truck at Union Pool, the dancing at Mo's, or the tin ceilings at Casablanca Cocktail Lounge. Most of all, these spots offer relaxed vibes and a minimum of attitude so you can drink in peace.
In the Sweet 16-style match-ups below, choose your favorites from the best neighborhood bars in the Brooklyn neighborhoods we cover. Next week, the contestants will be cut down to eight, then four the following week, and so on until there's a winner in each category at the end of the month.
May the best neighborhood bar win!
Alibi — 242 Dekalb Ave. Alibi is the original Fort Greene dive bar. Located just below street level and without a sign in sight, this drinker's paradise is most often frequented by locals, old-timers and the occasional Pratt student. The bar, which locals say has been around for more than 40 years, has a pool table and a back deck. You can also catch "Jeopardy!" on the television nightly.
Berg'n — 899 Bergen St. This 9,000-square-foot beer hall, which opened last August, features food stalls from Ramen Burger and Mighty Quinn's BBQ, as well as a cafe bar. Brooklyn Flea also sets up shop in the building every Saturday. As a result, it has become a packed-every-night destination for local craft beer lovers, foodies and the coffee shop set.
Casablanca Cocktail Lounge — 300 Malcolm X Blvd. This bar remains a fixture in Bed-Stuy, catering to longtime locals and visitors since the 1940s. Original tin ceilings decorate the space, harkening back to the times when the bartender would signal the doorman to buzz open the gate doors. The spot has an old-time feel with a mixed crowd, along with DJs bumping tunes through the night.
Clover Club — 210 Smith St. Clover Club is known for its extensive selection of evening and brunch-time cocktails. There are also juleps and punches served in large glass bowls with ladles for sharing. The drinks hotspot also has a solid food menu, offering items like the lamb burger with goat cheese, fried oysters on the half shell and steak over toast.
The Commodore — 366 Metropolitan Ave. Come for the fried chicken and nachos, stay for the cheap beer and cocktails. The divey Williamsburg bar became known for its Southern-inspired bar food, but it's just as much a spot where locals come to hang out and have a drink.
The Emerson — 561 Myrtle Ave. This Clinton Hill bar is well-loved for its grand backyard where hordes of locals and Pratt students congregate in the warm months. It's the kind of neighborhood joint where you can find people reading at the bar, making out in the seating area or dancing wildly by the pool table.
The Gate — 321 Fifth Ave. With outdoor seating overlooking Fifth Avenue, The Gate has been a natural neighborhood hub in the heart of Park Slope since it opened in 1997. It won a special place in locals' hearts because of its long-standing policy allowing dogs, which came to end last fall after a dust-up with the Department of Health. Nonetheless, The Gate remains a go-to spot for thirsty locals.
Lavender Lake — 383 Carroll St. Perched on the edge of the city's most notorious polluted waterway, Lavender Lake got its name from a local nickname for the Gowanus Canal. The space is roomy enough to allow for impromptu DJ-led dance-offs in the front while others grab dinner in the back. The menu serves elevated bar food including steak and fried brussels sprouts. With ample outdoor seating, it's the perfect spot for hours of drinking on a summer day.
Mo's Fort Greene — 80 Lafayette Ave. Mo's has been a staple in Fort Greene since it opened in 2001. And although the bar had a change in ownership a few years back, it retains its low-key, funky atmosphere and is still the go-to spot for locals. Mo's hosts dancing, music and karaoke and is also a chill spot to catch a sports game on the back room televisions.
Pete's Candy Store — 709 Lorimer St. Something's always happening at Pete's, whether it's live music, trivia, readings, or an adult spelling bee. For locals looking for more than just a place to drink, Pete's is a standby.
Project Parlor — 742 Myrtle Ave. A bar for all seasons, Bed-Stuy's Project Parlor offers everything from a summer Guiness float to hot mulled cider. Its massive backyard space is lined with picnic tables, perfect for BBQ cook-offs and day drinking. In colder months, warm up on the antique couches with drinks like flaming green absinthe.
Red Hook Bait and Tackle — 320 Van Brunt St. Everyone probably knows your name at the Red Hook Bait and Tackle, a classic but slightly offbeat dive bar. Its walls are covered with taxidermy and fishing gear. The sign that still adorns the storefront was used by a former social club that existed there long ago. The neighborhood bar opened in 2004 and is popular among locals for its relaxed atmosphere and cheap drinks.
Sharlene's — 353 Flatbush Ave. This no-frills dive bar on the border of Park Slope and Prospect Heights has everything you need to enjoy a drink with the neighborly crowd: a jukebox, low light and just enough distance from the Barclays Center to avoid the after-game rush.
Skylark — 477 Fifth Ave. Free popcorn and a mish-mash of cozy vintage furniture give Skylark a welcoming vibe that makes it feel like you're drinking in your own living room, or maybe your grandparents' den. The comfortable feel extends to the menu, which includes a mac and cheese sandwich.
Union Pool — 484 Union Ave. Union Pool, housed in a former pool supply store, is a great spot to catch a live show. It's divey, has a taco truck and is known for being the place where late-night hookups start. Nowadays, a line can be spotted outside its doors on the weekends.
The Way Station — 683 Washington Ave. A ton of live music performances and "Doctor Who"-themed decor make the Way Station a favorite among Prospect Heights residents looking for a lively place to have a drink on Washington Avenue.
Voting for this round has now closed. Check back on March 12 for the next round.
— Reporting by Serena Dai, Janet Upadhye, Camille Bautista, Nikhita Venugopal, Rachel Holliday Smith, Leslie Albrecht. Graphic by Nigel Chiwaya.