Wood, Cement, and a Butcher’s Block in a Brooklyn Bar


The group had good intentions, but the brightly colored $10 cocktails just weren’t big enough.

They were gathered shoulder to shoulder around a few small wooden tables that, shoved together, formed one long place setting of awkward silences sandwiched between awkward getting-to-know-you-but-I-need-to-have-a-few-more-drinks-before-I’m-ready-to-really-get-to-know-you pleasantries. There were about 12 or 13 twenty/thirtysomethings in all, the girls sharply dressed and the guys wearing sharp attention for the girls. I think they’d gathered here at bāśik as part of some sort of cocktail or bar-hopping tour. My brother-in-law and I watched from a cushioned bench near the entrance, sharing $6 pints of Captain Lawrence Pale Ale and a mutual appreciation of being onlookers, not participants.

bāśik is another newish Williamsburg bar with that specific type of clean, minimalist, industrialized vintage character that area hipster and hipsterettes fawn over. The walls like white-washed jeans, the floors cold cement, the tables candlelit, the beer menu simple, the cocktails obtusely named And How, Love Makes You Feel Ten Feet Tall, longitude / latitude. There’s a wood-paneled patio in the back, like a giant sauna with tables and chairs, and the bar itself is, according to their website, “perhaps the most impressive element… [a] long 19th century butcher block bar, salvaged from an abandoned packaging plant.” Wood and cement. Wood and cement.

More impressive, I think, are the two stark closet-like doors, painted metallic-grey, facing that old butcher block bar. One has “Restroom” neatly painted in black across the top; the other, nothing. Where oh where could it lead? Perhaps it’s the entrance to Pandora’s box, a portal to a mind-bending imaginarium of fantastical wonders and shadowy horrors. It may also lead into the mind of John Malkovich, the actor best known for his captivating performances as Bruce Brazos in Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Quentin Turnbull in Jonah Hex. Open at your own risk.

There are, of course, no happy hour specials, but there are, of course, $3 cans of Budweiser.

Once upon a time this space was home to Phoebe’s Cafe, which was favored by area scenesters when I first moved to Williamsburg some 9 years ago. I tried it once on the recommendation of a flaky-cool editor who worked at a hip downtown magazine I was interning for at the time. I also tried the fish sandwich at the nearby White Castle on the corner of Humboldt and Metropolitan once–it was delicious. bāśik tips its hat to its predecessors with the phoebe’s sandwich (oven-roasted squash, eggplant and portobello, naan, sriracha mayo, $8), as part of a modest 13-item menu that also includes mac and cheese ($8), deviled duck egg ($4), and two types of hot dogs ($4 each).

Through the tall looking glass windows on bāśik’s Graham Avenue-facing facade, a view of C-Town, the neighborhood grocery, the “SuperMarkets for Savings”. Here the teenage cashiers, all girls, snack on potato chips and mini-donuts kept in drawers underneath their registers, carrying on fascinating conversations amongst themselves that tend to start with an impassioned “No, that stupid muthafuckah…” and end with a “… so fuck that bitch” finality. Once in awhile they say “you’re welcome” after thanking them for the attentive services they have kindly provided. C-Town’s piss-yellow lighting illuminates bright futures.

My brother-in-law’s paperback copy of The Way We Die Now, by Charles Willeford, lay on our low wooden table near the cushioned bench at the entrance, in front of the tall glass windows, across from the 19th-century butcher block bar, near the two closet-like doors painted metallic grey on the walls like white-washed jeans. We each choked down a small oatmeal cookie and washed away the blandness with the last of our pints of Captain Lawrence Pale Ale. One of bāśik’s proprietors was introduced to the cocktail group, which was still mired in fits and spurts of awkward silence.

Everybody at those tables had good intentions; I can appreciate that. bāśik itself has good intentions, and I can appreciate that too.

bāśik is located at 323 Graham Avenue, just off the Graham Avenue stop on the L train, between Metropolitan Avenue and Devoe Street. M-W 4p-2a; Thu-Fri 4p-4a; Sat-Sun 12p-4a. 347-889-7597.

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