Last night a friend (hi Jeremy!) and I went to a new bar on 3rd ave between President and Union (that’s just a few blocks over from the GYC!) called Canal Bar. It’s across from a used car lot, and if there was ever a place in Brooklyn where you could look out the window and feel like you’re somewhere in the Midwest, this is totally it.
When we arrived, we were the only two patrons. Actually, despite the bar becoming fairly full by the time we left, we were still the only patrons; everyone else seemed to be an owner or friend of owner.
Canal Bar is the kind of bar they make a movie out of. The three partners I met each fell into a pretty solid stereotype–the neurotic jew (see: the guy from A Mighty Wind), the Brooklyn-born, Staten Island-bred Italian who looks like Dave Attell (and who is super, super nice) and the guy who looks like Lou Reed about 20 years ago and spends a lot of time snarling–all undeniably Brooklyn. The more I think about it, the harder it is for me to figure out how these three dudes came together, became friends and decided to open a bar, but it seems like that happened, so I’ll just go with it.
I had nice chats with the neurotic jew, whose name I think turned out to be Seth, (he drank cokes the whole time and was a little worried when he climbed up on barstools—that’s right, one for each foot—to try to figure out how to turn on the TV (which he couldn’t) he actually said something along the lines of “I don’t think that’s stable enough for me to reach any higher”) and with Staten Island Louie.
Seth and I discussed what was going to happen to 3rd avenue in the next few years. It seems pretty ripe for The Gentrification, there’s a lot of warehouse space that could easily be converted into loft space and there are some empty lots that could be developed. Seth really hopes a restaurant or two opens up in the area. I told him to advertise on 5th avenue because there isn’t much around besides Great Lakes, especially as you go north, and Great Lakes is the most depressing place in the world. He is very nice and really cares a lot about the bar being a success, even if he doesn’t seem to really like bars.
Louie told me how Smith Street and 5th avenue were all crack dens and hookers 25 years ago, and how they weren’t gonna let anyone that annoyed them come back to their bar. He explained that the jukebox was filled with (a really solid selection of) old Rolling Stones and Johnny Cash for a reason (although someone did play a Coldplay song at some point, and there was lots of Nirvana, so). Lou Reed and homeless Danny, who let me punch him in the stomach, told me about the good ol’ days when they lived in a van, not down by the river, but in SoHo. Then he showed me that he had no teeth, which he seemed pretty proud of, and offered me a “gumming”, which, tempting though it was, I declined. I suppose I shouldn’t have encouraged him by spanking him on the sidewalk, because then he licked my neck. That was pretty gross. But not as gross as that grasshopper thing (that’s for you Jeremy).
The bar itself is pretty nice, everything’s new and clean, although I thought it was a little strange that there’s a “men’s” room and an “accessible” room. One of the barmaids is a dancer and the other is a poetess. There is $2 pbr, the Hoegaarden is a fiver and Yuengling is 4. And it appears that they knew how to pull a Guinness.
By about 9pm, we were all a little drunk and things were getting loud. The bar had filled up with friends of the owners and they were all yelling about something. There was a Bo’Sox Vs. Yankees argument at some point; the guy who had let me punch him was now offering to buy us drinks. Louie sent some shots our way, and we took them.
Finally we realized we had a longish journey home and it was time to leave and maybe find something to eat. We discussed the randomness of the evening on the walk home. It reminded me of an airport bar, which rank amongst my favorite places. You meet totally random people from all over the place going all over the place for different reasons and everyone’s defenses are down and you can have some amazing interactions.
So if you’re on 3rd avenue, stop by and say hi to Seth, Louie and whatever the guy who looks like Lou Reed’s name is. Perhaps you might want to stay away from Danny. Anyone who loves talking to some hard Brooklyn types and who is OK with the possiblilty of violence breaking out at any moment will love this place.
And because I'm no plagarist, here is Jeremy's review of the evening:
Danny doesn't give a fuck. He'll kick our asses.
My favorite exchange of the evening:
-I don't have any teeth.
-Where are they?
-I lost 'em.
-I don't know. I just lost 'em.
They used to live a VAN in front of a BAR down in SOHO!