152 Metropolitan Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11249
With a bygone country-music bassist as its namesake and a Willie Nelson painting hanging amid shelves of bourbon, the wood-paneled, two-month-old dive from the team behind Williamsburg’s Luckydog flawlessly channels a seventies-era Nashville honky-tonk. No rootin’-tootin’ detail is overlooked, from peanut shells on the floor to vintage Lone Star signage and a jukebox dispensing twangy tunes to make the hard-drinking, heavily tattooed regulars shed tears in their beers—namely, 24-ounce Mason jars filled with Coors ($4), Miller High Life longnecks ($3), and rotating crafts (Allagash White, Green Flash Imperial IPA) listed on an illuminated 7-Up sign ($4–$6). Come summer, cool down with an Uncle Willie ($6), a slushee spiked with bourbon, brandy, and coffee liqueur.
The garrulous guys behind popular craft beer dive Lucky Dog have branched out with a new joint just a few blocks away on Metropolitan Avenue, in the former home of Bar Berry. Called Skinny Dennis (after a country music bassist who died onstage in 1975 at the age of 28) the bar perpetuates the laid-back yet well-curated vibe of Lucky Dog, but with a honky-tonk theme. Co-owner Sal Fristensky happens to be a big country music fan, and Skinny Dennis will present live music three nights a week, supplemented by a jukebox that spans the spectrum from country to classic rock.
The location has operated as a bar since 1939, and after tearing out the ceiling, Fristensky and partner Bill Mack reused a lot of the old tin for the walls. “These walls have been watching people drink for 70 years,” Mack rhapsodized at the bar’s opening last night. “We’re keeping them for a new generation.” Reclaimed wood from M. Fine Lumber in Bushwick lines the ceiling, a mounted wild boar’s head and other taxidermy is scattered throughout, and chicken wire wrapped around a storage space completes the country feel. But just like Lucky Dog, Mack’s passion for vintage illuminated Breweriana signs is the main attraction, with many fine specimens hanging throughout.
One of Mack’s favorites is the big illuminated 7-Up menu sign behind the bar, just to the left of the Willie Nelson portrait. He tells us that in a previous life the sign adorned a Drive-In movie theater in Missouri, where he made a road trip to purchase it. He’s also proud of the Schaefer Beer signs, in part because “the old Schaefer brewery was right here on Kent Avenue. It closed in 1976 and people forget it was there. This bar is supposed to remind you of your uncle’s basement.” With the wood paneling, the vintage video games and pinball, the 1970s slag lights, and the bench seat ripped out of a 1980 F-100 pickup truck that Mack got from a junkyard in Pennsylvania, we can safely say his mission is accomplished.
Most of the beer is domestic, with 18 craft brews on tap, and all of them running about $5. For good old boys on a budget, Skinny Dennis also serves a 24 oz Coors banquet beer in a mason jar for $4, as well as $3 Bud, PBR and Rolling Rock. Or for $6 you can get a delicious and refreshing Uncle Willie’s Frozen Coffee, which comes out of the daiquiri machine Mack bought for $9,000. Ingredients include milk, vanilla, sugar, bourbon, coffee liqueur, brandy, Oslo coffee, and another floater of bourbon on the top for good measure. Skinny Dennis serves it in a classic “Anthora” Greek coffee cup, in case everything else in the joint makes you forget you’re still in Brooklyn.