- Subway stop: Bergen St.
- Walk from subway: 45 seconds
- Neighborhood: BOCOCA, Boerum Hill/Cobble Hill
- Location: 61 Bergen St (duh) between Smith St. and Court St.
Today’s subway stop drops us off in BOCOCA or Boerum Hill-Cobble Hill-Carroll Gardens for long by way of the Bergen St. stop. Much like the name of this sort-of bar, the neighborhood it’s housed in is not the easiest to pinpoint. It’s kind of right in that sweet spot between Boerum Hill and Cobble Hill where if you stand in one part of the “bar” and take a picture, your iPhone will tell you it was taken in Cobble Hill, but if you walk a few paces to your left and do the same thing, your iPhone will claim you’re in Boerum Hill. I’m talking of course about 61 Local, or as I call it 50% of the time, Local 61. I always thought it was named for it’s address, 61 Bergen St, and just ignored the “Local” part of it’s name. It wasn’t until two days ago when I was talking about it with someone who thought I was referring to the 61 Local bus. Something clicked. The light bulb above my head indicative of an “a-ha moment” briefly flickered before I metaphorically doused it with a beer.
You may have noticed that I used the word “bar” above in quotations. That is because, more than a bar, this place is more like a well-lit, high-ceiling, perfect meeting spot for moms, alcoholics, people who like to work on their laptops in public spaces but only if there’s alcohol within reach, co-op shoppers, and claustrophobics. Or a person who could fit into all of those categories. Or just a few. Or none of those categories, it’s a pretty welcoming place to all. If you prefer the close quarters, dimly-lit, somewhat dank drinking holes, there’s a section back near the bathrooms that can satisfy almost everyone of those needs.
As you can see from the pictures, 61 Local is set-up kind of like a picnic, but indoors, with several community tables, often flanked on either side by people using laptops. They’re “working,” but more likely they just needed a fucking second away from their kids so they could online shop without their little tykes climbing on the keyboard, asking for juice, and then accidentally adding a million things to your cart and in the process, typing in your exact credit card number as they’re rolling over the keys, and then, oops! They’re sticky hands hit “Submit Order” and now you’re getting 50 pairs of men’s XXXL slacks in olive green. This is a situation I’ve never been in, but I imagine it’s one that’s worth avoiding. Hence all the people on laptops. At night, 61 Local becomes more packed with people looking to just drink and skip that work bullshit. Drinking responsibly of course. This is BOCOCA for god’s sake!
Even though it’s nighttime, doesn’t mean you won’t see the occasional baby balancing on Dad’s shoulders as he basically shot guns a beer. I actually witnessed this once. The person recognized from around town, noticed that I was sitting with someone they also knew from a different part of their life, didn’t feel like coming over to say hi and make small talk, had just ordered a beer, had an infant sitting on his shoulders, and just generally seemed to be between a rock and a hard place. The rock was, “do I make small talk with these people who I know from different areas of my life?” and the hard place was, “do I chug this beer with a baby on my shoulders?” He chose the latter. It made for great people watching.
In addition to moms, dads, and alcoholics, this place also has a great beer list that hangs behind the bar on a chalkboard map of Brooklyn. I’m a beer drinker through and through and was surprised when flipping through the menu this past weekend when I saw a beer float. How have I missed this in previous visits? Is this new? Will it be reminiscent of the time I bought a carton of ice cream, ate half of it, went into the fridge, got out a beer, and poured it into the carton? Because that just made one soggy cardboard carton and a waste of a good beer. Ok, it was probably a Bud Light. I wouldn’t risk a nice beer on that gamble. This beer float was served in a glass (off to a good start) with Blue Marble Ice Cream (I don’t know if that means anything to anybody, I hear it’s good) and a stout (now we’re cooking with gas). It was a much more successful float than the one I created. Here, look at this picture!
If you’re not one for beer, don’t worry! They have wine too! And free water! And food! Food! They pretty much can cure what ails you if what ails you is hunger. They have everything from Avocado Toast (yes) to Triple Kale Salad (I hate kale, but more power to you if you’re into that) to Tokyo Chicken Curry (no idea what that is) to Grilled Cheese (my literal, actual, hands down favorite food) to Half Grilled Cheese (half of my literal, actual, hands down favorite food). And they have dishes in basically every size so if you’re a big fat hog on the inside but you eat like a bird on the outside than you’re in luck!
In short, if you’re looking to pretend you’re in a cafe when you drink and not some dingy hole, this is probably the place for you. And if you don’t like being around a bunch of laptops, don’t fret! They have laptop free brunches on weekends! Don’t even think of tarnishing the goodness that is brunch with that clunky laptop. You will be laughed onto the street! But then come back in a few hours and you’ll be among your people. Also, I would say this place is by and large handicap accessible, except for one not even full step down into the place. It’s shallower than a curb. You didn’t think they’d have a place in BOCOCA that wouldn’t easily accommodate a stroller, did you? For the record, I’d like to state now that BOCOCA is going to be an interesting place in 10-15 years when all these babies have grown up a little bit. It will be overrun by youths. And youths make me scared. I always think they’re laughing at me on the subway. That’s all for now, and remember-
-Off The G