BERG’N: Wide-Open and Waiting For You In Brooklyn
BERG’N • CROWN HEIGHTS, BROOKLYN
[This is part five in a series of sneak peeks from the chapters of my book Bars, Taverns and Dives New Yorkers Love, coming out in March 2018 from Rizzoli Publishing.) You can order it online now at Powell’s, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.]
Community, the heart and soul of Berg’n, is mainly why people love it, but the other features put it over the top. With its long, sleek, wooden picnic table seating, bright walls and high ceilings, it can feel like a rowdy postmodern beer hall at times, with 12 taps and a full bar to back it up. Berg’n features a full coffee bar, two pinball machines, a courtyard, a giant projection TV screen and good food. Oh, the food: four separate kiosks housing four different rotating food vendors, each one a favorite from Brooklyn’s wildly popular eating extravaganza Smorgasburg, which showcases over 100 local purveyors of inventive chow every Saturday and Sunday. (Berg’n cofounders Jonathan Butler and Eric Demby are the guys behind Smorgasburg, an outgrowth of their baby the Brooklyn Flea, an eclectic weekend craft/flea/food market.)
With all the packs of friends, multifamily groups and couples I saw at their Sunday brunch, Berg’n reminded me of a picnic area at the state park near where I grew up, spacious and open to everyone, a mix of ages and types of people: kids, young parents, and older people. Families and singles, good friends and perfect strangers, all enjoying the same communal space, eating, drinking, laughing and being human. Sure, it’s got walls and a roof, but Berg’n manages an outdoor, park-like feel, a place to be part of something big: life.
When to Visit
Saturday brunch is a high-energy social scene and a great time when you’re in the mood for that, especially with a group. For a more low-key vibe, manager Jen Watson suggests showing up at Berg’n midweek in the late morning and hanging out to “watch it evolve.” She says, “Have coffee, lunch, beer, a snack, a cocktail, a proper dinner. You can use it however you want.”
Where to Sit
Butler likes the spot left of the elbow at the long, 20-seat, 1930s-era bar they found in a salvage yard in Scranton, Penn. “Good surveying spot,” he says. If you’re there with a group, grab a table right in the middle of the room and enjoy the vibe.
What to Drink
- Start with one of their righteous draft beers, many of them local. The lineup changes week to week and includes some “one-off, super esoteric” selections, as Shelly the bartender told me one afternoon. You’ll find things like Grizacca, a dry-hopped Saison from Maine’s Oxbow Brewing, Von Trapp pilsner from Vermont, and Fully Frothed Imperial IPA from Brooklyn’s own Other Half. (Don’t like beer? Have a biodynamic wine—“No hangovers!” says Shelly.)
- Next drink: For a beer hall, these guys have a strong cocktail program, and make a solid Manhattan. Gotta love a place that plays against type.
Berg’n’s Manhattan Cocktail
2 oz. Old Overholt rye
1 oz. Carpano Antica red vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Stir all ingredients with ice in a mixing glass. Strain and serve up in a chilled coupe glass and garnish with a lemon peel.
Next up: Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden of Astoria, Queens, another chapter of my book Bars, Taverns and Dives New Yorkers Love, which you can order right here. Limited-edition signed prints are available here.