Take Note: Drink Beer and Write the Great American Novel

With weekly open-mic nights and communal composition notebooks on almost every table (each titled "Make Your Mark!"), Stain has the potential for elaborate displays of intellectual indulgence but instead draws in a sedate trickling of East Williamsburg neighbors—less interested in filling their comp books with existence/self-hatred poems than with bubble letters and tic-tac-toe. Owned and run by Krista Madsen, a local novelist with no previous experience in business, the three-month-old lounge serves exclusively New York-made beers and wines, like the Harlem Sugar Hill Golden Ale ($5), Soho Cellars Chardonnay ($7), and the vaguely chocolate-flavored home-brewed Stain Red ($5). Physically spellbinding, Madsen seems to inspire quite a following (one of the first notebook entries: "Krista Madsen is a truly omnipotent, powerful goddess"), and built the bar entirely through friends' donations—money, but also furniture, carpenting services, and installation art involving mermaids, mannequins, and fire hydrants. "This bar is soooo, I don't know, Bedford Ave with a touch of Latin Grand Street," one visitor jotted in a comp book. Safely surrounded by unisex salons and dollar shops (versus cheese cafés and $100-vintage-cowboy-boot vendors), Stain has at least a couple years before the tidy destruction of that ever so slight, hipster-free "touch."


Meeting of the minds
photo: Cary Conover
Meeting of the minds

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