"This place used to be a Greek nightclub," confesses one of Hell Gate Social's owners. "Outside they used to roast lamb." Although the smell of barbecue is long gone, the capering devil-may-care atmosphere remains. On a recent Saturday evening, the bar attracted not only locals young and old, but a bacchanalian birthday party complete with an aggressive midget stripper. Drawing its name from the treacherous water channel to the west, Hell Gate Social has been in full swing since the new year. Marked by only a few mysterious red lights outside, the bar has a dark minimalist interior illuminated by radioactive ruby hues. Rich crimson-colored banquettes provide a comfortable place to watch Manhattanites drool over the cheap cocktail and wine list (nothing is priced over $10!). Innovations include the Mad Thai, an eccentric blend of Malibu rum, Frangelico, Coco Lopez, mint, jalapeño, and cilantro, and the Pineapple Upsidedown Cake, a better-than-it-sounds dessert inspiration. During the weekend, a Japanese DJ spins an eclectic mix from Afrobeat to disco-punk. Located in an up-and-coming part of Astoria, the Greek owners, all brothers, hope to lure imbibers with weekly events such as "Rock 'n' Roll Circus Thursdays" (complete with tattoo inking and freak shows) and a spring film festival, to be screened in the Zen-like outdoor patio. For those craving somewhere to go in Astoria other than the Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden, Hell Gate Social's artsy frivolity and experimentation make the trip worthwhile.