Despite a few swanky lounge upstarts within walking distance of the Pratt Institute, a drinking tour of the area can leave you, if you stop to think about it, feeling a little dirty. Literally. In at least two swampy dive-bar bathrooms (“Gents”), I’ve discovered small winged insects that have found refuge from the city’s insecticide raids. But wait, did I say “stop to think”? This is a drinking guide, and as any dipso students worth their weight in cheap tequila can advise: Think hard today, ignore a little standing water in the bar bathroom tonight. Underage readers take note: If you don’t have the gall to doctor the 8 on your ID to make a 3 (“I was so born in 1932!”), the key word is crowded. Send your 21-and-over friends to get drinks at the bar, or try to slip under the radar during high-traffic hours.
Starting out close to home, we hit the Garden Bar (493 Myrtle, 718-783-9335), which is so close to Pratt that students can dart in for inspirational shots between late-afternoon classes. Taking your time at the Garden, however, forces you to confront its unglamorous atmosphere. The interior is lit to near-Kinko’s brightness by a fluorescent sun over the pool-table centerpiece. A T2 pinball machine sits neglected, while a patron plays video strip-poker against a pixelated soft-porn Chippendales type. Oh, and by the way, it’s usually uncrowded.
The Garden Bar does have two plus-factors. Bud in a bottle is $2.75. And as the name suggests, there’s a peaceful garden in back, spacious enough that tonight some inhibition-free youngsters are practicing their swing-dance moves between the tables. But really, if we wanted to drink outside, we’d be on a stoop, right? So we head out, obeying the “Smile Your on Camera!” sign and shyly waving at the video recorder bolted above the exit.
After a stroll, we wind up outside Cellars (250 DeKalb, 718-789-7630), but the “We Reserve the Right to be Selective” sign on the door makes us hesitate. We’re still sober enough to fear rejection, and the youngsters in our group point out that there are only three people in the bar (and one of them, we realize, is a mannequin). So we amble down the street to the cornerstone of Pratt drinking culture, the Alibi, a/k/a the ‘bi (242 DeKalb, 718-783-8519). It’s crowded! Inside, it looks like a dive bar run by a modern-day Miss Havisham, and I mean that in a good way. Stacks of beer boxes line the walls, and behind the bar is an assortment of sports helmets, ornate mirrors, and dusty beer signs. Dim lights flicker through air so smoky it looks like watered-down milk. The jukebox plays an endless stream of sucking-in-the-’70s classics and Britpop standards.
The best thing about the ‘bi is the clientele—a mix of merry Prattsters and genial neighborhood types. But sometimes the frat shines through the Pratt, and tonight, some skinny artboys at the pool table work themselves up into an argumentative froth when a young woman walks by and briefly kidnaps the cue ball (later saying in defense, “It’s only a game!”). But overall we like these random interactions, not to mention the old-world clutter and the supercheap bottled Bud ($2.50).
This makes it hard to leave, but we decide to check out the not-nearly-as-crowded Sol (229 DeKalb, 718-222-1510), one of a string of restaurant-bars that have sprouted up between Vanderbilt Avenue and Fort Greene Park. The aura is low-key and candlelit, but the luxe interior stands in stark contrast to our increasingly sloppy states. The wall of mirrors facing the track-lighted bar somehow offends our “we drink to forget ourselves” philosophy. After one $6 Jack-in-the-rocks, we decide that restaurant-bars aren’t really fitting in with our priorities, so we use our alcohol divining rods to find the recently opened and much more crowded Moe’s (80 Lafayette, 718-797-9536), where chatty drinkers put us back in a happy mood. With its freshly painted yellow-and-red walls and a litmus range of colored lights, the large bar feels cheerful without being too bright. Comfortable seats and small tables make it a much classier and more relaxed counterpart to the Alibi. Despite an overachieving mixed-drinks menu (Moe-garita? Bailey’s Chocolate Martini? Just say Moe!), you can get $3 Bud tallboys, now our personal fave.
After an hour at Moe’s, we’re at the end of our rope, but we push onward to Fort Greene’s drinking mecca, Frank’s (660 Fulton St, 718-625-9339). Four-dollar beers now seem a little stiff, but we’re grateful for the plastic cups of Goldfish at the bar, blinking strings of lights, and what real estate agents in the city refer to as “original fixtures.” After a beer, we decide we’ve had enough bar-hopping for one night and head for the only train convenient to people living in the Pratt area: The G, infamous for its irregular service and stubborn refusal to enter Manhattan. When it finally pulls up, we find . . . a party on the back car! As we pop open a new round of Buds ($0) provided by the revelers, we remember why we love this subway line. Maybe it won’t take you to the fancy bars in Manhattan, but it’s the only train we’ve found where you can drink and get away with it.