For reasons perhaps best kept to himself, Rocky, the mysterious owner of Rock Star Bar (351 Kent Avenue, Williamsburg), a/k/a Mermaid, Ship’s Mast, Local, etc., has changed the name of this squalid drinking establishment often enough to amuse his staff and confuse the city’s listings editors. Tucked away in an obscure corner of the East East Village, this dive has been serving cheap, potent drinks to those who dare walk through its door—which could be just about anyone, given the area’s transition from insular ethnic neighborhood to cultural touchstone—for the past two decades. The staff is attractive and laid-back, and never neglectful. If your taste in potables is classic (beer, whiskey, vodka, gin, and other staples), a fine spree can be yours. Truth be told, it’s actually the bar’s lack of patrons that is most noteworthy; this haven in the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge is bliss for drinkers who prefer to get sloshed in peace and quiet. For those who can’t (or don’t care to) stagger to the subway, a reliable car service is just a phone call away.
The cavernous space sports a pair of bedraggled, buxom mermaid effigies, plus an enticing H.R. Giger–esque grotto; a few slightly sinister black stars adorn the orange walls. A pool table and other games offer customers something to do with their hands between sips and gulps, while an Internet jukebox comes correct with what seems like a zillion downloadable tunes. Rumor has it that the bar occasionally plays host to live shows (by local and touring bands of the punk or neo-psych persuasion), attracting a large audience that skews toward the embryo bohemian. Those who loathe crowds, especially the EB type, best avoid these nights.
The bar also boasts a bonus attraction: its adjacency to Pies & Thighs, a gem of a restaurant that makes its home in the establishment’s far reaches. Reasonable prices, along with generous portions of fried chicken and the double-crusted sweets alluded to in this closet-sized eatery’s name, make it a popular spot for weekend brunchers. The grub runs out quickly, so get there as early as you dare and take your plate into the dark, welcoming bar, order a spicy Bloody Mary ($6), and chow down. When the warm weather finally settles in, diners can sit outside in the parking lot on picnic tables draped with red-checked plastic. The only thing that could possibly make the heavenly old-fashioned biscuits and sausage gravy any better is a good ol’ hangover.