Some famous dude once said, “Familiarity breeds contempt,” but in this fast-changing, trend-chasing
city, burnt-out folks desperately cling to the opposite. Situated on a
placid stretch of Columbia Street that feels like the inverse of the hectic
and trendy Smith Street scene a few blocks over, Lido Bar (200 Columbia
Street, Brooklyn) rests comfortably between the yuppie hangout B61 and the
scummy-chic Moonshine, striking a balance between the two with its low-key
On a recent Tuesday night we wandered through the establishment’s garage-like, retractable door that effectively erases the boundary between bar and sidewalk (though the smoking crowd would disagree). Stepping over the threshold into the ocher-colored room was like breaking the fourth wall on a stage set. We quickly performed the mandatory dive test: Dim lighting? Yup. Pool table? No doubt. Dusty beat-up board games? Bingo.
There was no crowd to speak of—that’s the beauty of dives-—just some dudes in cargo shorts shooting stick in the back and a gentleman sipping merlot at the bar with his pooch in the next seat. Yet, unlike some bars that strain to achieve the same insouciant mood (here’s looking at you, L.E.S.), the pieces all fit. The spot just has that slow, scruffy charm of a stoner pal: “Hey buddy,” it inquires amiably, “How you been?”
In one corner sits Big Buck Hunter for your blood-lust fantasies, while decorations from various holidays gone by dangle from the ceiling. Twin television sets frame the bar like single quotes, and the jukebox is loaded with go-to standards like Oasis and Dolly Parton, as well as homemade mixes with their tiny hand-scrawled track-listings. Nothing new perhaps, but counterculturally speaking, there’s nothing wrong with that.
Things stayed mellow as folks drifted in and out, a starving artist type clearly taking a creative break dropped in to kick back a few while chatting with the barman. Taking a cue from the lazy atmosphere, we settled in. For $5 we selected our personal soundtrack for the evening—T. Rex, Avalanches, The Clash (twice)—and planted ourselves at the bar. There are no surprises (we like it like that) to be had in the generic draft selections: Red Hook IPA, Brooklyn Lager, and Harpoon—although they did come in mug and pint sizes ($4 and $5 respectively). Inspired by the warm weather, I opted for a can of Tecate ($3) doctored up with a bit of salt, a spritz of lime, and a few dashes of Tabasco. It tasted just like Spring Break, minus the sunburn and mysterious bruises.
The evening unspooled at the same leisurely pace. We enjoyed the end of the 2-4-1 Happy Hour, which stretched from 5–8 p.m. The bartender greeted newcomers like regulars and even comped a couple rounds—that’s just what friends do. By the way, it was Mark Twain who said that thing about familiarity and contempt, but he bankrupted himself, so what the hell did he know?
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 29, 2007