Look out the window from your seat at Achilles Heel, the new Greenpoint bar from Andrew Tarlow — whose expanding empire includes Marlow & Sons, Diner and Reynards, among others — and you’ll look straight into the shipyards, where a dock worker might be casually leaning against a brick wall and smoking a cigarette.
Historically, this address served that crowd, but after it went dark forty years ago, it remained vacant until Tarlow inked the deal for it and decided to open a cafe and bar inspired by — and meant to cater to — his neighbors across the way. “When Andrew saw this space a year ago, he fell in love with it,” explains Mike Fadem, a Marlow alum who now manages this spot. “It looked a lot like it does now. He saw it, saw the neighborhood, thought about what this was last time it was an operation, and decided to recreate that from his taste.”
That meant preserving a lot of the original details, like time-worn wood floors and the bar mantle. And it also means the spot will be serving early morning beers if it can lure in workers coming off the night shift. “People are on a different schedule on the docks,” says Fadem. “There are people out early, and it’s unique to have this kind of a place now. Back in the day, bars were open early, and in other places, they sometimes still are. But it’s not that way here anymore. But at our bar, we will serve drinks.”
The crew would also like the spot to serve as a local gathering place for the other folks who’ve moved into this nook of Greenpoint, many of which are used to trekking down to Marlow for their morning coffee fix. “There are a lot of daily customers at Marlow that live on these two blocks that don’t have to go there for their scones now,” notes the manager. That’s because thanks to a delivery service that connects all of the restaurants in Tarlow’s group, the Marlow scones are available behind the counter, as are croissants from Reynards. Those bites pair with the same ambitious coffee program that connects all of the sibling restaurants, too, with George Howell beans serving as the base for cappuccinos, espresso shots and pour-over cups brewed to order. “We have a lot of people who treat Marlow as their neighborhood coffeeshop,” explains Fadem. “So Andrew was definitely interested in opening a cafe.”
While coffee drinks will be available until 11 p.m., the place definitely turns bar-focused sometime in the mid-afternoon, when locals start wandering in for a beer (the well-edited list features drafts from Evil Twin and Pietra and bottles from ‘T Gaverhopke and Firestone) or a cocktail chosen from a classically slanted but perpetually changing short list of seasonally appropriate tipples. Bartender Craig Weinrib explains that many of those, like the Hemingway daiquiri, as well as the back bar are currently a bit rum-centric — “it’s a shipyard bar so it seems appropriate,” he says — but notes the spirits program will continue to develop, and that all bartenders can stir up classics not called out on the list.
And the wine, he says, is a big argument for drinking here, too. “The woman [Lee Campbell] who buys wine for this bar buys wine for the whole company, and she’s one of the most looked-to spokespeople for natural wine in New York. So there’s a heavy focus on her wine program, and it seems like there’s going to be a lot of people here to drink wine.” The list explores crisp white Muscadet, Grand Cru Champagne, Provencal rose, and Burgundy designation Chambolle-Musigny along with a number of more obscure varietals and geographies, which firmly plants the program in serious oenophile territory.
Eventually, says Fadem, the spot will ramp up its food program, offering oysters, meat and cheese plates and other snacks. But there will never be a kitchen, he notes, and the focus is always going to be on the bar. “We’re going to start small and see where it goes,” he concludes.
A look inside:
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 17, 2013