With native sons Willie Nelson and Kenny Rogers crooning classic country ballads out of the jukebox, it’s no wonder homesick Texans flock to Williamsburg’s honky tonk bar, Skinny Dennis. Opened in late February, the bar quickly established itself with its weekly lineup of live music, vintage video games, and artfully placed dead stuffed animals. The assortment of craft and cheap beer, in addition to the largest neon light collection this side of Broadway, round out the bar’s appeal as a neighborhood watering hole, hipster hangout, and American Idol staging ground.
The bar became known right away for its quirky features, but Austin expat Autumn Stanford noticed Skinny Dennis could use some help attracting a new kind of clientele: the ravenous brunch crowd. Stanford owns and operates the Bedford-Stuyvesant-based bakery Brooklyn Kolache Co., which introduced Texas staples such as grab-and-go breakfast tacos and sweet stuffed pastries known as kolaches to New York City.
While bars and bakeries traditionally work on opposite sides of the clock–night owls and early birds don’t tend to flock together–Stanford felt the Skinny Dennis location and vibe were ideal for building up and maintaining her customer base. She realized many of her customers already came from Manhattan and Williamsburg, and she had faith that people visiting the area for the weekend would be receptive to trying something new. People tend to get hungry when they drink, so cutting down walking distance from beer to food is typically a win-win situation for all parties involved. And who can resist added benefits like Ms. Pacman and coolers full of Rolling Rock? With summer coming, it helped, too, that, as Stanford notes, the bar is an “air-conditioned facility with alcohol,” so distributing an easily transportable food like a kolache is much more appealing than, say, manning an outdoor booth on a sweltering summer day at the Hester Street Fair.
Sal Fristensky, co-owner of Skinny Dennis, was more than happy to help a fellow local business owner and was on board with the idea of getting people into the bar via a pop-up.
The biggest concern: Would enough customers be awake and willing to try an oddly named pastry along with a cup of Uncle Willie’s Frozen Coffee (milk, vanilla, sugar, bourbon, coffee liqueur, brandy, Oslo coffee)? Would they be willing to just try an oddly named pastry? Preparing for anything, Stanford made “a ton” of kolaches for the first pop-up, which allowed her to provide free samples to those on the fence about whether to take a bite.
It worked: Most people who walk into a country bar may expect to walk out full of tequila and Tecate instead of sausage and cheese, but word quickly spread that neighbors could now get a quick bite at their favorite bar on the weekends.
Brooklyn Kolache Co. pops up again at Skinny Dennis on June 8 and will run every Saturday afterward from noon to 3:45 p.m. A variety of kolaches are available for purchase, while grab-and-go breakfast tacos are available at the Bedford-Stuyvesant location.