One of the great things about New York City is that it can support a seemingly infinite array of watering holes. There are creative cocktail joints, divey old-man bars, intimate wine nooks, raucous sports bars, and so many more spots that cater to the various ways to get your drink on, including those times when all you want is a quiet moment with your beer. Case in point: The recently-opened Arts & Crafts Beer Parlor (26 West 8th Street), which provides a welcoming, laid-back atmosphere that puts the focus on the brews.
“We want it to be a place where people can relax and have a conversation,” says co-owner Don Borelli. “That’s why we purposely chose the word ‘parlor’ instead of ‘bar.’ We want it to be an extension of your living room.” So the music that’s piped in varies based on what clientele are in the mood for, and the bar’s single TV, when not in use for select sporting events (lately, hockey), gets tucked discreetly behind a sliding panel over the fireplace.
Borelli, a former FBI agent, and co-owner Robert LaFrance, a Broadway veteran, chose the name of the bar to reflect not only its period décor but also the two elements that set it apart. The “art” refers to the pieces displayed in the space, created by different artists and rotating regularly. “It adds a different dimension,” Borelli notes. “It changes the look of the bar every month.” Featured artists are welcomed to host an evening at the bar to discuss their art or demonstrate technique. June’s featured artist, Damien Mitchell, showed how he uses graffiti and stencils to create vivid canvases.
The “craft,” of course, is craft beer — not particularly unique in and of itself, but something that has been missing in the area, even as West 8th Street transitions from a row of cheap clothing stores to a strip of eateries and bars. “What wasn’t on this block was a good craft beer place, so we thought we could fill that void,” says Borelli. “It’s a bit of a gamble, but we’re betting that 8th Street is going to keep on that upward trajectory and bring people in as a food [and drink] destination.”
Arts & Craft’s beer list is extensive, with 24 rotating taps and 35 to 40 bottles on offer. It comprises a good mix of domestic craft and imported brews, although Bud, Coors, and Michelob are available, presumably for people who get lost or dragged there by friends with better taste. (There are also ciders and wines.) Ensuring beer is served at the right temperature is important to Arts & Crafts: The establishment offers flights of six, 12, or all 24 drafts ($75) using a nifty tray that keeps the glasses cool as you work your way through, and the keg delivery system threads 80 feet of tap lines, surrounded by lines filled with glycol, from the building’s historic cellar up to the bar.
Prices on some of the pours are a bit steep, but most drafts are $7 to $8. Daily happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. (and all day on Sundays) offers select drafts and house wines for $5. Small bites (Meatball Obsession meatballs, sliders, Kings County jerky) are available for noshing as you drink. The bar frequently hosts tap takeovers and has a cozy space that can accommodate parties of up to 20. Plus, it fills growlers — bring your own or get one from the bar for $5.