Hebrew School

Smolen Bar (& Grill)
February 11, 2008, 1:03 am
Filed under: brooklyn, cul-tcha, sunset park | Tags: , ,

Smolen is my new favorite bar. It’s on 5th Ave. and 22nd St. in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. I have often glanced at it curiously while taking the B63 bus to some destination further along the line; it was simply one of those places that I had vowed to check out for years without ever having actually gone.

Fortunately, Shabbos dinner brought us to Taqueria D.F. across the street. Sunset Park is known for its vibrant Mexican community and cuisine, and while reviews of this place have been lukewarm, I feel they simply miss the mark due to plain ignorance. Despite what the linked Village Voice review above claims, you can get tacos at Taqueria D.F.– but you actually have to make an effort to talk to the people there and ask. So, no, this is not a place for would-be hipsters looking for some cool, marginally-out-of-the-way “spot” to count Frida Kahlo paintings. One of our dining companions, a transplanted long-time resident of San Francisco, feels that the burritos here are the closest he’s ever had to those in the Mission. Now he’s practically a regular. Having lived for a while in the Bay Area myself, that speaks volumes to me.

Once we were done with the burritos and tacos (and really excellent piña coladas and margaritas, etc.), after a sincere but misplaced moment of telltale hesitation, we headed across the street to Smolen. We were greeted by Pat, who instantly became (and I think I speak for everyone) one of our favorite proprietor/bartenders in the known universe. We learned from the warm and friendly Pat that Smolen has been in her family at this location for 50 years. This part of Sunset Park (which realtors and crafty landlords refer to as the “South Slope”) still has strong ties to the neighborhood’s Polish history. Okocim (pronounced “oh-KO-chim,” not “oh-koh-SEEM,” Pat assured us) is on tap, along with the German beer Spaten (its first syllable pronounced here like the word for a brief argument or quarrel, or the antiquated unit of astronomical distance.) The beers were frothy and delicious– and more than reasonably priced (a plus when they are easily drinkable and yummy!).

Though the “grill” indicated in Smolen’s signage no longer exists, there’s a seriously nice Polish deli called Mazury a block away and you can bring your food back to the bar. (This photo was taken the following morning, because we were full of Mexican food but had to go back and eat the delicious potato and cheese pierogies.) This is no Eagle Provisions (an upscale Polish grocery a couple more blocks up at 18th St.), but it’s Hebrew School provisions for sure.

We played pool.

They have Quick Draw.

As we were leaving, Pat told us to bring our friends. Dear reader, be forewarned.

More Sunset Park love here and here.

A really cool page about the now and then of 5th Avenue.

Another Brooklynite walks south.


4 Comments so far
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22nd and 5th is my new fav block of brooklyn. at df I love ordering the barbacoa tacos and they make them with finely shredded radish, cilantro, and plenty of lime on the side– corn or flour tortilla. I go for the corn tortillas and the waitress says, you mean you want tacquitos?

smolen is …well words can’t quite describe the incredible experience of drinking at smolen. Pat took over the spot with her sisters when her mother passed away. The old wooden built-in cabinets behind the bar are so beautiful, and the simulated wood grain counter is the logical counterpart on the southwest corner of 5th and 22nd. drinking at smolen is like going to the neighborhood bar you wish you had in your small town in bumblefish, america.

Comment by Kate Taylor

Wow, I gotta check this out in a couple of weeks!

Comment by Steve Silberman

[…] not fuel this same fire? Though far from innocent, I’ve blogged substantially about the cool bars, delicious foods, and cultural events of my neighborhood. Am I lending my home creedence in a media […]

Pingback by Only Brooklyn knows the blog? « Hebrew School

Awesome article, agreed on all accounts

Comment by Zach

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