Smoking outside Birdy’s, a new corner bar across the way from Little Skips in Bushwick, a passerby looked up at the bar, then looked at my friend, “Another bar?!” Yep, that’s right ladies and gentlemen, it appears yet another booze trough has opened its doors to help Bushwickians (and the graffiti tourists who love them) gargle it back.
“We’re not just another bar,” said Holly MacGibbon, who co-owns the bar with her partner and bandmate, Andy Simmons. “It’s important for us, as the new bar, to not change what’s already here.” If you visit Birdy’s you’ll see why this makes sense. That’s because any establishment trying to be an “old man bar” is already breaking the mold of change by opening what everyone else seems to be hellbent on wiping out.
Birdy’s opened their doors close to the Myrtle-Broadway stop not yet a week ago. Last Friday, the bar threw an old-fashioned free beer party with four straight hours of open bar. But even if the excitement of that first night has died down– leaving a softly-lit, mellow pal hang-out in its wake– Holly and Andy are here pretty much all the time. “We live five blocks away, and we’ve lived there for 10 years,” Holly explained. “This is our neighborhood.”
The couple not only runs Birdy’s together, they’re also the two moving parts of Weeknight, a droney synth-rock band. “Our studio is right by here too,” Holly laughed. “So basically we do everything within a five block radius.”
While this is the couple’s first bar, they’re both industry vets, and have two more partners in business. Ben Altman and Matthew Webber have added Birdy’s to their already hefty roster of nearby bars and restaurants. These include Old Stanely’s, a place that knows how to rock a horseshoe bar; King Noodle, serving up bro food in a strip club without the strippers; and The Narrows, a solid neighborhood standby serving the best frozen Negroni anywhere.
But Birdy’s might win out as the most charming of them all. The bar is darkish, but warm– lit by the glow of oversized, colorful string lights. Overhead, a reddish blush extends from a shameless drop ceiling outfitted with filters and even more red emanates from those ubiquitous Venetian candles. A Colt 45 sign (acceptable because Birdy’s actually serves cans of the stuff for five bones) provides some balancing blueish hues.
An enormous wood bar with comfortable black leather lounge chairs extends along the main room, which is also outfitted with four substantial wooden booths. Each one has its own velvet painting, while cracked Tiffany knock-offs dangle overhead. The space is deceptively enormous — adjust your eyes and you’ll notice there’s another large back room with Vegas-like glitter thanks to the gleam of a (free) foosball table, glimmering 50 cent pinball machines, and a light-up horse painting. Oh, and keep an eye out, because actually bitty horses are all over the place here.
“This reminds me of the Midwest,” I told Holly. Maybe it was the wide-load booths, the worn-in skuzziness of it all, the strictly rock n’ roll soundtrack. Where Rocka Rolla arguably fails (something about the overabundance of beer lights and a hint of hair metal glam makes the place not only confrontational enough to be decidedly un-Midwestern, but utterly Disney-esque), Birdy’s succeeds. That’s because this bar is kitsch to be sure, but in a way where we actually believe the owners can stand to hang out here. What does that say about “authenticity” in Bushwick versus Williamsburg? Uh, let’s not go there.
But it seems that Birdy’s is doing what all those Midwestern bars (that I grew up getting kicked out of) are imitating. “We were inspired by bars on the Lower East Side in the ’70s, rock n’ roll bars, old man bars,” Holly explained. “We really tried to make it like Max’s Kansas City.”
Indeed it’s not hard to imagine the ghost of Lou Reed slumping over the bar, and you’re not just imagining that bust of Elvis smiling down on you with approval. Go on– lift your glass to him. Paul Stanley’s likeness is even slumped in a corner behind the bar. But thankfully the soundtrack isn’t that predictable. Instead you’ll hear lesser-known garage rock and proto-punk, also the likes of The Chocolate Watchband and Jethro Tull.
As you might expect, cash is the only acceptable tender here. But you won’t need wads of the stuff: regular prices range from $3 for a can of Budweiser (the good stuff, not Light– though if you’re looking for a skinny beer, the stuff’s on draft for $4) to $5 drafts of Pacifico. There’s also a selection of liquids for the fancier palate: Leaf Pile Pumpkin, Bell’s Two Hearted, Brooklyn Brewery Pilsner, etc. from $6-$7.
Beers are fine and good, but it’s the cocktails you should look forward to. Birdy’s ain’t about that mixology, that’s for sure, but the bartenders here can make you a solid, classic cocktail of just about any kind you can imagine for $7. The bar provides you with some hints (“Birdy’s Cocktail Suggestions”) such as the Harvey Wallbanger, Rob Roy, and Whiskey Sour (the kind with real lemon and maraschino cherry, not the horror show born of pre-made mix). But you have free rein if you know what you’re doing– the menu clarifies: “If your favorite drink is not listed– just ask for it.” Clutch.
Lucky for me, I rolled up to Birdy’s at happy hour, which isn’t hard to do because it extends from open (5 pm) to 9 pm Monday through Friday. All those aforementioned cocktails, they’re only $5 between these golden hours. And draft beers are $2 off as are the white and red wines (normally $8 and $9, respectively). “They’re not cheap wines,” Holly confirmed. “They’re actually really good.”
While this isn’t exactly a place for dining, my drinking buddy for the night wasn’t complaining about his free dinner: seemingly bottomless bowls of “party mix,” (i.e. Munchies). I asked if Birdy’s plans to have any food in the future. “Our menu will be an old-school binder of food delivery menus from local restaurants,” Holly said. “So we can support the hood.”
Birdy’s is located at 1215 Myrtle Avenue in Bushwick. Happy Hour is Monday through Friday 5 pm to 9 pm. Cash only, y’all.