F4tF: New York City Beer Halls

Once we hit the corner of 7th and C, Zum Schneider stood out like a sore thumb.  We walked in, the place was PACKED with drinkers and eaters.  We inquired about a table for two and were told 45 minutes to an hour.  Somehow, luckily five minutes later we were approached about sharing a communal table.  Of course we said, “hell yes!” Now, for those who have never been, Zum Schneider is an authentic (albeit small) German Beer Hall located on  Avenue C in the East Village.  You can find their food menu here and their beer menu here.  Can’t recall what beers we had (as I said it was a lazy Saturday and we were drinking & noshing along the way).  For food though we had the Brotzeitteller: A Mixed plate of traditional German cold cuts & cheese and a main dish that was a daily special.  It basically was like a German style meat loaf served with cucmber dill salad & German potato salad.

2) Bierkraft – 191 5th Ave Park Slope Brooklyn 718. 230.7600

Bierkraft’s history (from their website):

Welcome to Bierkraft, a gourmet grocery and beer emporium located on glorious Fifth Avenue in Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY. We offer a delectable assortment of over 250 artisan cheeses, 7 collections of boutique chocolates, over 100 gourmet chocolate bars, the smallest production, most rustic charcuterie we can find, a slew of gourmet goodies and over 1000 beers as well as 14 fresh beers on tap in growlers.

As I was finishing up work one night I got the following text from my friend “Let’s go some place that has great beer, good food, must take credit cards.”  Not one to be redundant, I said I have just the place for you.  We jumped on the N train and headed to Park Slope.  If you have never been to Bierkraft it is basically the combination of a killer beer store with one of the best collections of bottled beer for sale in NYC along with 14 beers on tap and in my opinion some of the best sandwiches to be found anywhere in NYC.

We shared 2 sandwiches:

Italian: House Roasted Ham, Petit Jesu, Hot Sopressata, Prosciutto di Parma & Pecorino Sardo w/ Arugula, Tomato, Onion, Roasted Pepper, EVOO & Balsamic Vinegar.
Serrano: Serrano Ham & Manchego w/ Fig Spread, Arugula, EVOO & Sherry Vinegar on a Baguette.

There is picnic (communal style) seating at the store and you can order your beer & food at the same time and pay all at once.  Plus they carry Zapp’s Potato Chips (Louisiana manufacturers of thick cut, flavored potato chips.)  A small bag (of your flavor choice) is included with all sandwiches.

3) MexiQ – 37-11 30th Ave Astoria, Queens 718.626.0333

MexiQ’s history (from their website):

MexiQ kitchen & Draught is the result of wanting to give friends and neighbors something different in this exciting neighborhood. MexiQ takes the immense popularity of barbecue joints in New York combined with New Yorkers’ intense love of Mexican cuisine, and features barbecue favorites with a Mexican accent. That’s only the kitchen part; the draught part is as equally intense: 48 taps line the back bar, each one holding an artisanal style beer that has been chosen specifically and constantly rotated to match the food, our ever diverse seasons, and of course our neighbors taste buds.

The Astoria trip was on a Sunday afternoon starting out around 4 PM.  A good friend who is an Astoria resident recommended the place as we were looking for someplace to relax, nosh, drink good beer and watch the Lakers/Celtics game.  I kinda felt it was a bad omen when we walked in and college gymnastics NOT the Laker game was on the big screens.  We were handed a couple of laminated menus and ordered a Sam Adams seasonal brew only to be told “Oh that’s the wrong menu, we don’t have that beer now.”  We were handed nicer, paper menus and decided on Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig Ale

For food we decided on their Nacho Sampler which is a tasting of the three different types of nachos they have (none of which are listed on their website menu, which is not the current menu).   Long story short about the experience:  Kitchen took FOREVER to get the food out and when we asked for a 2nd round of the Old Fezzwig Ale the keg had kicked and there was no backup.  EPIC FAIL, not heading back anytime soon.

4) Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden – 2919 24th Ave Astoria, Queens 718.274.4925

This is the only history you need to know about them:

The oldest beer garden in New York City is 100 years old.

After our bad experience at MexiQ we were due for some beer & food redemption.  Later that day, after I showed my friend around Astoria’s collection of ethnic food stores and restaurants, we made our way up 31st Street to The Bohemian.  You can find their food & beer menu here.  We decided on a couple of seasonal brews and a sample of some of their food.

The 3 things we ate (all of which were great) were:

Anglická Slanina
Cold Double Smoked Bacon & Crunchy Pickle

Roasted Potatoes

Czech delicacy similar to Pork Terrine garnished with Vidalia Onions and Vinegar

Bohemian is an old school, no frills place with a huge outdoor garden space.  In the winter they have seating only in their bar area and the downstairs dining room.  We sat in the bar.  The beers were cold and refreshing and the sampler of food was a perfect accompaniment to the beers.  There is a reason why this place has been open for 100 years!

5) Kebeer Draft Bar & Grill – 1003 Brighton Beach Ave (between Coney Island Ave & Brighton 11th St) Brighton Beach, Brooklyn 718.934.9005

As last Monday night was my friend’s last night in NYC, my challenge was to take him to a place so far off the beaten path yet with great food and beers (again) that he would have never thought in a million years to head there (let alone be able to find it).  We jumped on an F train around 6 PM and made our way to Coney Island.  After a brief walk down the boardwalk from Coney Island to Brighton Beach (yes it was damn cold, but also quietly beautiful) and after showing him a few cool Ethnic markets we made our way to Kebeer.

The cool thing about Kebeer other than the great selection of beers is that the food is decidedly Russian focused.  We tried half liters of a couple of beers:

Steen Brugge “Belgium’s best selling amber ale’ (8.7 %)

Spaten Optimator “German Doppelbock” (7.2 %)

They did have a sign on the wall that read:

Big Boys Challenge: Drink 4 x 1 Liter glass, 5th on house.

I would love to know how many people have tried this challenge and how few have succeeded.

In regards to the food we tried several items:

Borscht – Not the kind you get in a jar, this was hot beet soup with shredded beets, damn good.

Mushroom Barley Soup – Not the thick kind you find in most places. This was a hearty broth full of flavor with freshly cooked mushrooms (we didn’t order it but the waiter brought it accidentally and didn’t charge us).

Beef Soup – Beef with fresh vegetables and homemade noodles.  By far the best of the 3 soups we tried.  The broth had just a little kick and the homemade noodles were tasty.

Pickled Herring with Roast Potatoes – Again not the kind you find in a jar.  Fresh herring filets pickled that practically melted in your mouth.  My Italian friend had never had pickled herring of any kind before this, he is now hooked and has lofty expectations for the next time he see pickled herring on a menu.

Sausage Sampler Platter – A sampling of 3 types of sausage served with spicy mustard and crispy hot french fries.

All in all this was a great experience and meal and a place well worth checking out should you ever find yourself near the intersection of Coney Island and Brighton Avenues in Brighton Beach.

Hope all of you in the NYC area have a chance to check out these places if you haven’t been.  For those of you not in NYC, what are some great beer halls to check out where you are?   We all travel a lot and it is always great to have an archive of places to check out when you go somewhere.

“A fine beer may be judged with only one sip, but it’s better to be thoroughly sure.”
Czech Proverb

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