Before the Music at Williamsburg's Federal Bar
All photos by Aliza Kellerman.
Sometimes new restaurants put weird, “cute” things on the menu for the sake of it. The results aren’t always great. I’ve ordered dishes before that sounded intriguing, only to be served a plate of truffled paste. A common trap many booze-centric restaurants fall into is serving ambiguous, fancied up food that frankly isn’t that good. However, I’m pleased to say Williamsburg’s latest, Federal Bar, adjacent to music venue The Knitting Factory, nails their menu.
Federal Bar is spacious, with a small bar but plenty of table seating. The staff is friendly and notably without a drop of pretense. While the lighting is dim, it’s not contrived, and the tall ceilings give off a cool warehouse vibe. It’s a great first date place: casual without being lazy.
The food menu, designed by Chef Brandon Doyle, is just eccentric enough to leave you intrigued but not overwhelmed. I have to say, after visiting enough bars a gal grows a little bored with a charcuterie platter. I get it: charcuterie is a crowd-pleasing plate that keep’s the joint’s lights on, but it’s nice to shake things up a bit. I went for beef heart poutine, rumaki & waffles (bacon with crispy duck liver , spicy maple glaze and pineapple cilantro chutney), aaaand a vegan burger. Although I’m a carnivore, I think when a restaurant can pull off delicious vegan/vegetarian dishes, it’s a definite feat. I’m pleased to say all three dishes delivered: there was a good mixture of salty and sweet and the vegan burger left me completely sated, which is saying a lot. This is a place that’s you’ll adore if you love meat, but that’ll also please your pickier and vegetarian friends.
Now, onto the good stuff. Federal Bar’s cocktail menu is very approachable. These aren’t rum & cokes, but they’re not fifteen ingredients, eu de vied scientific experiments. Basic liqueurs like Chartreuse, Cynar, and Cherry Heering make cameos in various drinks. I went for the BBL (Brazilian Butt Lift): Leblon cachaça, lime, and Mike’s Hot Honey. Cachaça is an underutilized spirit, and it worked very well here, kicking it with both the treacly and spicy notes of the Hot Honey. If you’re a fan of spicy margaritas, you’ll dig the BBL. There’s a nice, mid-sized beer list as well. The only thing I wasn’t sold on was one drink called the River North: Craigellachie Scotch, ruby port, and lager. Honestly, all of the drink’s components seemed to cancel each other out and bring forth a drink that was both a little bland and way too alcoholic. (Editor's note: well, you win some and lose some. As with most cocktail menus.)
The Federal Bar is a great breath of fresh air from the sometimes inaccessible cocktail scene. It’s definitely worth a visit for some casual dining, sipping, and chatting, especially before or after a show next door. If you’re a West coaster you’re in luck – there are locations in Long Beach and North Hollywood.
Check out: the crispy pork rillettes, rumaki & waffles, and the metropolitan dog
Visit: 367 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, NY
Hours of operation:
Sunday-Thursday 11:30 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Friday-Saturday – 11:30 a.m. – close
Happy Hour – 2 p.m. – 7 p.m., Monday-Friday