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Abilene in Carroll Gardens, Not as Simple as it Looks

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There are more than 6,000 bars in New York City. About 200 of them get regular press. This column is about the other ones. Robert Simonson, a journalist and blogger of the drinking life, and the originator of the "A Beer At..." column, takes a peek inside Gotham’s more anonymous watering holes, one by one.

[Krieger, 10/7/2]

Abilene is perfectly positioned to absorb tired Brooklyn commuters as they pour out of the F train's Carroll Street station at 6 PM and head down Court Street to their homes inside the brownstones of Carroll Gardens. Many pass it by, but always with a thirsty glance in the bar's direction. Others dart in and order a Maker's on the rocks, a Jack and Coke or a draft.
There's nothing particularly remarkable about Abilene, aside from its unusual name. This corner has long held a bar (it was a beer garden in the 1930s), and has changed names and owners a number of times over the past 20 years. It's a long, flat, rectangular space, like a railroad car. There are tables and lawn chairs outside when its fine weather; a garage sale's worth of couches, tables and chairs inside, where you can order fried this and fried that and play any number of board games.

The vibe is comfortable and relaxed, with a "no worries" kind of crowd. It's the kind of place where you expect dogs to be tolerated. Still, Abilene not as simple as all that. Back in May, it was the site of a book launch party. And just as you don't expect a bar like this to feature a Pimm's Cup as a special (a "Broke-Ass Cocktail" consisting of a cheap shot and a can of Genesee Cream Ale, yes), the bar conversation can throw you a curve ball every now and then.

A seemingly colorless barfly talked of a coming trip to France, where he was going "not because I like the French so much, but because my favorite philosophers are French—Camus and Sartre." The bartender nodded, raised not an eyebrow. A good time girl at the end talked of a recent wedding in Spain where she "partied my ass off" in every city on the itinerary, only to discover the ceremony was in an isolated town were there were "no delis at all" to score a pack of butts. All was forgiven, however, when the groom's dad showed up with a trunk filled with Marlboros.
—Robert Simonson