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The Very Polish Stones Tavern in Greenpoint

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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, takes a peek inside Gotham’s more anonymous watering holes, one by one.

[Krieger, 3/4/10]

I've been to Polish bars before. They were full of old men who sometimes spoke in Polish, when they spoke at all. Stones Tavern on Manhattan Avenue, in the heart of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, is full of young men and women who always speak in Polish. Order in Polish, greet one another in Polish, have long deep conversations in Polish, grunt in Polish.

For a long while, I was the only dope in the bar who insisted on English, and thus stuck out like a sore thumb. Then a couple of girlfriends arrived—locals like everyone else. They spoke English, except when one of their boyfriends showed up, at which time they switched back to Polish. This duo went back and forth between discussing a long article one had read on the uses of philanthropy—the kind of piece "you could really have a conversation about" and you had to Google a number of the bigger words—and commenting on the antics of the cast of "Bad Girls Club," which was on the television. In the episode then airing, the Bad Girls—ditzy borderline sociopaths who seem to simultaneously hate and love each other—were trying to organize the world's largest bikini parade. "She's so over her head," said one of the women about one detested Bad Girl. "All she talks about is money. And when they go to clubs, all she looks for is NFL players."

Zywiec, the Polish lager, rules here. Everyone was drinking it. I was drinking it. The close-shorn boys in the back playing pool were drinking it. Sometimes someone ordered a Lech. There were a series of framed photos on the wall that appeared to be of the Zywiec brewery in Poland. Were they there because the owners are proud of the Motherland, or because Zywiec paid for the honor? Maybe a bit of both. There was plenty of vodka on the shelves, of course, with Luksosowa taking up center stage. The drinks were served by a baleful blond in a hypnotizing zebra-pattern dress. She said no more than she had to, talking mainly to a couple friends at the bar. One drank her beer through a straw. When it was done, Zebra Lady poured some raspberry syrup in the bottom of the glass and then refilled it with Zywiec. With syrup in the equation, the straw suddenly made sense.

The back bar mirror was covered with taped-up dollar bills, and some twenties—a form of decoration you see in many bars. Each (I was told by Zebra Lady) bore the name of the giver in black magic marker. Zambrow. Laraskan. Igla. Pilot. Mieleg. I looked for something like Brian or Steve. I looked in vain.
—Robert Simonson

Stones Tavern

674 Manhattan Ave., Brooklyn, NY

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