>> Saturday, July 9, 2011

1 Station Square
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 896-5445

I am struggling with how to properly review Bartini's, the bar at Station Square. If I wanted to be mean (though honest), I'd call it a laughable joke. A ghetto dump. A seedy pit. But there's no denying its potential. It could be simply amazing if it only wanted to.

Bartini's sits inside of the Forest Hills Inn building beyond the glowing pink neon sign. You'll show your ID to the black-clad bouncer at the door and walk down the steps towards the super-loud thumping club music. A DJ sits in the corner blasting rap and hip hop. Another bouncer watches the crowd (though I use the term "crowd" loosely).

Bartini's claim to fame used to be that they were a martini bar extraordinaire. There was allegedly a cocktail list with hundreds of different martinis to choose from and the bar had a solid ice top to keep drinks cold. Instead, we were given no such menu and the ice top was... gone. As you can see in the photo, tea lights are housed there now.

Purple neon glows along the ceiling. Mirrors line the walls. Red lamps, reminiscent of Amsterdam brothels, illuminate some tables. Instead of booths, a long series of heavily-stained velvet sofas wrap themselves from one wall to the next. What little carpet there is nearly black from old gum (or something). I don't even want to know what this place looks like with the lights on. The floor is tacky white tile, good for mopping up spills and puke. Bartini's feels like the kind of place that spends most of its time either being rented out for sex parties or closed by the health department.

The last time I was at Bartini's was a few years ago and I was literally served cocktails in plastic glasses. Flocks of cougars drunkenly danced and hit on every one of the (few) men in sight. To be blunt, I didn't really see myself ever returning. Not once I discovered a real underground bar in LIC anyway. Nevertheless, Girl Next Door wanted to go. We toyed with the idea for a few weeks and finally, camera in tow, we went. Her first stop was the bathroom. "Please," she said upon returning, "don't make me go back in there."

Most people crowded the bar; a few people sat along the wall, drunkenly dancing alone in their seats. The crowd was thin, especially for a Friday night. "The music is so loud in here!" Girl Next Door screamed. "What?!" I screamed back.

I think that what upsets me so much about Bartini's is the potential. It has so much of it. It's not some shit-pot sports bar throwing cheap beer at a bunch of middle aged dudes interested in watching the Mets lose again. It's a bar that's literally underground in a city currently experiencing a speakeasy revival in a neighborhood with a high income bracket. What the hell is it doing being some wannabe club when it could be a $12-a-drink high-end cocktail lounge?

Okay, here are my thoughts: Bartini's SHOULD be Forest Hills's cocktail lounge. And I don't mean cocktails based in store bought syrups with pussy names like velvet rouge or midnight's delight. I mean the real deal. Hire someone who worked at Employees Only or Rye or Clover Club to create the menu. Ditch the goddamn DJ and replace him with a jazz CD or, better yet, nothing at all. Rip up the tile floor. Put down hardwood. Tear out the mirrors. Clean the bathroom. Toss the ratty disgusting stained sofas. No more well-liquor. From now on, the cheap gin is Tanqueray. No vodka. Dying to have beer on the menu? Local micro-brews only. Go to "Beers of the World" in Sunnyside on Queens Boulevard if you need ideas. Shitcan "ladies night", "salsa night", "reggae night", "gay night", "karaoke night" and any other theme-night from the repertoire. Leather booths. Replace the bouncer outside with a hostess and the bouncer inside with a waiter. Bartini's should only attract people who want to surround themselves in class without compromise, so throw away the garish neon sign and replace it with nothing. Maybe etch the name on the window glass or make a tiny brass plaque, but that's it. Subtlety is key.

The bar, the actual physical bar, is great. Solid wood, huge, with two classic vintage registers. It's fantastic. Forest Hills is crying out for a place where guys like me can get a real drink. Not a mass-produced beer and not a vodka-cranberry (notice I didn't say a Cape Cod, because the bartenders wouldn't know what I'm talking about).

Girl Next Door and I ordered Cape Cods (even though we didn't call them that) at $8 a pop.


Anonymous,  July 12, 2011 at 3:50 PM  

I know this review was meant to be negative, but with quotes such as "Bartini's feels like the kind of place that spends most of its time either being rented out for sex parties or closed by the health department." and "Flocks of cougars drunkenly danced and hit on every one of the (few) men in sight.".. how can I resist!

Jon Parker July 12, 2011 at 4:03 PM  

None of my posts are ever MEANT to be negative. Some of them just sorta wind up that way. Deep down I wanted Bartini's to be awesome. Indeed, I still want Bartini's to be awesome. I just happen to think that right now, it lacks the je ne sais quoi that awesomeness requires.

Sarah at The Stroller Ballet July 13, 2011 at 9:29 PM  

I think this is a great review. Bartini's totally has potential. I was at a speakeasy a few months back in Manhattan and I think it would do well in this neighborhood. My husband and I would definitely be there!

Laura Lutz July 28, 2011 at 11:40 AM  

YES! Love this review and love it when you call it like it is.

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