The chalkboard in the hands of the lifesized, waiter-shaped sign at the entrance of Gowanus Yacht Club summed up the evening's vibe perfectly: "Beer."
Henri and David shared at least one pitcher of it, chatting and watching the action in a booth against the garden's back wall. Their conversation was as breezy and casual as the evening itself.
Gowanus Yacht Club, whose yearly spring opening is celebrated on every local food/bar blog worth its salt, is entering what is likely to be its last six to eight weeks of the season.
Aside from being an early trailblazer in the beer garden revival that has now touched every borough in the city, the bar still maintains the same cozy atmosphere it has been cultivating since local restauranteur Alan Harding opened it in 2002.
The Gowanus Yacht Club is operated out of the garden at , on President and Smith streets.
Henri has lived in Carroll Gardens for over eleven years, and has a real connection to the Yacht Club. It was the first bar he set foot in upon his arrival in Brooklyn.
"I signed my first lease here," he says. "And I still love it. No candlelight, no gravel. Just christmas lights and cheap beer."
And the beer is still cheap. But reallt, how can Pabst Blue Ribbon not be? In addition to a good selection of bottles and cans, the tap selections, which include Duff (a "mystery" brew), Gaffel Kolsch and Jever (a tasty German pilsner) are all in the five dollar range and served in large plastic picnic cups.
"Don't forget the food," added David, also a neighborhod resident. "It's great."
David is right. The food at Gowanus Yacht Club adheres to two simple rules: simplicity and taste. The menu includes hot dogs cooked with the popular local Six Point beer, pierogis and deceptively simple hamburgers that taste as if they were cooked by an uncle at a family picnic.
David loves the hamburgers.
"The burgers are my favorites," David paused. "Okay, and the pickles, too."
Even the bar's location screams simplicity, since it is directly above the Carroll Street subway station, home to the F and G lines, and an easy commute for visitors from other neighborhoods or boroughs(!) to stop by and relax.
A no-nonsense classic seventies rock playlist provided mellow background music as patrons milled about, laughing, drinking and eating. There weren't many free seats in the garden, but the space never felt too cramped.
Although Gowanus Yacht Club has more than a few weeks before it shutters for the winter, one can only assume its final night, which was October 31 last year, will boast a friendly and easy-going atmosphere - the same one that hovers over the best backyard cookouts in our collective past.