PROSPECT HEIGHTS — The second location of Beer Street at 550 Vanderbilt Avenue, opening in the next two weeks, will offer both beer aficionados and novices beers both classic and rare, a menu by Foster Sundry with sandwiches to munch on, along with a full liquor program.
Craft beer bars are far from rare in New York City – Beer Street co-owner Cory Bonfiglio is a former beer buyer and floor manager at The Cannibal Beer & Butcher in Murray Hill, which closed in March of 2019, and served as Managing Partner at Proletariat, a craft beer bar, in the East Village.
What gives Beer Street an edge, though, is a special focus on local beers. Not tri-state area local – five boroughs local. At the original Beer Street at 413 Graham Avenue in Williamsburg that opened in 2014, six or seven taps are devoted to beers from New York City, and Bonfiglio and co-owner Josh Meckes will apply the same focus to the Vanderbilt spot.
“[Our focus] is always to be New York first – there are so many amazing things happening in beer in New York right now,” Meckes told us.
The new location was a long time in making: Meckes and Bonfiglio applied for permits to build out the space back in October 2018, and waited for six months for them to come in. Meckes informed us that the space is privately funded.
Now that they’re in the home stretch, Meckes and Bonfiglio are going all out with a three-part opening celebration: one night for bartenders, distributors, and other members of the local beer community, one night for building tenants, and one night for the public. The partners will announce the official dates once their plans are finalized.
As with the first location, the menu boasts some pretty exciting options for beer nerds. Patrons can expect some of the “coolest, rarest beers from around New York City and the world,” Meckes said. “Covetable stuff.”
Queens’ own Finback brewery will provide some of the brews, while some more unusual, small-batch concoctions from Suarez family Brewery in Hudson, New York will make it onto the menu as well. The partners also have their very own beer – a blended sour that they made with Oxbow Brewing Company up in Maine.
While Meckes is an avowed beer lover now, he was originally converted by Bonfiglio, his close friend for almost 20 years. They met in their native Long Island, when Bonfiglio, a guitarist, auditioned for and got accepted to a band that Meckes played drums in. Inspired by bars in the Bay Area and Montreal where the focus is on locally produced beers, Bonfiglio wanted to highlight the rich New York City brewing scene with a place of their own.
While Beer Street is a haven for lovers of refined beer, Meckes says that they try to be totally accessible to everyone.
“The beer world can be daunting to people who haven’t ventured in – it’s kind of like a club,” he said. While they love for novices to come in and try “weird stuff,” their service ethos is to guide people through the menu and help them settle on the right beer.
The edict “ask questions and trust your bartender,” sits on Beer Street’s menu, Meckes said, and “that’s really what it’s about.” An inviting ambiance, along with a selection of great wines and ciders – most of them from New York state – are there to entice the truly beer-averse.
The new Beer Street is close to five times larger, at 2,300 square feet, than the original location’s 450 square feet. The number of taps has also grown from 10 to a formidable 26. Still, the owners did their best to translate the intimate atmosphere of the original Williamsburg location, and to warm up the spot’s industrial, wood- and copper-accented design scheme.
“We love what Beer Street in Williamsburg has become,” Meckes said. “We want to take the best elements of that and offer it on a grander scale.” Prospect Heights, with remnants of the old neighborhood sharing space with fresh, new business concepts, seemed like fertile ground for the new spot.
The new Beer Street will be open seven days a week at 550 Vanderbilt Avenue (between Dean and Pacific). Monday through Thursday, the hours are 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., Friday from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., Saturday from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m., and Sunday from 2 p.m. to 1 a.m.