Where to Drink in New York: The Bedford, Williamsburg
In a former life The Bedford was Sound Fix, a record store with vinyl up front and a bar in the rear, a moody little space set up for small shows. The new New American bistro has kept up the split, minus the bands: you can stop in the first room for a full farm to table dinner, or move on back and settle in for the night.
The lounge has a comfortable hush to it even when it's half full. On a freezing Monday evening, with wind actually howling outside, the back room of The Bedford feels like the neighborhood hideout of your imagination. It's dark back here, all black paint and candlelight, but the effect is warm—as fit for a date as for a Moleskine.
Whichever reason you've come, there's a drink to match. The cocktail list is short but smart, with by-the-book entries and playful flourishes (the "Old-Fashioned" ($8) swaps Bourbon and sugar for Tequila and agave; the Bedford Bartender Special ($8) gets you a shot of Fernet Branca chased with a Bud). I was tempted to start simple, but the Bon Pomme ($8), a glowing, honey-rimmed cocktail of Stoli apple, lemon juice, Brooklyn hemispheric rhubarb bitters, and shaved cinnamon, talked me out of it. The aromatics suggest Christmas and wintertime orchards, though in the glass nothing harmonizes, nor rises above the smack of flavored vodka.
The classics, however, meet the standard set by the room: The Bloody Mary ($7) is based on Iceland's super-clean Reyka vodka, a strong counter to legions of brunch drinks made with bad booze. Better still is the Negroni ($8), the standard bittersweet combo of gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth; it looks awkward on paper and often fails in practice. A heavy hand with any of the components brings out the worst in each of them. The Bedford gets it right—orange oil and botanicals on the attack give way to a bright, bitter stripe of Campari, all shaped with a subtle spine of Antica Formula. It's Italian summertime in a glass.
The food menu, a clever edit of the dining room's New American options, pays special attention to things salty and fried (good news for your Negroni). You'll find two clever takes on Bar Peanuts ($3), one candied with cinnamon and vanilla, the other with chili and sumac. We moved from the nuts to the soup—Creamed Cauliflower ($8)—which is alcohol-abatingly rich, flawlessly textured, and so heartwarming you couldn't do better than to eat the thing in mittens.
A Pasture Raised Burger ($15) that's a big draw in the front (hint: it's the Gorgonzola) is a bit more of a star in the back, but is somehow not as rewarding as the Ham & Cheese on Pullman ($12). A thick layer of warm pork sits beneath a massive fried egg that, once punctured, spills a deep gold yolk onto everything nearby. We bolstered both sandwiches with an order of sea salt-flecked Fries with Paprika Aioli ($6), and a Corpse Reviver ($8), a hefty cocktail of Cognac and Calvados that heats you up and then knocks you out. It'll end your night, pleasantly, whether you're ready or not.