The sun is always just about to set in Char No. 4 on Smith Street in Brooklyn. The light in the bar is a pale amber that matches the four shelves of whiskey lining the walls, reminding me of that hour before evening during Autumn. The bar is so calming, you want to take off your coat, find a stool, stay for awhile. Stay forever. Put a bed in the corner and wake up every day to the shelves and shelves of whiskey bottles – some familiar, some to be new friends.
_ The bar at the front of the restaurant is often packed on weekends, but early on a weeknight, there are plenty of empty stools to climb on and chat with the bartenders. They are quick with suggestions and expertise, and happy to introduce you to something new. You can leisurely flip through 10 pages of everything from classic bourbons and single malt Scotches to corn or Japanese whiskey at prices ranging from $4 Wild Turkey Rye 101 Proof to top-shelf $100 Maker’s Mark Black Wax (Japanese Market) for a one-ounce pour.
There is always the random person who orders a Bud Light at the bar, and there are some wine options. But why? When there are four SHELVES of whiskey to try. And try you can – they offer a one-ounce or two-ounce pour if you have been aching to try a clear corn whiskey or one of those Scotches that are so hard to pronounce but so easy to love.
And they smoke their own meat. They serve you whiskey and make their own bacon? Yes, it is amber-colored heaven. Good Saturdays start with brunch at Char. No. 4. Order the biscuits benedict and loosen your belt – it has thick biscuits, house smoked ham, poached eggs, and bacon gravy.
I spent a favorite birthday dinner here that paired a different whiskey to each course. That was the night I met Bernheim, an all wheat whiskey, which happens to be a rare but very good idea. And that was only one taste in the meal. There was meat after meat followed by homemade chocolate ice cream, and always a different whiskey to try. I know someday when I don’t live around the corner from a restaurant that has four long shelves of whiskey and smokes its own meat, I will stare at the menu of that one evening, lick my lips a few times, and remember when…