Question: What is Champions League good for?
Answer: Skipping out of the office for a sneaky mid-day pint. Unless you are someone like me and it's basically your job to do so.
Today I left the Soccer Specific Sweatshop that is the digital dept. at MLSHQ and took a field trip to Brooklyn to check out the Chelsea-Inter match at a new footie-centric bar called Woodwork. It sits on the corner of Vanderbilt and Dean just a short hop off of Atlantic Ave. (go two blocks past the giant Red Bull Arena billboard on your left and you should see it on the corner) in the heart of Prospect Heights. Run by Ross Greenberg from Cosmopolitan League regulars Brooklyn Gunners FC, it's the only official-sanctioned UEFA Champions League bar in Brooklyn.
With it's distressed wood floors, exposed brick walls and an eco-friendly bar made from old oak floorboards salvaged from a century-old Massachusetts dairy farm it's definitely a different vibe from the English pubs that you typically end up skivving off to for a mid-afternoon match. But you have to remember that this in Prospect Heights so there has got to be a bit of Brooklyn realness mixed in with the bourgie-ballin', hence the pre & post-game soundtrack of Jay-Z and Kanye.
As for the food for the food and drink, the selection of the former is about quality and the latter is about quantity; the menu is small but awesome (have the truffle oil mac & cheese with pancetta, you'll thank me) while the beer selection is ample and affordable. "We have a great beer selection" says Ross, "but people come here for soccer, that's what we're about".
Prior to opening the bar, Ross -a chef by trade- was cooking at a restaurant in the south of France. He told me that the way he broke down the culture gap with his French co-workers started with one word: Drogba. "Once they knew I knew the game they really opened up and were cool with me", he says. "That's when they quit looking at me like I was the ignorant American who called it "soccer".
Woodwork may have only been open 5 weeks but they've already collected more than a few regulars from the neighborhood and have some big things on the horizon; there's a Kicking & Screening photo exhibit/competition scheduled to run from the end of May through the World Cup with Pele to judge the winner. How they're hooking that up I have no idea but if you can get the King to bless your bar you'll pretty much have a license to print money. If they keep making moves like that I think these newcomers will be around for quite a while.
If any of you yahoos know of any cool, unique or must-visit soccer bars feel free to drop them in the comments; I'm looking to make "Barflying" a regular thing and I'm taking all suggestions nationwide.