Phil's Brooklyn: the "Wine and Dive" Bar of Bushwick
It's a late night. I'm cranky. It's been a long day. I hear a new local bar just opened up around the corner, so I make my way over to Phil's Brooklyn. As it turns out, it's someone's birthday. There's a photo booth with balloons, and there's people laughing and having a good time. I'm not amused. I sit down at the end of the bar. One of the owners approaches me and, with a smile that could melt butter, introduces herself as "Vanessa." Apparently she's the birthday girl. I ask for three shots of Jameson... for myself. Understandably, she gives me a funny look and I can already tell she's put a timer on as to how long it'll be before she has to kick my soon-to-be-drunk ass out of the bar.
The other owner comes over and introduces himself as Jeremy. He's charming and genuine, but my attention becomes diverted back toward Vanessa as she brings me my Jameson... in a rocks glass. Three shots of Jameson, in a rocks glass. I'm well aware that she's hoping I'll take the glass and just sip the Jameson, instead of shooting it down. Smart move, Vanessa. I see what you did there. But I'm in a foul mood and I do NOT feel like sipping my Jameson. So I say,
"I know it's a weird request, but can I please have my shots in three separate shot glasses?" I mentally give myself a pat on the back for being polite, when all I want to do is take a glass plate and throw it through someone's windshield, while peeing on their tires.
Vanessa kindly responds with, "Of course!" and pours my shots into separate glasses. I down them in one, two, three seconds, then ask for a glass of wine. Vanessa and Jeremy both look at me and Jeremy gives me props for downing three shots in an amount of time that'd have a Viking patting me on the back and adopting me for a daughter. I'm not actually proud of that accomplishment but, like I said, it's been a bad day.
A girl approaches me and introduces herself as "Jesse." Then I'm introduced to a Jon, and a Josh, and a Johnny, and about ten other people. Apparently, these days, most people's names begin with the letter "J." Everyone is friendly. Everyone wants to dance and chat and bring me into their fold. The shots and wine start to kick in and, all of a sudden, my night doesn't seem so bad.
Fast forward a few hours and I'm being swung around and lifted into the air, "Dirty Dancing" style. I've gotten four different phone numbers, and had more than a couple of Jello shots. Vanessa and Jeremy have long since chatted their way through my bad mood. Wait, was I ever even in a bad mood? I'm cheesin' too much to remember any bad vibes I might have walked in with.
Welcome to "Phil's," where you can enjoy quality wine (and cheese!), without having to choose between burning a hole in your wallet at a pretentious lounge, or dealing with the waste case that just puked in the corner of a bar that smells like piss and sweat. "Wine and dine" is great and all, but "wine and dive," is oooh so much better. So what exactly is Phil's? It's the new creation of fun-loving co-owners Vanessa Epstein and Jeremy Westin. Basically, if a nice wine bar got together and banged one out with a low-key dive bar, their love child would be Phil's.
Phil's boasts everything you'd expect your typical Bushwick hipster bar to have, but it's just... better. Yes, it has multiple board games you can borrow. Yes it has a beer/shot combo. But it also has a classic dartboard, bangin' bar bites (don't even get me started on the waffle ironed grilled cheese), $2 shot glasses of vodka soaked cherries, $7 wine flights on Thursdays (wine flights are only $10 the rest of the time) and a little something called "Space Juice." Don't ask what it is. Just drink it.
There aren't fancy decorations. Just walls and candles. Phil's doesn't need artwork. The bartenders (who also happen to be the owners) are super attentive, have great energy, and sparkling personalities. Phil's has a five star rating on Yelp. Five stars from everyone who has reviewed them, minus some hipster who complained about the lack of art on the walls. Apparently he would have liked to see at least a "single piece of neon or some stained, frame picture of 1920's Paris..." Well, you can't please everyone. But, since Vanessa and Jeremy take everything their patrons say to heart, they read his review and decided he was right: they really did need at least one piece of artwork on their walls. So now, as soon as you enter their front doors, you'll find this:
Props to Vanessa and Jeremy, who have only positive vibes and an amazing sense of humor. Naturally, I wanted to interview them and get to know more about the bar. They were more than happy to oblige:
H: So how do you guys know each other?
J: We met at Vanessa's old job, where she was a bartender, and I was a stalker. I mean, uh, a "customer." Yeah, I just really liked wine... a lot.
H: And then you guys just became friends and were like, "Hey, let's open a bar?" How long have you guys known each other for?
V: Three years?
J: Yeah, three years. Well, we were just, like, "friendly" at the bar she worked at. We weren't actually friends. We never hung out. But then I asked her out after like, a year of going to the bar.
H: Oooo, juicy story.
J: And then, once we started dating, we starting talking casually, you know, just throwing out ideas (about opening a bar). And I hated my day job, and Vanessa was really getting sick of her job ... *looks at Vanessa* You know, you can talk too, Vanessa.
V: *shrugs* I know.
J: And then I was either going to leave the country or do something else so I was like, "I'm serious." and Vanessa was like, "I'M serious," and we both actually had access to money.
H: And that's when you decided to open the bar?
J: Well we started looking, and we went down and formed an LLC. Then, once we had the LLC formed, we looked for spaces. But we actually found this space pretty quickly. We had looked at a place near the Wilson stop, but it was way too small.
V: Yeah way too small. We're really happy we got this one.
H: The interior is great. Was it already set up like this when you moved in?
V: No, it was completely a shell, except for the exposed brick wall. There was no bar. All the paint is new.
J: Everything is new. There were linoleum floors, there was a bathroom that was just a shower curtain in front of a toilet.
V: Yeah, it was a non-functioning bathroom.
J: There was a wall separating the front and the back. Even the windows are new.