The purveyor of twangy pop-punk shares his favorite spots for Big Buck Hunter, margaritas and a shot of sweet, sweet nostalgia
Bushwick Country Club
I didn’t do much exploring whenever I first moved here because I was poor and just ready to go, as far as being an actor. Whenever I came back from tour [for West Side Story]… I remember one night just being like, I want to find some cool, out-of-the-way place, and I found the website for the Bushwick Country Club. Like, a dive bar that calls itself a country club? This sounds absolutely hilarious. I’m gonna go check it out.
They have the Members Special up there [and] it’s literally one of those ‘Okay, what do we need to get rid of?’ [things]. It was so funny. I was sitting at the bar and the owner was here and we just came up with this absolutely disgusting mix of stuff — and they put it on the Members Special. I love this place. Usually like once a month, I would end up coming back here because they had a Big Buck Hunter…
I love the fact that it is not pretentious at all. Later down the road a little bit, I ended up working on the Lower East Side down on Bowery. I loved the people I was working with, I loved the restaurant I was working in, but a lot of the clientele was just young, with money, pretentious. So coming here, I was like, it’s divey, it’s dingey, it is what it is and nobody is here for fancy shit — and I love that.
Since I worked in the service industry, I do love trying out new cocktails and high-end stuff, but that whole lifestyle was never me. My parents were very much working class. Obviously everyone wants to move up on the ladder, but I’m never gonna turn into that guy that I remember waiting on who was telling his date how he had his kombucha shipped in from Portland. That’s just a whole thing here — money dictating the whole way that you live your life. Everyone puts on a persona based on the situation they’re in — that’s just what we do — but this is me, and I have kind of a thing for Tecate.
618 Grand St, Brooklyn, (718) 388-2114, bushwickcountryclub.com
Black Brick Coffee
When I first moved here, I was picking up something from Craigslist in Alphabet City and I got off at the wrong spot because I didn’t know how to get home. I got off at the Bedford L train and I was walking around with this massive print — I mean, like holding it over my head — like, where the fuck am I? Ended up just going up Bedford Avenue and finally was like, fuck it, I’m gonna put this outside of here. If someone takes it, whatever, I don’t care. I just need to get an iced coffee and sit for a minute.
I walked in and it looked like everything I had heard Brooklyn was — dark, edison bulbs, chalkboard menu. Very well curated for that look. Coffee was Stumptown, which I’d never heard of [but was] like, oh, that’s probably cool. I was learning the Brooklyn hipster way of life at that point.
I fell in love with it, and when I came back from tour, I was like, where do I wanna go to really work where I feel comfortable? Because everything’s really dark, it just focused me in, and I built my first couple websites there. I used to go there to edit photos…
And they have a backyard. You don’t feel like you’re in New York. If I’m gonna go somewhere and spend a lot of time, I don’t want to feel like I’m in the middle of New York, constantly being ushered to a different spot.
[Bushwick Country Club] was the first dive bar I fell in love with; this was the first coffeeshop I fell in love with.
300 Bedford Ave, (718) 384-0075, blackbrickcoffee.com
For Christmas this past year, I bought my parents a ticket to come visit for a week, just to kind of see what I do with my life. I told them there’s this really cool place, we have to go, bring the dog…
It’s technically in Ridgewood. [Editor’s note: I KNOW, BUT CLOSE ENOUGH??] It’s this huge, open space. It is, in my opinion, the equivalent of going over to your friend’s house in high school on Saturday night, pulling out the grill and the beer pong table… that’s like, to me, the closest thing you can get to that here. I absolutely love it.
Actually, “The Summer of ‘10” was written about something very similar to that. Nostalgia. I’m gonna be a 35 year old with a nostalgia level of a 70 year old.
56-06 Cooper Ave #1, (347) 523-8535, Nowadays.nyc
It’s one of those very Brooklyn things. It’s a coffee shop during the day; it turns into a bar at night. My branding brain was like, oh, I love this place!
It’s truly a neighborhood spot. Beautifully decorated. It’s very minimal, not pretentious at all. They have a full kitchen there so you can get an actual breakfast. It’s just such a chill spot. Before I had the capital to invest in a workspace, I would show up at a coffee shop at like noon, drink coffee, do the thing, get lunch and then right around 3:00, I would pack up and go to a bar at like 4:00 for happy hour. That place was great, because I was like, cool, I’ll do a beer with that next coffee. Let’s go.
It’s extremely reasonably priced, everyone there is very friendly, they have good coffee, they have good food. It doubles well as a hangout spot and a place that you can work.
351 Evergreen Ave, (347) 442-5880, sunrisesunsetbk.com
It kind of reminds me of the place I used to work in Nolita — one of those secret places where you have to go down an alleyway and all that. This place instantly reminded me of it because it’s right in between two warehouse spaces. You have to open a door, then go down this whole hallway that’s painted this weird lime-green color, and then you get into the shop. Again, it’s got that whole rustic sort-of look to it and they’ve got a whole open patio — completely secluded from everything, greenery everywhere, wifi is super fast, everyone’s super friendly. They have vegan options, so as I started making that transition, I was like, new spot, we’ve got it, great.
It’s right across the street from a massive L Train Vintage, and my girlfriend is very into vintage shopping. [We] meet at KÁVÉ, we’ll work for a few hours and then go vintage shop.
119 Knickerbocker Ave, (718) 360-8685, kavebrooklyn.com
I don’t remember exactly how I found it, but I was like, oh god, there’s a country bar here? I gotta check it out. I went there and there was a blue-grass band playing — I’m like, fuck, I’m here, let’s do it.
That is 100% nostalgia driven. [It] looks like places I used to play open mics at when I turned 21 in Georgia — the American flag hanging on the wall, the jukebox with Merle Haggard in it, sawdust on the floor. Like that was transplanted right from Marietta, Georgia, and they snuck it right into Williamsburg.
If you’re from the South, you’ve been somewhere that looks like Skinny Dennis. And I think that that’s the genius of that bar — anyone from the South is going to see this place and be a return customer. I took my parents there and they were in heaven.
152 Metropolitan Ave, (212) 555-1212, skinnydennisbar.com
If you’re looking to up the class level, there’s Yours Sincerely. It’s cool as shit. Very dark.ll their drinks are served in beakers, and all their cocktails — they do them all on tap.
My guilty pleasure cocktail are margaritas. I get made fun of incessantly when I go out with my friends. [At Yours Sincerely] they do this cool thing how instead of salting the rim, they have a saline spray they spray on top of it. Like, what the fuck is this? And if you go on the secret menu, they have a jalapeño one.
41 Wilson Ave, (929) 234-2344, yourssincerely.co
Find everything Jonathan Freeland at jonathanfreelandofficial.com, and be sure to follow him on Instagram and Spotify!
[This interview has been edited and condensed.]
Great article! Jonathan Freeland needs to do more travel to write about the best books and cranny places to eat and drink at or just find fun with the best music. Bravo!