Since we covered the opening of Houston Hall back in January, business has been booming. The line is always around the corner, the beer is varied and unique (not to mention the wings are unbelievable), and (on the night of the NBA Finals game seven, at least) there is barely any room to move. The open floor plan makes it perfect for larger gatherings and watching landmark TV moments on the large projector screens.
But just this month, Jon Bloostein, owner and creator of Houston Hall, opened its Flatiron counterpart (conveniently named Flatiron Hall) on 26th and Broadway. And this one didn’t take long to have a line around the corner — just one week after its opening, the place was jammed.
One of the most special aspects of the new beer halls for Bloostein is the departure from the commercialized product that his Heartland Breweries have become (however successful they may be). Upon learning that these beer halls and Heartland are under the same ownership, most people are in utter disbelief.
Flatiron Hall, a two-floor beer mecca in a former sporting goods store space, has been completely transformed with dark and gold detailed wallpaper, a plethora of antiques from Bloostein’s own collection, reclaimed wood floors, vintage area rugs, and customized details to bring the space together.
Like Houston Hall, the space is marked by no more than an obscure, small wood-framed and glassed-in announcement board from an old Baptist church. The outside façade is made of old elevator doors from the late 1800s, carrying over the iron and steel feeling of its Houston sibling. Inside, the upstairs 25-foot bar is a Victorian antique from 1870, first housed in the Commodore Hotel in downtown Manhattan. Custom distressed marble and beer taps sit in the middle of the bar, painted with detailing to match the dark paneled wood. Wall art features a conglomeration of sketches from the Art Students' League of New York (which boasts former instructors, lecturers, and students like Jackson Pollock, Roy Lichtenstein, and Norman Rockwell), many of which are from the '40s and '50s. While this League inspired the space’s design, other haphazardly framed and placed sketches and paintings are from flea markets and thrift shops, some even on old napkins and placemats, recovered from New York dining institution Schrafft's, which was in business from 1915 to 1970. Small dining room tables and wooden chairs dating from 1860 to 1920 grace the main space, and light fixtures date from 1860 to 1930. On the stairway leading to the bottom floor, a series of 1877 Harper’s Weekly Journal of Civilization prints span the wall.
Downstairs, a 1920s speakeasy bar from New Rochelle features milled beer barrels in the structure. The far wall features a mural depicting a baseball player transforming into a stein of beer — the piece, entitled "The Absorption of Baseball," was originally drawn in 1889, a creation from H.S. Crocker & Co. An artist was commissioned to paint this vintage piece in the Flatiron Hall space. Throughout the entire hall are dozens of Bloostein’s collection of more than 150 antique irons (flatirons), fueled at one point by stove, coal, kerosene, and even gasoline. (The original flatiron was invented by Mary Potts in 1871 in Iowa.)
The food and drink at Flatiron is similar to that at Houston Hall, however specific offerings differ. All beers come from personal recipes of Greenpoint Beerworks brewers, only available at the two sister locations. A cocktail list features special cocktails from a local bartender’s great uncle. The food menu is designed for lunch, dinner, and late night, with many "bar food" options. In addition to this menu is a brunch menu, as well as a dessert menu.
Some of the fare that we sampled and can vouch for are the sashimi tuna tacos, which combine tuna tartare with a hint of wasabi, other sauces, and crispy shells; pastrami Reuben spring rolls, with pastrami from Carnegie Deli, Gruyère, sauerkraut, and spicy mustard dipping sauce; the warm giant pretzel, served on a banana hook, with a ramekin of Cheddar ale dip; and a few desserts including apple sour cream walnut pie, Nutella paninis, and profiteroles.
The main difference between the upstairs and downstairs is in drink and purpose. The upstairs, filled with hands holding cocktails and wine, also housed many dining at the four-seater tables. Downstairs, long beer hall tables, like at Houston Hall (although not quite the size), reflect more of a community setting and are lined with large steins of the many beers on tap. The hall does have one projector, and will be able to play major sporting events, however not on the grand open scale of Houston Hall.
The locations are an exciting and promising venture for Bloostein and his staff. The freedom in decoration and layout gives a casual and inviting air that many halls and restaurants lack. The unique spaces also lend to the experience, making the hall a destination in itself, rather than just another place to consume food and drink. Another hall location is rumored to be opening this coming fall, however a bit outside the city, in Rochester, N.Y.
One thing we have to say, is hats off to the staff, because not only do they deliver food and beer through the massive maze the place becomes and straight to your table, but they do it in a timely manner, too. And this location happens to be a bit closer to our office…
Tyler Sullivan is The Daily Meal's assistant editor. Follow her on Twitter @atylersullivan.