Abe’s Pagoda Bar on Wyckoff used to be a Crown Fried Chicken. Before that it was a movie theater. But the previous tenants didn’t quite realize how big the space was. Even the new team didn’t notice the back area on their initial visits. The team at Abe’s spent over three and a half years renovating the space, with months lost to delays from the City Department of Buildings. Now there are new sewage systems, electric, HVAC, all new furniture, and a new neighborhood destination.
The payoff is a 2100-square-foot bar that focuses on the details: from vintage photographs to tiny lamps dotting the shelves. Construction took a year and a half, decoration another few months with the help of WadeCo Designs, a Los Angeles-based firm that helped find tiny ships, neon lighting, and more. Even the speakers were specially sourced to not detract from the cohesive decor—they’re vintage radio cabinets. Martell grew up in Detroit and was inspired by the now closed Chin Tiki.
Partners William Martel, Anne Lee, Greg Curley, and Matt Stevenson, all bring different skill sets to the bar. Curley owns Double Windsor in Windsor Terrace and Cake Shop in Manhattan. Stevenson is a longtime bartender (he’s worked at more than 30 spots in three boroughs) and Bushwick resident with a knack for attracting off duty industry people to his bars. If you’re into rare spirits, chat with him about the bottles of mezcal he’s saving behind the bar for a special occasion. He’s planning late night Sunday and Monday happy hours for hospitality industry folks. They’re also seeing lots of business from the hospital staff across the street. Martel is excited to be open, especially after outstanding work orders from 1991 delayed them for so long, “we’d submit our paperwork and they’d see this existing work order.” It was completely done 18 months ago, aside the red tape.
If the bar were just its front room, it would still be impressive. The gold flaked bar is set in black epoxy and decorated with vintage lamps, ceramics, and hanging lights made from coconuts. The team added the flakes themselves, “salt bae style.” The booths are great for a group and the windows let the sun in. The back room could host a party or a group of friends with pool tables, leather banquettes, arcade games, and a photo booth.
Best of all, the owners see Abe’s as a combo of an asian tiki bar and a dive bar. There are draft beers and drinks you can get quickly, like a tequila soda or a whiskey ginger, and there are “complicated, exciting cocktails that take a little longer and cost a little more,” says Stevenson.
More than 30 bartenders have joined the team so far. The cocktail menu will be updated on a quarterly basis and the most popular one so far has been the $12 Shangri-la which combines mezcal, lime, pineapple, and grapefruit soda.
The frozen drinks, of which there are two, tow the line. The Samurai Sling ($10) is a combo of a Mai Tai, a Singapore Sling, and a Melon Ball with a little bit of sourness in addition to the generous booze. There’s a more straightforward option too, the Yin Yang Tang with orange-vanilla flavors. Rum is typically the backbone of tiki drinks, but Abe’s drifts from traditions with options featuring gin, a twist on the aperol spritz, and cachaca, a Brazilian spirit made from sugarcane. Every week there’s something “more hip and cocktail-y” and something “accessible and fun that’s easy to drink,” Stevenson explains. He gets to channel his mad scientist side to come up with these, which usually have at least nine ingredients.
Abe’s has a food program developed by Chef and Queens native Roy Yacoob. He connected with Stevenson on Facebook through a friend and immediately had “great chemistry with everyone.” He previously worked at a kosher barbecue restaurant and was excited to have the chance to develop his own umami-filled menu focused on Asian fusion. He’s testing more dishes, like a hawaiian inspired pineapple chicken.
It’s inspired by bar food and Southeast Asia, with dishes like housemade kimchi and okonomiyaki hot dogs, drunken noodles, and a cheeseburger with mango chutney and tamarind sauce. The burger’s a smash burger with two patties—a chef and staff favorite. The kitchen is open till 2 a.m. nightly and Roy highly recommends a late night order of drunken noodles, which include a vegan option. There are also veggie hot dogs available.
The team defines their bar not as an authentic tiki spot, but as a place that inspired by the spirit of tiki and “american guy who moved to Southeast Asia and opened a bar and restaurant” and started incorporating local ingredients and flavors into the menu. The bar is named for Abe Vigoda of the Godfather fame, “a reference only old people get.”
Abe’s still has no website, yet it’s drawing crowds. The opening party, advertised only on Instagram, had 600 guests and the team is still adjusting to the demands. Stop by soon while this spot is still under the radar. They’re booking DJs for weekend nights and will continue to roll out new drinks. If you’re celebrating a birthday soon, get in touch. They have lots of room and offer special discounts.
108 Wyckoff Avenue, off the Dekalb L.
Open daily 5 p.m. – 4 a.m.
Happy Hour, Monday-Friday, 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.
All photos courtesy of Abe’s Pagoda.
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