Watering Holes: Pubs named for Hidden Streams

Perhaps it is their desire to connect to a distant past and to appear as established neighborhood institutions that new pubs and taverns in New York City choose to adopt the names of long-buried streams as their names. Perhaps there’s an unwritten tradition in pub naming that results in the revival of certain streams on the map.

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Here are a few New York City watering holes named after… long-buried watering holes.

Norman’s Kil, Brooklyn

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Located at 609 Grand Street in the Williamsburg neighborhood, this tavern opened in 2011. It is named after Bushwick Creek, which was known in the early colonial period as Norman’s Kil. It’s namesake was a Norwegian settler named Dirck Volkertsen de Noorman, who purchased his farm from the Lenape natives in 1638 and set up the first farm in 1645.

The farm is believed to have stood on the northern shore of Bushwick Creek, at the present-day corner of Franklin and Calyer Streets. Noorman’s Kil serves 287 types of whiskey and has a backyard.

Lavender Lake, Brooklyn

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The derisive nickname for the terribly polluted and gentrifying Gowanus Canal, this brink and burgers bar also has a patio in the back. Lavender Lake opened in 2012 inside a former horse stable. It’s all-American menu includes Yukon gold potato chips, hickory smoked almonds, and the locally-inspired Stinky Brooklyn Meat & Cheese Board. This bar is located at 383 Carroll Street, less than a block from the historic Carroll Street Drawbridge.

Dutch Kills Bar, Queens

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This partially buried stream inspired the name of the bar at 27-24 Jackson Avenue in Long Island City that opened in 2009. The nondescript exterior leads into a Prohibition-style interior that includes live jazz music and staff dressed in period-style clothing. The popularity of the stream’s name also inspired another nearby bar named Dutch Kills Centraal (double a for that extra Dutch feeling) in 2014. The Bar filed a lawsuit against the Centraal on the use of its namesake.

Sunswick 3535, Queens

Before you visit, check out the website, which is perhaps the most elaborately designed online depiction among our waterway-themed bars. Kudos to the graphic designer behind Sunswick 3535, which opened in 2005 at the corner of 35th Street and 35th Avenue in Astoria. The bar has its own native-inspired heraldry.

susnwick logo

As its website explains, “the name Sunswick derives from the local Native American word Sunskisq, meaning “place of the chief’’s wife.”” A true neighborhood gathering space, its calendar includes a weekly trivia night, karaoke, game night, live music and monthly beer festivals. Sunswick Creek was buried in 1893.

The stream originated just north of present-day Queens Plaza, meandering along 21st Street toward Broadway, where it turned west and emptied into Hallets Cove. Large enough for a walk, its underground culvert was explored by Steven Duncan and featured in National Geographic’s online series Change the Course, which addresses bodies of water around the world that have been affected by overdevelopment.

Croton Reservoir Tavern, Manhattan

Less than a block to the west of Bryant Park is a restaurant named after the reservoir that occupied half of the park between 1842 and 1900. The reservoir’s site is presently the main building of the New York Public Library. During its half-century of service, the Murray Hill Distributing Reservoir received water piped in from the Croton Reservoir in Westchester County, which was then distributed throughout Manhattan.

croton rail

In 2003, the tavern opened at 108 West 40th Street, complete with an interior mural of its namesake reservoir and a history of it on the tavern’s website. Its exposed brick wall, wooden counter and wrought iron rail (see above) also lend to the historical feel of the place.

Minetta Tavern, Manhattan

This legendary Greenwich Village bar opened in 1937, attracting a who’s who of the literary scene, such as Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Eugene O’Neill, E. E. Cummings, Dylan Thomas, and Joe Gould, among others. Its namesake stream inspired its own list of poets.

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Located at 113 MacDougal Street, the famed eatery is best known for its upscale French cuisine that includes the cote de boeuf, filet mignon, omelette, and steak.

These are the watering holes named after some of New York City’s hidden waters.

In a way, today’s post brings me back to another entrepreneurial attempt that I conducted. In 2013, together with my friend Richard Mumith, we launched the Local Finds Queens Food Tour.

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The tour takes visitors on a walking tour of Long Island City that explains the history, architecture and landmarks of the neighborhood with stops at six local eateries along the way. At this time, Local Finds is the only walking food tour in the borough of Queens, a pioneer in locally-run tourism that serves new residents and tourists seeking an outer-borough experience.

As time ticks closer to the March 14 paperback release date, I am considering one of these taverns for my book launch party. Your recommendations are welcome.



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