The Fainting Goat is just nine blocks up Broadway from Dougherty's — and less than a block away from my office. As a result, I've been to the Goat, which just opened last November, more times than I can count, and have occasionally left it in no condition to be counting anything.
What does it take to be a great neighborhood bar? First and foremost, it's gotta be in the neighborhood: You should not have to go out of your way to reach a neighborhood bar, and if you happen to live in a 'hood without a bar or pub of its own, God's mercy upon you. Geography aside, a true neighborhood bar is a place where good stories happen, where you occasionally engage in some unwise behavior, where you're known (and, in the worst cases, forgiven). A neighborhood bar is a place where you want to celebrate the special days in your life — be they nationally recognized holidays or just personal milestones, like the day your divorce is finalized or your parole expires. More important, it's a place you want to be when circumstances force you to be elsewhere. Close your eyes and think to yourself, I'd rather be at the bar... Whatever place swam into your mind's eye as you said that magical phrase? That's your neighborhood bar.
For me, the Goat is one of those places. I've spent many pleasant evenings hunkered down at the bar talking about whiskey and newspapers with friends or my favorite bartender, many days up on the patio either working (read: drinking alone) or causing trouble with a crowd. The Goat is the place I want to be when forced to be almost anywhere else, and the funny thing about that? The 846 Broadway space has been at least three other bars and/or restaurants during my time at Westword (Moontime, the Minturn, Basil's), and I never really liked any of them.
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The Fainting Goat
The Fainting Goat
No, a proper neighborhood bar takes on a life and a vibe of its own — one drawn from the staff, the ownership and the customers in equal measure. It's detailed in the type of whiskey kept in the well (Wall Street at the Goat — the best of the worst whiskies in the world and one of my weirdly personal favorites), the kind of music on the radio (everything from the Pogues to the Dead to the Ramones) and the grub that's on the menu — which, in the Goat's case, is a kind of Irish-American mixed bag of burgers and sandwiches, chicken wings and fingers, inexpensive steaks, "Irish Nachos" (covered in corned beef, natch) and lunchtime fish-and-chips specials.
Welcome to the neighborhood.