Back-lit by the twinkling fairy-lights pinned to the far wall, the expressions on the punters' faces were far from welcoming. Now I've turned up to village Brauhauses in remote regions of the Southern German hills where old women rock themselves into oblivion and each generation gives off the heady whiff of in-breeding, and I've been to joints on Chicago's South Side where I've felt so white it was like my skin was glowing toxic. All over the English and Irish countryside I've been to local pubs for local people, where the conversations halt as soon as you step in the door. But nowhere have I got quite the kind of chilly reception that we encountered in this dive on the edges of Williamsburg and Greenpoint.
The men - it's all men - look up as one. There's a sudden, uncomfortable silence. We move automatically to the bar stools, as the keep chokes out a welcome. Then, as if in slow motion, one of the men lets out a yell in Polish and falls to the floor, clattering chairs in his way. For a second we hover by the chairs, uncertain of what to do. The men are all yelling at each other. As if we've wondered into a Slavic Tennessee Williams fight scene out of a Noel Coward drawing room farce we make polite English excuses and back away to the door.
Once outside the door we shake our heads.
"You don't think... he was faking being that drunk. To get rid of us? I mean, that's ridiculous, isn't it?"
The question hung in the air as we clattered down the steps to the G that would whisk us back to the reassuring surrounds of Brownstone Brooklyn.