By Rachel Simons
Photos by Rachel Simons.
In the past, there was a common misconception that nerds didn’t like to go out, that, instead of grabbing a drink and hanging with friends, we would rather stay huddled at home on our computers and consoles for a quiet evening alone. To this notion I respond: Maybe the problem wasn’t that nerds didn’t like to go to bars, but that there just weren’t any bars made for us.
Thankfully, with the rise in nerd-dom’s popularity came the rise in nerd themed bars. One such institution is The Way Station in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Usually referred to as “the Doctor Who bar” for their steampunk decor and the TARDIS bathroom complete with signatures from famous Doctor Who actors, The Way Station isn’t just a place to get a drink, but a community space for nerds to gather and stay awhile.
Every night, either an activity is planned or live music is playing. Besides the weekly Monday Movie and Board Game night and Sunday Nerd Karaoke, there are also monthly events such as Art Talks Brooklyn, an informal speaker series about artistic and communal initiatives within the borough, and Wasabassco burlesque shows where the troupe performs every first Thursday of the month.
There is no cover charge except for special events like burlesque and all musicians are paid by the donations of the patrons. The Way Station has featured rock, folk, techno, salsa, flamenco, and big band acts and on any given night the genre of music will change widely. All acts are listed with a description on the front page of the bar’s website and each customer is suggested to give $5 per set.
Besides being known for their entertainment, the bar is also famous throughout New York for their drink selection and service. In 2014, the Village Voice’s Best of NYC Reader’s Poll declared The Way Station Best Cocktail Bar and its bartender Alissa May Atkinson the best in the city through her other job at the Pine Box. This year, Atkinson was also one of the top 50 finalist for Time Out’s Best Bartender at The Way Station.
The drinks at The Way Station are a mix of the inventive and the classic. While they do have five different versions of screwdrivers in honor of Doctor Who, they also have the Golden Snitch Margarita which pairs 79 Gold Caramel Spirit and Cointreau with the traditional tequila for a sweet, caramel flavor reminiscent of the butterbeer in Harry Potter.
I also enjoy the Fear and Loathing, which despite its name, actually inspires neither. Potato vodka provides the base while cranberry juice and ginger beer give a tangy and spicy kick. It’s good if you want something interesting, but don’t want to start off your night too crazy. For the latter vibe, I recommend the Mr. Pink, which is made with jalapeno infused tequila and grapefruit juice. Definitely not for the meek, the hotness of the jalapeno and the sourness of the grapefruit make a strange but interesting pairing that makes you want to come back for more.
As well as making drinks off the current seasonal menu, Atkinson can also remember a couple of drink recipes from years past when nerds in the know ask for them. A personal favorite for her is the Christina Hendricks, so named after the Firefly and Mad Men actress. The cocktail is a mixture of Hendricks gin, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, and ruby red grapefruit juice. The result is a classy concoction with just the right amount of fruitiness. Refreshing, but not too sweet.
The Way Station may be the bar for nerds, but the music, events, and drinks attract patrons of all kinds. Of course there was a fair share of cosplay and oohing and ahhing at the TARDIS, but there were also people just sitting around with friends and treating it as any local bar. Unlike many of the other places in Brooklyn where style is very much put over substance, The Way Station prioritizes the ideas of community and wanting the customers to have a good time. And even if you’re not a nerd, that’s something everybody can get behind.