Home Away From Home: Hinterlands

Both Zelda and I have come to the point in our New York lives where we consider Brooklyn home. This isn’t just a temporary sojourn anymore; we live here. And while I know Kentucky will always be home-home, there’s definitely been a shift in how we think about things. This Home Away from Home series is more about places in the city that are there for me, that are a meeting place for the family of friends that I’ve managed to acquire here…basically just a series of my favorite bars. These are the bars that have become a safe haven and a warm welcome in the cold winter. And why shouldn’t my not-home homes be bars? There’s something really great about being a regular at a bar and how a particular barstool or table can become just as comfortable as your sofa at home.

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-12-01-26-pm

I’m no stranger to being a regular, but I’ve left my once-a-week sojourns to The Sampler and The Way Station behind this past year. There are a lot of reasons; money is one of them, but time is the main reason. Having a full-time job, despite the extra income, has actually decreased my happy hour attendance. My work commute no longer takes me past my regular bar, and that in itself is a reason for my decreased attendance. And having to be at work on Mondays has severely decreased the regularity of karaoke for my whole group of friends. I’ll always love those places, though, and they’ll always be a second home, whether I’m there once a week or once a quarter.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t find new places, new corners to take me in as I establish my home here in Brooklyn. To tell the tale of how the south Brooklyn bar Hinterlands became one of my homes away from home, I have to go back to last summer.

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-12-03-14-pm

Last June, friends-of-the-blog Sarah and Jason encouraged me to listen to the My Brother, My Brother and Me podcast. In listening to all 300+ episodes, I found a deep love for the McElroy family and their comedic stylings; so, like the obsessive consumer I am, I branched out into other podcasts on their network, Maximum Fun. There’s a lot there, and my then-new job gave me a lot of time sit and stare at computers while people made jokes in my headphones.

These podcasts led me to a fan group on Facebook: all people who shared my sense of humor and values and were geographically located in my area! How convenient. As we’ve lamented, it’s hard making friends as an adult. I never thought meet-up groups would be a thing for me, but here we are. We karaoke once a month, we do bar crawls, we host board game nights, and we do it all at Hinterlands.

15800062_10208314038714208_8190099200928755481_o

Last Summer, The Flop House podcast co-host, Stuart Wellington, and his wife Sharlene opened Hinterlands. His podcast being on the MaxFun network, it sort of became a haven for a lot of us — myself, Sarah, and Jason in particular since it’s so close to their apartment, which means I have an automatic place to crash. But the thing that makes it a home-away-from-home is that it’s a place that I feel safe being me. I’ve had more open and honest conversations sitting in that bar than anywhere else in the past year. In a corner, I’ve conversed about politics and social issues in the south. At those barstools, I watched the Pokémon Go craze begin. On the back patio, I’ve cried about the election results. I’ve celebrated marriages and jobs and birthdays. I’ve sat in the back room with twenty other people and yelled about Nick’s terrible decisions on the most recent iteration of The Bachelor.

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-12-01-05-pm

The older I get, the more I realize I don’t have to be a certain way or do certain things to impress people or to fit in. I’ve tried to stop worrying what others think so much (tried being key — I’m an INFP, so I can’t give it up totally). Doing that successfully has a lot to do with the environment. At Hinterlands, I don’t have to impress anyone. Fitting in is showing up and being willing to appreciate the snozzberries taste like snozzberries wallpaper and the subtle role-playing game-themed decor. That’s all it takes. And you’re home.

Home Away From Home: The Way Station

We do a lot of things to try and combat our homesickness here in New York. Chiefly, we find places that make us feel a little less out of sorts, and a little more like we belong. As previously discussed, for me, that’s usually a bar. I’m one of those people who is good at conversations with strangers, especially if the atmosphere is good and the booze is free-flowing. And I recently waxed poetic about how wonderful it is to be a nerd in New York City. So it only makes sense that one of my homes away from home would combine the two.

What do you get when you cross great people and good booze with massive amounts of Nerdom? The result is The Way Station, more colloquially known as “the Doctor Who bar.” The Way Station takes your neighborhood bar and infuses it with a healthy dose of cult movies, live music, steampunk decor, science fiction and fantasy-themed cocktails, and Disney and show tune sing-a-longs.

TARDIS in a bar! (via Comfy Chair)

TARDIS in a bar! (via Comfy Chair)

I found The Way Station through Andrew, (Zelda’s college friend and now one of my best friends in the city — our bestiedom is Zelda’s most successful friendship matchmaking venture to date). I was a Doctor Who fanatic, looking to watch the premiere somewhere other than the unreliable stream on my computer, and Andrew, a fellow fan, offered a solution. The Way Station was showing the episodes on the big screen on Sunday afternoons, all while supplying booze. “Great,” I thought, “I can drink and watch Doctor Who, at the very same time!” Little did I know that watching Doctor Who at The Way Station isn’t just a viewing party: It’s an immersive experience.

I arrived at the bar to find Andrew already decked out in his Fourth Doctor replica scarf. Tons of other people were sporting cosplays of their favorite characters, and there was an actual TARDIS plopped down right in front of the bar (alright not an actual TARDIS, obviously, but a pretty damn good replica). I soon found out that not only was said Tardis the bathroom, but it was actually bigger on the inside! I had somehow stumbled upon nerd mecca, and I knew I was already in too deep.

Anyplace where you close out karaoke night with "One Day More" is alright with me. Witness Andrew's angry Enjolras.

Any place where you close out karaoke night with “One Day More” is alright with me. Witness Andrew’s angry Enjolras.

After several weeks of watching Doctor Who, Andrew managed to drag me to Nerdeoke (It’s karaoke, for nerds!). Nerdeoke is basically just regular karaoke, but with a higher percentage of They Might Be Giants, Disney, show tunes, and repeated sing-a-longs to the Firefly theme song. To this day, it’s the only place I’ve ever felt comfortable enough to karaoke solo, and I’d like to consider myself a pseudo-regular of that stage.

But reaching that level of comfort took a while. For a few months, I continued to feel like I wasn’t nerdy enough for The Way Station. I didn’t write wizard rock or have amazing cosplay skills; I hadn’t even watched Buffy until I was a senior in college. But I was soon corrected. Unlike the actual nerd community sometimes, at The Way Station I didn’t have to prove my nerd worth. If you’re excited about hanging out in a Doctor Who-themed bar, you’re obviously a big enough nerd. Enthusiasm is the only cover charge in this joint.

Cher is my go to. Our MC probably hates me for it.

Cher is my go-to. Our MC probably hates me for it.

Soon, I was going for more than just karaoke and Doctor Who. I rolled by for cabarets and sometimes just an after-work drink, because I knew no one would judge me for sitting at the end of the bar reading a book with my beer. When we shot the pilot of the web series I’m working on (Andrew’s brainchild), every shoot day ended with a drink at our preferred spot.

I think there’s something about The Way Station that just exudes acceptance. It’s the thing I love most about it. You can be yourself there, whoever “yourself” is: a songwriter who wants a place to preview her new stuff, a cosplayer who needs an excuse that’s not a Con to wear his latest creation, a writer who needs inspiration, or me — a museum worker who wants to belt out off-key renditions of Cher and anything by Jason Robert Brown while holding a gin-based drink in one hand.

I don’t get there as often as I’d like these days; the trip from Bushwick to Prospect Heights is daunting If I’m not already at work at the museum. Nevertheless, I make the trip when I can, and while I’m not quite a regular, enough people recognize me when I walk in to make me feel at home. The Way Station’s given me a lot: countless new friends, a trusted bar close to my workplace, the confidence to sing on stage without fear, the list goes on.

Zelda has joined in the fun as well. We were short a couple of spices for this nineties tribute.

Zelda has joined in the fun as well. We were short a couple of Spices for this 90s tribute.

And last week, The Way Station made me particularly proud to be a frequenter of their fine establishment when they announced a promotion I am calling Feminist Ladies Night. To highlight the pay gap between men and women, on July 7th or 7/7 (yesterday for you lovely folks reading this, tomorrow for me as I write), women only pay 77% of the list price for their drinks. In the United States today, women make 77 cents for every dollar that men make. What better way to combat this, the fine folks at The Way Station thought, than with cheap booze! It’s not going to fix the problem, but it will sure as hell call attention to it. I’ve never been happier to be a patron of a bar than when I heard the announcement. My only hope is that it becomes a permanent thing.

So if you want good drinks, absolute nerdiness, the occasional celebrity sighting, and a healthy dose of feminist rhetoric, follow my lead and head to The Way Station. Full-price or politically discounted, it’s absolutely worth it, just waiting to welcome you with open arms (and a mic).

Home Away From Home: The Sampler

A lot of my stories start with a bar. I think it’s probably genetic. My parents are nothing if not talented drinkers, who raised me to love the finer things (aka beers and gins) in life. Their friend groups seem to have a high bartender to lay person ratio, and, ever their offspring, I’m always saying “my friend so-and-so, who works at such-and-such bar…” because a large segment of my friends (in New York especially) have some affiliation with the alcohol industry. But despite the vast variety of bars and restaurants available to me in the city — a veritable cornucopia of dives, swanky cocktail lounges, and everything in between — I spend approximately 90% of my time in exactly four places.

The first things I scope out when I move to a new apartment (because two times is totally a trend, right?) are a good coffee shop (i.e. one that will allow me to sit for upwards of two hours without feeling intrusive) and a good bar — preferably a beer bar — that is open during the week at early hours so my midweekend day-drinking needs can be met. 

IMG_4469

So when I moved to my current apartment in the outer recesses of Bushwick, the almost Bed-Stuy-but-not-technically part, these two places were my primary objective. I was in the middle of writing my master’s thesis at the time, so the coffee shop was the first priority. But once I had located a good cold brew and submitted my first chapter, I sought alcoholic refreshment, as a reward.

One July afternoon, I stumbled upon a little craft beer bar called The Sampler, only just opened. It was a mere 10-minute walk from my apartment, it was on the way home from my subway stop, and it offered a very good and affordable selection of delectable craft brews. In the beginning, they didn’t quite realize what they were working with — they had the goods, but not the knowledge to use it to its full potential — but by the time October hit, my thesis was complete, they had found their groove, and I joined the merry company of the other regulars.

The Sampler 2

Since then, The Sampler has definitely become a home away from home for me. I’ve always been good at talking to people, especially if there’s beer involved. Over time, I made some of my closest friends in New York sitting on those bar stools in the middle of the day, chatting with bartenders and other regulars with weird schedules.

Something about The Sampler just fits for me. I’ve been to a lot of beer bars, in New York and otherwise, but I’ve rarely come across one that instantly felt quite that homey. I think it comes down to the people: the regulars who are quick to converse with whoever is around, talking beer and Brooklyn and backstory, and the laidback bartenders who get shit done when they have to, but are always down to chat if they’ve got the time. Casey and Jeremiah are probably my two favorite bartenders in the city. They know their shit when it comes to beer, which is really my first rule when picking out a beer bar, but they never make you feel like an idiot for what you like or what you do or don’t know (if you’ve been to some of the other craft beer bars in the city, you know why sometimes people call us beer snobs, so you’ll understand why their attitude is such a great find). Whether you’re a beer aficionado or a craft newbie, if you’re celebrating good news or you’ve just been evicted, fired, and dumped in the same day, they’re there for you, with an ice cold glass of something delicious in hand.

The Sampler 3
I love The Sampler because it’s unassuming. It doesn’t try to be anything it’s not. It’s great beer (plus, more recently, bourbon) and great people, It’s a pint on a bad day, a place to layover when the rain starts while you’re on the train and you’re without an umbrella. It’s the sound of a welcoming y’all from the Atlanta transplant bartender. On one occasion, for me, it was a safe place on a walk home that had taken a bad turn, and a pack of brotherly types to chase off the creeper who followed me there. As cliche as it sounds, we all need that place where everybody knows your nameAnd for me, that’s The Sampler.

I suppose I’m getting a bit sentimental here. What can I say: My love for this place runs deep. But there are plenty of reasons for you to love it, too! If all the reasons above haven’t convinced you, here are a few more. If you’re into craft beer or whiskey, the selection is reason enough for you to be there (join me at the bottle share, aka potluck for beer, every third Tuesday). You want your trivia a little difficult, but not inundated by trivia pros? They’ve got it every Monday. Want to expand your palate? They do special tastings almost every week. Plus there’s Super Nintendo Fridays, all the soft pretzels you can eat, and pickles (if you’re into that). Whether it becomes another slot on your Bars of New York dance card, or something more, The Sampler welcomes you. As they like to say, “Y’all come drink.”

10 Quick and Easy Ways to Cope with Homesickness

There are many pluses to moving away from your hometown to New York, or to any big city. You grow as a person, getting to know yourself and becoming more independent and confident. You get to experience new places, people, and cultures. You have an automatic aura of cool when you go home because you live in New York. But there are also many things about moving away that suck. A lot. And chief among them is that depressing, exhausting condition called homesickness.

I do not deal well with big location (or life) changes, and I am definitely prone to some mal de pays. Where some people find New York great because you’re never really alone, for me there’s nothing lonelier than standing in a crowded subway car and realizing that nobody there knows who I am or cares about my story. Particularly as the cold grey months stretch on and I find myself without a plane ticket home to look forward to — no countdown until my next Kentucky fix — I can feel a little, or a lot, lonesome, missing my family and my friends and my favorite spots in the Ville.

Now I’m lucky, because Scout lives just 6 blocks away, so I’m rarely more than a ten minute walk from somebody who knows what I’m talking about when I say I miss Burger’s chicken sandwiches or Ms. Brundige’s class or Thunder with a capital T. But I haven’t always been that lucky, and so I’ve developed some strategies that help me cope.

When you’re feeling homesick, or just all around blue, these are 10 super quick and easy ways to pick yourself up. All of them take less than 5 minutes (ish), and each one never fails to put a smile back on my face. Even if I am 740 miles from home (and yes, I did look it up).

tumblr_m657e4Zr7k1r426i4o1_500

  1. Put on an upbeat song and dance around your kitchen. Pick whatever your go to happy song is (If you’re at a loss, I highly recommend any of the tracks on our January playlist. “This Year” in particular has been my jam for the past month.) The more dorkily you dance, the better you will feel. Jump around, wave your hands in the air, get your blood circulating. You may also recruit a friend or roommate to be your dance partner.tumblr_mi2s4bzCVJ1r8aa9jo1_500
  2. Make yourself a mug of something hot and delicious. For me, it’s my mom’s homemade hot chocolate mix. But anything warm and yummy will do, like a hug for your insides that will, literally and figuratively, warm your heart.nails
  3. Paint your nails a fun color. I always feel at least three times better when my nails are in order. Because even if everything else about me is a mess, at least my fingers have got their act together. (I realize this remedy is a little more for the ladies — although fellas, if you enjoy a nice manicure, more power to you — but I’m not sure what the “guy” equivalent is. Take a long hot shower? Shave? Wax your finely coiffed mustache?)tumblr_inline_mqzjq2oD9a1qz4rgp
  4. Call somebody you care about and tell them you love them. Facetime or Skype is even better. Whether it’s your mom, dad, brother, sister, distant cousin, or home bestie, pick somebody who makes you feel like things are going to be ok and remind yourself that even if they’re far away, they’re still rooting for you.everybodys-hands-go-up
  5. Watch any or all of these YouTube videos. Unlikely animal friendships or epic lip sync battles will also do the trick.




tumblr_m5l8pel7oe1rn95k2o1_500

  1. Hug somebody. Hug your roommate. Hug a friend. Hug a stuffed animal. Remind yourself that even if you feel totally lost and confused, detached from your roots with no idea where you’re growing, you are enough. And you are so loved.anigif_enhanced-buzz-12080-1374000468-32
  2. Go for a walk around your neighborhood. Find something worth Instagramming and take a picture. The Instagramming itself is optional: The point is to find something beautiful or cool in the place you’re currently living. Remind yourself why you moved here in the first place.aAsm6L9
  3. Light a yummy smelling candle. My current favorites are Woodfire (like having a fireplace without actually having a fireplace) and Jane Austen. Essential oils will also do the trick; try lavender for an instant moment of calm.tumblr_mk48z1iNQY1rpl3bro1_500
  4. Make a favorite recipe. Ok this one probably takes more than 5 minutes, so if you’re pressed for time you can substitute by eating a favorite snack. But the reasons for the baking are threefold. First, it requires you to focus on a task instead of worrying or wallowing. Second, it makes your abode smell super good. And third, when you’re done you have something warm and yummy that tastes like home.Lot-Ugly-Crying
  5. Have a good cry. Sometimes, the best way to deal with all of those feelings is just to let it all out. It may need to get ugly before it gets better. It’s ok to feel sad and lost and far from home. But once you’ve felt those things, try to remember why you moved here in the first place. Remind yourself that you are loved, by so many. And know that life is long and strange, and you can always go home.

Do you get homesick? How do you deal? A girl can use as many coping strategies as she can get, so leave your tips in the comments below, or shoot us a Tweet or a Facebook comment to let us know how you deal with the far from home blues.

Home Away From Home: Sweet Chick

This article is the first in a new series on Zelda & Scout: Home Away From Home. As the holidays wind down and we enter the grey slump of January, with nary a festivity in sight, we find ourselves getting a bit homesick. Especially with the temperatures plummeting to vortex levels, it’s easy to just mope around, eschewing real pants for Netflix and tea, spiked with our tears (sniff sniff). But instead, we’ve decided to start this year off on a positive note. True, we won’t be back below the Mason-Dixon for who knows how long. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some Southern charms and homey comforts right here in New York. This series showcases our favorite home homesickness remedies, and the corners of the five boroughs that make us feel a little more at home.

Our first “Home Away From Home” is a recent discovery. I went out for a belated birthday dinner last week with a friend from college, a fellow displaced Southerner. Since Williamsburg lies at the intersection of our subway lines, she suggested a little spot I had heard of but never tried, and an hour and a half later I was totally hooked.

© NBC

© NBC

Meet Sweet Chick: the darlingest little chicken and waffle joint this side of the East River. Let’s start with the chicken. It is, without a doubt, Dixie approved, from the original — brined for 24 hours, dredged, dipped in buttermilk, seasoned, and deep-fried to perfection — to the Cordon Bleu, General Tso’s, Mike’s Hot Honey, and other varieties. They even have a vegetarian alternative, which my friend opted for (much to her delight), describing it as one of the meatiest faux meats she’d ever sampled.

Hello, friend.

Hello, friend. (Via Sweet Chick)

We both licked up every last bit of our Hot Honey (faux) chicken, but it’s the waffles that were the real stars of our meal. When it comes to breakfast pastries, my friend and I are both firmly Team Pancake (although if french toast enters the arena, her loyalties switch). These waffles, though, were a game changer. We both opted for the rosemary and mushroom variety, and while decidedly more rosemary than mushroom, they were heavenly. Fluffy as a summer cumulus, with just enough outer crisp hugging the doughy center, they had us on cloud nine.To top off our Southern feast, since it was a birthday celebration, we split a warm apple tart, topped with a scrumptious almond crumble and vanilla ice cream.While we were both elated with our selections, we agreed that next time we would need to branch out, trying some of the sun-dried tomato basil or thyme waffles we eyed on our fellow diners’ plates, maybe even branching out into shrimp and grits or pasta territory. But for a first visit, we were glad we stuck to the classics.

Overall, it was one of the most pleasant evenings I’ve ever spent in Williamsburg. The restaurant was cozy but not cramped, with a big communal table that gives the place a family dinner vibe. The service was amazingly fast and attentive while not nagging. And the whole experience had these two Southern ex-pats feeling right at home.

Via Sweet Chick

Sweet Chick / 164 Bedford Ave. / Williamsburg, Brooklyn / 347-725-4793 / sweetchicknyc.com / @sweetchicklife

Got a favorite Southern spot in New York City? A go-to movie, recipe, or tune that makes you feel at home? Share your cozy favorites and homesickness battling tips with us in the comments or at zeldaandscout@gmail.com!