|One Saturday afternoon
this past August, We drove to Brooklyn, in search of our
mothers' childhood homes. This is our story:
It turned out the young girls lived not far from one
another although nearly a decade in age and different
cultures separated them. Through Warren's patient
determination, we discovered his mother's apartment
building in Bay Ridge looking as Mom remembered it some
seventy years ago with the main entrance awning still
spanning the sidewalk. In Bensonhurst, Donna’s mother’s
two homes were neatly kept though unfortunately somewhat
"modernized”. We found them where her mother and uncle
said they were located. It was a gorgeous afternoon to
walk around the respective neighborhoods all the while
soaking in the ethnic character, and Brooklyn sun. Before
we headed for home, we sought an outdoor cafe. Or so we
Driving down Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge, we passed by a
small storefront tavern whose name and demeanor stopped us
in our tracks: The Wicked Monk.
Deciding to forgo the outdoor cafe, we quickly found
parking. Arriving thirsty, we opened the heavy door and
stepped into what seemed to be a dimly lit medieval
cloister. Immediately we were greeted with a friendly
smile and spontaneous hello from Daniela Dubois, an
adorable lass tending the bar. At once at ease, we
found a congregation of ladies and gentlemen of all ages
seated and standing at the bar. Our eyes adjusted to
the dim light and we settled into the atmosphere looking
around in amazement. Soon we discovered the quality of the
space. In fact, the whole bar, the entire eclectic decor,
was comprised of uniquely curious pieces of Irish culture
including the contents of a genuine Irish cloister!
While taking our order, Daniela gladly filled us in with
the history. Everything was in fact authentic, having been
brought over from the old country by the two owners.
Heading toward the back of the bar to freshen up, we found
dark oak confessionals, choir pews, and a raised pulpit
complete with a skull. There were carved stone faces of
“the seven deadly sins” hung along the wall staring down
on us innocent and humble folk. Daniela served us a
delightful Brooklyn brewed ale and a delicious hard cider.
As we looked a bit hungry, she offered us a couple of bags
of snacks kept under the bar, having personally purchased
them for the patrons. (No food is served here). We
continued to look around.
Above our heads a flying monk! The likenesses of the
original pioneers of this drinking sanctuary were painted
on the recessed portion of the ceiling. This feature is an
architectural relic itself. The formerly colorful and
atmospherically lit ceiling detail was a popular deco
custom back in the day. More than Seventeen years ago,
this space was an Italian restaurant.
The older gentleman next to us, a regular, spoke highly
about the unique quality of the Wicked Monk.
This establishment seems to mirror Bay Ridge itself:
friendly, community minded, a place to talk, to laugh. You
can walk, drive or ride the subway to the Monk. With
its social calendar, its spirited, though far from sacred,
heart draws patrons of all ages from near and far. As we
looked carefully, tiny details were pointed out. See
the little hooks in a row above the gorgeous back bar?
Empty now they once held women’s brassiers. Why, we
innocently asked? Each brassier was donated and accepted
only if its owner graced the top of the bar, she being
moved by the spirit of the moment and the music.
We discovered Ms. Dubois, a Bay Ridge native, lives in
Monmouth County NJ, not ten miles from Donna’s apartment!
She teaches preschool during the week and commutes to Bay
Ridge every Saturday to tend bar at the Monk. Her
attachment and affection for her neighborhood reaches back
to her childhood. Her family still lives in this
neighborhood. She recalled, after the passing of her
father, the kindnesses she received from the neighborhood
regulars. She went on to describe, this is and has been
the custom of the area’s establishments: to raise
money for the neighborhood customers and their families
who find themselves in need of a helping hand.
We stayed on way past our original intent although not
late enough to hear the great live band scheduled to play
that night. In departing, with handshakes and hugs,
we knew we had found a unique spot, and some blessed souls
therein, here on Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn. On the way back
to Jersey we promised ourselves to write about and to
revisit the Wicked Monk-
The Wicked Monk has an awesome website: http://wickedmonk.com.
You can also find it on “Facebook”. Check it out. If you
go, you won't be disappointed in this little cloister
tavern. And, of course, a visit to Bay Ridge and
Bensonhurst while in Brooklyn makes the trip thoroughly
Warren and Donna previously wrote about the "Rusty
Spur" in Old Town
- Phoenix, AZ in 2010.