From the outside, Rockville Centre’s newest bar looks spare, and almost demure. Inside the Bowery Bar & Fare, however, another world unfurls: A bar made to look and feel like a carnival, with a salvaged carnival tent overhead, a stuffed-animal wall, Sno-Cone cocktails, interactive games and a street-food menu.
The transformation of the former Stinger’s Irish Pub, which operated on this spot for 29 years, took about a year, and the bar opened July 5. “We started with the concept of street food,” said co-owner Matthew Kouskalis, who with a few of his partners own five Bareburger locations in New York City. As the process evolved, though, the partners segued into a full-on carnival vibe.
The centerpiece of the place is an undulating bar stocked with offbeat spirits and whiskies, 24 taps and a cocktail menu designed by Nic Richards of The Standard Hotel in New York City. (Farmingdale’s Lithology Brewing created a custom house brew, a watermelon blonde ale).
The food stays rooted in street food and shareable plates. Chef Dan DeSalvo, who trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, globetrots with mini-corn dogs, bulgogi tacos, suppli (fried rice balls filled with mozzarella), pulled-pork poutine and zeppoles. Vegans can nosh on Impossible Burger skewers, and the kitchen turns out a handful of jaffles, or Australian-style toasted sandwiches. “It’s like a panini press and a waffle maker got married,” said DeSalvo.
Mixed drinks are high on drama: An on-site shaved-ice machine provides the base for drinks such as Shoot the Freak, a Sno-Cone drenched in aged rum, chili liqueur, coconut-pineapple syrup and spicy bitters. A smoke infuser is employed for a hickory-smoked, mezcal-based Negroni variation called the Fire Eater. A tall, multihued Astoria Park Swizzle — white rum, pineapple liqueur, lime, mint and Angostura over shaved ice — is named for the park nearest to where co-owners Nick Marolachakis and Manny and Nick Galanis grew up in Queens. (Another partner, RJ Cincotta, is a partner at Orangetheory Fitness).
The Bowery’s walls are decked out with interactive games: Above the working beer taps are a few more dormant ones, for games of ring toss; nearby is a spinning roulette-style wheel; and the back patio is fitted with oversized versions of chess and Connect Four, as well as custom murals and picnic tables. The carnivalesque theme continues into the bathrooms, whose walls are covered in fun house mirrors.
The Bowery has about 45 seats in a front dining room, 10 on a side banquette, 18 at the bar and a few dozen more on the patio. Though only open for dinner, lunch service will be added soon, said Kouskalis. Weekend DJs will spin from a booth fronted by vintage boom boxes, and the bar stays open until 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
The Bowery Bar & Fare, 300 Sunrise Hwy., Rockville Centre. 516-493-9023. (Note to iPhone users: The default phone app will direct you to a nearby car dealer, so put in “302” to land in the right place).