La Vie Boheme: Astoria’s Time-Honored Beer Garden

Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden

There is a thriving immigrant enclave not too far from here that has survived a century. With a steadfast following, this New York relic is one of the last of its kind. Kept hidden by the contours of the Triborough (soon-to-be RFK) Bridge, Astoria’s Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden is not just anywhere you come to throw back a beer and slowly digest a sausage on a hot summer day; it’s a focal point for a whole community of Czech Americans.

In this sprightly place of old and new New Yorkers, I sat on one of the garden’s numerous picnic tables savoring a grilled kielbasa and a pitcher of Krusovice Dark. Out from behind, a figure appeared over my shoulder—a seventy-plus year old German decked out in his favorite leisure suit.

“Excuse me,” he said with a heavy accent. “What…uh… kind of beer… are you drinking?”

I told him.

“It is…much darker than the one I am drinking. I like the dark beer. I will buy some of yours…next time.”

I offered him a sip of mine to make sure he liked it, but he insisted on purchasing his own. And I couldn’t fault him for it. All of the beers I’d tried so far, the Staropramen, the Hoegaarden, were delicious in their own way; a pitcher of Krusovice Dark would not disappoint even the inexperienced palate.

Aside from being a summer mecca for bargain-conscious, young Astorians and au courant Manhattan/Brooklynites, this hall serves as a neighborly gathering spot. On the day I stumbled in for a pint and some pork. I found myself in the midst of a youth gymnastics exhibition. The marked disconnect between cheering parents and half-drunk yuppies was quite apparent, but somehow didn’t seem out of place. After all, this is New York City. In a town that’s become increasingly compartmentalized into neighborhoods and enclaves, it is comforting to know that we haven’t completely lost touch with this sense of community. Cheers, Na zdraví!

How to get there: You can reach the Beer Garden on the N or W train to Astoria Boulevard. For exact directions from anywhere on Manhattan, click the HopStop link below. (Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden, 29-19 24th Ave., Astoria, NY 11102, bohemianhall.com)

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