It seems like overkill to write up a Ridgewood bar so soon after the Times blessed the neighborhood with an impending rent spike. But though it's just a matter of time before Ridgewood's treated to the same fratastic barsplosion that befell the Bushwicks and Williamsburgs before it, The Keep, which officially debuts today just a few blocks from the Jefferson L stop, is the kind of place that deserves its moment in the sun before that sun explodes and showers the Earth with a thousand pieces of reclaimed wood.
Run by Stephanie and Diego Castillo, who had the foresight to purchase a house around the corner nearly a decade ago, The Keep is part drinking hole, part anthropological treasure trove. Stephanie, a native New Yorker who's lived in Italy and the United Kingdom and traveled all around the world, has been collecting curio for about 30 years. The Keep is covered, COVERED from floor to ceiling with Stephanie's stuff, which are sourced from all over—Delhi, Nigeria, Peru London, Scotland, Thailand, Italy, France.
"Wherever I've been, I've always found the vintage store, the thrift store," she told us, pointing out the taxidermy head of a hyena named Hannibal, Victorian prams, a vintage motorcycle and plenty of religious art. "That's really my passion." Vintage sconces line the bar's walls, and old church pews function as bar booths. There are old dolls on display, and china tea sets, old sets of knives, gargoyles and dozens of antique paintings to admire while imbibing a beer or glass of whiskey, just like one might do at the best junk shop on earth.
Not that Stephanie's picking up any old crap—"They have to have a good vibe," she says. Some of The Keep's curiosities hail from closer to home, like a copper lion placed above the bar that once lived on 47th Street and 5th Avenue, a "Troutman Street" sign from several decades ago, and even Stephanie's late mother's rotary phone from the 1970s. Even Stephanie herself is something of a local treasure, having once been a fixture in the city's club scene in the 1980s, when she lived in Alphabet City, so ask her to tell you some stories after she's poured you a few shots. And one day, you might even be able to take some of Stephanie's trinkets home—the Castillos hope to open a small thrift shop in the bar's basement one day.
That brings us to the booze. Though The Keep might seem like a thrift store/museum, it is primarily a place for drinking, something you can expect to do a lot of here. The Castillos are still futzing with the cocktail menu, but Stephanie says you can expect "classics," with prices running from $9 to $12. Well drinks run $6, beers are $6 to $7, and like any good Bushwick-ish bar, there'll be beer-and-shot specials for $5. "We don't want to be outrageous," she said. "We want this to be a nice, comfortable space."
The Keep is sandwiched between a pizzeria and Chinese takeout joint, but the bar will serve small plates, too, like mini-meatballs with ricotta, kiebasa coins, charcuterie and a Mediterranean plate for vegetarians. And it opens at 8 a.m., so you can pick up croissants, baked goods, espresso and warm-pressed sandwiches before "official" drinking hours kick in, whatever those are.
The Keep is located at 205 Cypress Avenue in Ridgewood, Queens. They open tonight.