Consider the unusual conditions underscoring the opening of the new Red Hook bar/restaurant Fort Defiance and it becomes clear that something unusual is going on: Owner (and writer) St. John Frizell’s general contractor is the Argentine artist Rafael Bueno and the place is essentially being put together by Frizell’s friends from the neighborhood, notably including Barry O'Meara from Bait and Tackle—another, potentially rival bar located just down the street.
Fort Defiance is named for a Red Hook Revolutionary War stronghold that kept George Washington alive on the night of August 29, 1776 with four cannons pointed toward the frigate HMS Roebuck in the East River. Its Red Hook particulars are notoriously hard to pin down: at least one historian, for example, thinks that a small triangular patch of land next to the current Nu-Tone Kitchen Cabinets on Columbia Street was once the burial site for Revolutionary War dead.
When it opens this month, Fort Defiance (the bar) will be haunted by many ghosts of cocktails past: Frizell bought a bunch of curved back upholstered leather chairs come from a closed down Playboy Club in St. Louis on eBay and had them shipped to Red Hook via UPS, four at a time. The bar stools come from an old bar in Wildwood, NJ. The bar is zinc and new, and a large piece of verre églomisé made by Frizell’s wife will hang on the massive liquor cabinet suspended above it. Fort Defiance will have three taps and will serve Brooklyn Brewery cask beer. Frizell plans to keep cocktails at a low price point.
Frizell is currently working on an authentic muffuletta sandwich for Fort Defiance’s menu. Breakfast pastries will come from nearby Colson Patisserie, and the bread for the muffuletta is being specially supplied by Royal Crown, otherwise known as the bakers of the best bread in Brooklyn. The place will pour Counter Culture coffee and the whole menu will consist of six sandwiches and two salads. Frizell cites Napoleon House in New Orleans as an inspiration for cocktails and the muffuletta. “There’s a great vibe there,” he said. “It’s the type of place you can get a coffee in the morning. Then you can get a glass of wine and maybe a bite to eat later on in the evening.”