Magazine article The New Yorker

Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden; Tables for Two

Magazine article The New Yorker

Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden; Tables for Two

Article excerpt

29-19 24th Ave., between 29th and 31st Sts., Astoria (718-274-4925)--Five centuries ago, German brewers began planting trees in their yards to keep the beer cellars below them cool in the summer. Before long, people realized that it would be pleasant to sit under these trees and drink the beer. Eureka: the beer garden. At one point, there were hundreds of beer gardens in New York. Now, there is really only one, in Astoria. (Other contenders, small and mostly treeless, aren't in the same league.) Tended since its opening, in 1919, by the Bohemian Hall, an adjacent civic center of sorts for the Czechs and Slovaks who dominated the neighborhood in those days, the garden can seem, once you've had a mug or two and surveyed the polyglot throng, to represent the pinnacle of urban living: variegation meets fermentation.

The garden is connected to a warren of barrooms and dining nooks; this labyrinthine layout can exacerbate the beer's more deleterious effects. The garden itself, however, is easily navigable: an acre of picnic tables, enclosed by stucco walls and shaded by maples and lindens. It accommodates several hundred patrons, including cigarette smokers and little children, and the scene can seem bohemian, with both big and little "B": you may hear "Na zdravi! …

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