Step into this Clinton Hill canteen, and you may find yourself uttering, “Groovy, man.” Andy McDowell— owner of live-music haunt Pete’s Candy Store—styled the amber-lit watering hole after the iconic 1960s Volkswagen camper, affectionately known as a splitty. With its varnished wood paneling, geometric-print pegboard ceiling and the Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard wailing like Joplin over the speakers, you’ll feel like you’re cruising to Woodstock. But a thoroughly modern crew, cocktails by veteran drinks slinger Karin Stanley (Dutch Kills, Milk and Honey) and fusion bites makes this joint more than just a nostalgic relic.
ORDER THIS: Wire-frame–bespectacled bartenders pour an extensive list of $10 quaffs, featuring rejiggered classics (a gin rickey with ginger juice) and Splitty specialties. A solid gin-and-cucumber Gordon’s Breakfast is at once peppery and pickley, with zesty hot sauce and biting black pepper soothed with sugar and Worcestershire sauce. The Dark & Frosty is less purist, with Gosling’s Black Seal, plus ginger and lime juices, churned into a summery slushy via an Island Oasis machine behind the bar. The blender shaves ice and mixes drinks to order, which means you can get specials like a creamy piña colada or a frozen Irish coffee as fresh as can be.
GOOD FOR: A serious bar bite and a not-so-serious round of Jenga. Ask for one of the steamed bao from chef Andrey Ayrapetov—who previously cooked barbecue at Looney’s in Oakland—and the whole bar will fill up with a subtle bonfire smokiness, like a concert tailgate gone indoors. The buns come filled with fatty slabs of brisket pastrami, Emmentaler cheese, zesty kimchi and cooling Russian dressing ($6); or, in a showstopper, a melty banana-Nutella-marshmallow number ($5) that’s a cross between campground s’mores and—cutely—a frosty banana split. After you’re sated, peruse the worn stack of board games near the bar—on offer are Connect Four, Pictionary and Super Quiz, packed with now-dated trivia such as, “Who did John Lennon marry in 1969?”
THE CLINCHER: With McDowell behind the place, it’s no surprise that tuneage is a priority: A folksy playlist sets the mood, and live sets (Ian Pai of electropop outfit Fischerspooner, Brooklyn surf-rockers Rumblefoot) get going Thursday through Saturday. On nights when bushy-bearded gents and ladies with scarves in their hair jam to Wailers records, Splitty almost feels like 1960s Berkeley in the middle of modern-day Brooklyn.—Christina Izzo.