Book-lyn Heights! • Brooklyn Paper

Book-lyn Heights!

Crawler: Literary Pub Crawl guide Marissa Levien stops for a swig and a study in front of the Brooklyn Inn, a bar that Jonathan Lethem used to frequent and is probably the basis for the Boerum Hill Inn, a setting in his book “Motherless Brooklyn.”
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

No walk in the footsteps of Brooklyn’s literary elite would be complete without a stroll to the bar.

The Brooklyn Literary Pub Crawl is a bi-weekly walking tour running in Brooklyn Heights and Boerum Hill with stops at locations where Brooklyn writers have lived and imbibed. But the tour offers more than just a brush with the borough’s literary legends, said tour founder Eric Chase.

“We don’t want it to be the Hollywood mansion tour,” Chase said. “We want people to hear the words where they were written.”

To that end, guides read from passages of works written in the neighborhoods as the group crawls from pub to pub. Chase hopes the experience helps people connect with the authors.

“We try to bring their stories to life a little bit,” he said.

Chase started giving guided tours of literary landmarks in the Greenwich Village section of Manhattan back in 1998. And since many writers moved from the Village to the area around Brooklyn Heights, he believes it makes for a natural extension of his original excursions.

“They had a real affinity for that neighborhood,” Chase said.

The two-and-a-half hour tour makes stops at three different bars, and includes plenty of prose-filled and poetic diversions along the way.

The first location is the Henry Street Ale House, which Chase picked because of its proximity to Walt Whitman Park in Cadman Plaza. The famous Bard of Brooklyn worked for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, which had offices around the corner on Old Fulton Street, and lived in the area when he first published an edition of his seminal work “Leaves of Grass.”

From there, the scribe stroll heads to Montero’s Bar and Grill on Atlantic Avenue, a mainstay of the Heights since 1947. Author Frank McCourt lived in an apartment above the nautical-themed watering hole in the 1980s, renting it from the bar’s matriarch Pilar Montero. The place has not changed much since first opening its doors to serve the Merchant Marines who used to dock along the nearby waterfront, Chase said.

“It’s a dive bar, but it’s a fantastic dive bar,” he said. “And it really feels like Brooklyn. Its a complete relic.”

The last stop is The Brooklyn Inn, a Hoyt Street outpost that claims to “maybe be” the borough’s oldest bar.

But the literary connections to this establishment continue into modern times. Novelist Jonathan Lethem, who wrote the detective story “Motherless Brooklyn” which is set in Boerum Hill, spent time at the tavern. And “Bored to Death” creator Jonathan Ames held a wake for his cancelled TV show there in 2011. Even so, the Inn is clearly classic, Chase said.

“You can sense the history in that place,” he said.

The fact that history is still so apparent in Brooklyn is what Chase likes best about his newest pub crawl.

“Manhattan just changed so quickly,” he said. “But in this part of Brooklyn, the buildings are all the same buildings. There’s such a unique identity.”

Literary Pub Crawl starting at the Henry Street Ale House [62 Henry St. between Orange and Cranberry streets in Brooklyn Heights, (212) 613–5796, www.literarypubcrawl.com]. Aug. 3, 17, and 31 at 1 pm. $20 ($15 students and seniors).

Want more bookish Brooklyn Heights?

Take your own walking tour of these local literary landmarks.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260-8310. E-mail him at mperlman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.

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