New Park Slope Ale House team, of Littleneck fame, go ‘all in’ at historic eatery

park slope ale house team
From left: Dante Alston, Alisa Doga and Andy Zehnal pose for a photo inside their bar, Park Slope Ale House on Sixth Avenue in Park Slope on Wednesday, May 8, 2024.
Photo by Paul Frangipane

Worlds have collided at the historic Park Slope Ale House, where owners Dante Alston, Alisa Doga and Andy Zehnal hope to bring a bit of what made their last business special to their new Sixth Avenue eatery.

The trio was forced to shutter Littleneck, their popular New England-style seafood restaurant in Gowanus, earlier this year, but it allowed them to focus on their latest venture — taking over the Park Slope Ale House, one of their favorite places. It’s an opportunity partners Alston and Doga said practically fell into their laps.

“It was a total coincidence,” Doga said of taking over the business. “My very best friend in the world lives in this building, and so by way of living in the building she got to know [owner Thomas McDowell]. He and I interacted a few times, just the basics — we were neighborhood business people. It was a lot of, ‘Do you know that guy,’ or ‘Do you know a good plumber.’ Over time we really got to know each other.”

This isn’t the first time Park Slope Ale House has changed hands. The eatery, a neighborhood staple, has been kept alive since its opening in the early 1990s — most notable by locals who loved the place. In 2017, McDowell took over ownership from Eugene Kaleniak. McDowell, who previously worked for a beer wholesaler and then for the German beer company Hofbrau, lived near the watering hole and considered himself a regular.

Dante Alston, Alisa Doga and Andy Zehnal owned and operated Littleneck in Gowanus before taking over Park Slope Ale House. Photo by Paul Frangipane

Alston, Doga and Zehnal have a similar story — both with Ale House and with Littleneck. The trio bought Littleneck on the brink of the COVID-19 pandemic, after working there as employees. Earlier this year, they made the difficult decision to close up shop after four years at the helm, and a total of 11 in business for the restaurant.

Thankfully, their work at Park Slope Ale House was already underway. 

“One day, Dante and I were having coffee in like the middle of summer. It was 7 a.m.,” Doga said. She got a text message from McDowell, who said he and his wife were having a baby and moving to North Carolina.

“[The text] said, ‘Do you guys want to do it?'” she told Brooklyn Paper. “I looked at Dante, we called Andy and we’re saying, ‘Do we do it?’ We just started thinking about how kismet it felt. Dante and I used to come here, we had our own seats back in the day. It’s a place that’s been on our radar — it’s just an institution of the neighborhood. So we felt like it was an opportunity that we couldn’t pass up.”

The stars aligned, and Park Slope Ale House reopened on Super Bowl Sunday. Even though they closed Littleneck around the same time, the team said it’s all been uphill from there.

“There are a lot of devoted regulars who are excited to see what we’re doing,” Doga said. “That’s the perks of coming here for 20-30 years.”

The exterior of the historic Park Slope Ale House. Photo by Paul Frangipane

Park Slope Ale House bills itself on Instagram as a “neighborhood spot with great local beer selection, bangin’ cocktails, great food, and cozy vibes” — something the trio from Littleneck said they only hope to bolster. And while the group looked back on the closing of Littleneck as “bittersweet,” they look forward to bringing some of the establishment’s fan-favorite menu items to Park Slope Ale House, such as oysters, shrimp and other seafood selections.

“We brought our chef from Littleneck here and he’s a total star,” Alston said. The menu will change seasonally, he added, “But right now it just feels a little fresher, a little brighter. That’s really what we’re aiming for, and what we’re most excited about.”

The Ale House menu will also continue to offer some of the pub grub locals have come to love, from hand cut fries and pickle chips to a “brat and kraut” duo, the classic “Ale House Burger,” the grilled chicken spiedie sandwich, and more.

“Even though the Ale House was owned by somebody else, it felt like a little bit more of a blank slate where we could really come with our experience,” Doga said, “And do what we want to do with it.”

Inside the Park Slope Ale House. Photo by Paul Frangipane

The team hopes both regulars and newcomers will stop in for Trivia Tuesday, happy hour, Sunday brunch and more. They’re also open for private events like birthday parties and baby showers, and are hoping to take advantage of the local music scene by welcome patrons in for experiences like “Jazz Music Sunday.”

And they hope fans of Littleneck will travel the few avenues up for the food, drinks and overall vibes they know and love — because now, they’re “all in” on Park Slope Ale House.

“We want to bring personal favorites and attributes of a place that was beloved in the neighborhood and kind of put our own spin on that,” Doga said.