Union Grounds

union grounds.jpg

270 Smith St btw Degraw and Sackett Sts, Carroll Gardens

The Place: A cozy lil sports bar that’s showing that INSANE Williams-Osaka final match (with sound!).

The Time: Saturday September 8, 4pm. I know I’ve said repeatedly that I don’t watch sports, but that’s a little bit of a lie. I really like tennis, both because I used to play and because I worked on that tennis play back in the winter. I don’t have cable, and I don’t want to get on a subway, so I call a bunch of bars within walking distance of my apartment and ask if they’re going to show the US Open Women’s Final (and unlike with the World Cup, I checked the start time). Most are maybe gonna play the match, but definitely without sound. Then I call Union Grounds, and the guy who answers the phone says “We’ll definitely be playing it, but we’ll also be playing football, so which one gets sound depends on what the people want.” I can be very persuasive when I want to be. Let’s do this.

  Bronx summer ale at Union Grounds

Bronx summer ale at Union Grounds

The Vibe: It’s a cute neighborhood bar with lots of TVs that show sports, so I guess that makes it a sports bar. The bar itself takes up most of the space, but there are some tables too. Exposed brick, a wall of board games, ooh a phone charging station hidden amongst some books no one reads. I ask the bartender where the tennis will be, and he points to one screen behind the bar, and another on the opposite wall. So I take the bar stool right in front of the behind-the-bar screen, next to a guy who’s here for the same reason. Soon after me, another guy comes and asks for tennis, so he sits on the other side of me. There’s a couple at the end of the bar also here for the tennis. There are some folks here for football, but they should go somewhere else.

The Bartender: A really nice dude named Asham, who’s the guy who answered when I called earlier. Asham makes fun of people who ask if they show football, because it’s a sports bar, and I get a little embarrassed and pipe up, “hey I called to see if you were showing tennis.” And he says, “yeah but you’re different, you’re clearly Type A, you were on a mission.” I feel really seen.

The Drank: I get a beer and tater tots because I’m here to watch sports so that’s what I should do. (They have wings, which is the epitome of sports bar grub, but I think tater tots are the vegetarian equivalent.) Despite what the pint glass says, it’s a Bronx summer ale. I know it’s not summer anymore and today is the first day that’s not 90 degrees and - whatever, I love summer ales, don’t judge me.

Was I Hit On? I’m here for the the entirety of this wild ride match, so the two guys and I make friends. The one to my right, Dominic, means well yet shows himself to be a drunken douchey Connecticut guy who has never played tennis but loves playing golf, because of course he does. The one on my left, Ben, moved to the city a few months ago, also used to play tennis and thinks Serena is the greatest athlete of all time. So I think you can guess which one is my ally. Over the course of the match, we all get to know each other. Ben and Dominic start talking about what football and college football and basketball and college basketball they watch, and I say “you guys I never go to bars to watch sports, this is the only sport I’m interested in.” Dominic is genuinely dumbfounded and asks, “then what do you watch?” I tell him I watch a lot of the Great British Bake Off. Then Ben asks, “is there a fantasy league for that?” GREAT IDEA, BEN. The match ends in that deeply unsettling, unsatisfying, infuriating way, Asham gives me a shot of whiskey for the road, and I say goodbye to the guys without either of them hitting on me. Game, set, match.

Should You Drink Here Alone? I’m gonna be honest, I was so focused on the fucking tennis, I didn’t give the bar that much thought. But Asham was great, the dudes were civil, the beer was cold; I have no complaints. So yeah, you can totally come here and get your drink and sports on. Union Grounds, see you for the US Open 2019.