Located in an early 20th century carriage house, The Federal Bar is the food-lover’s extension of the famed Knitting Factory music venue next door. Owner Knitting Factory Entertainment (KFE), which also owns the Knitting Factory concert house, is interpreting its locavore gastropub concept in an intimate space seating fewer than 50 guests under the toque of Executive Chef Brendon Doyle. Federal rewards experimentation, not only with locally sourced, artisanal seasonal ingredients, but also with local craft beers and small-batch options.
The secret to the bar’s beer success? Federal’s tap list of 14 beers features small batch beers that you can’t find anywhere else.
“We are providing local and hyper-local craft beer options. Of our 14 draft lines, nine are from New York, seven are from breweries in Brooklyn,” explained Doyle. Federal gets so many beers exclusively thanks to Chef Doyle’s relationship with these small, local breweries, owned by friends and colleagues he’s made throughout his career who don’t distribute widely, and these relationships help Federal stand out in Williamsburg.
Their tap list changes multiple times a week. Most of the beers they get are small batch, and as such they can only get one or two kegs at a time. Federal’s beer program is highly local, as unique as you can find in Williamsburg — local breweries literally hand deliver exclusive batches to the bar restaurant. The spread of the beer is based on the brewery and the beer, seasonal, limited batch, etc. Current features include Williamsburg’s own Brooklyn Brewery; Threes Brewing from Gowanus; and Other Half Brewing Co. from Caroll Gardens.
“My personal relationships with this brewer, that distiller or that baker are what I hope will make it great. It is a small-batch take on each of the products,” Doyle elaborated.
The food menu offers a mix of original creations and new twists on familiar favorites. Menu items will vary with the season and availability of local ingredients and run a gamut of influences. A sampling includes Rumaki and Waffles with bacon, crispy duck livers, spicy maple glaze, pineapple and cilantro chutney; mac and cheese with orecchiette, broccoli and fried panko; the Metropolitan Dog with Hudson Valley duck sausage, Dr. Browns root beer onions, brown mustard and tomato jam; roasted turkey leg with collards and dirty rice; and spicy Hozon roasted cauliflower with charred greens, faro, and parsley and almond gremolata. There’s also a brunch menu that continues the mission of focusing on new and original takes on traditional brunch staples.
On his approach to the menu, Doyle explained: “We think it’s a little different and appropriate to the neighborhood, rebellious as it may seem elsewhere. On the other hand, there’s a certain whimsy to the way I create dishes, and I work to try and create dishes that are not part of a typical culinary combination. It’s a fun way to approach something that many people take too seriously.”
The Federal Bar design and build was executed and supervised by Hecho Inc., the Brooklyn firm that built Knitting Factory Brooklyn. Design components feature almost exclusively reclaimed items, including a salvaged basketball court floor, three-pointed mahogany table, bleacher wood butcher block tables, repurposed stage lights and a 10-foot, blue globe. The latter is truly one of the most ‘Instagram-able’ design components in all of Williamsburg.
A cool side note (CBB is a fan of live music and awesome eats), Knitting Factory music venue patrons can order from a limited bar menu to be served directly to the concert house.