By Mark Hallum
A new establishment has flipped on the “open” sign on Bell Boulevard.
The Crown Room takes the hard rock, dive bar style of owner Pam Schon’s East Village tavern, Bar None, and adds an experience more in line with the expectations of Bayside’s business district with food served and a list of original drinks to suit all tastes.
Formerly the site of Beer Belly’s at 39-17 Bell Blvd., The Crown Room is a joint operation between Schon, Jena Jensen and bar manager Chad Vallejo. Schon and Jensen are longtime Bayside residents who decided to open in Queens after the additional bar they planned in Manhattan fell through. But they believe business on the boulevard surges in waves that ebb and flow, and right now is a good time to start something new in Bayside.
“Twenty years ago, I feel like it was the spot to hang out. Then it kind of died down for a few years, and I feel like now it’s kind of like a reinvigoration of cool new places,” Jensen said, explaining how the menu is designed to cater to the night life. “We wanted to do a menu that would pair well with drinking – bar food, shared food – but a little more homemade. All of our sauces are made from scratch, many of the menu items have a small alcohol component. So the fries come with a beer cheese dipping sauce, the whiskey BBQ ketchup and a Bloody Mary mayo.”
Jensen said the entire menu is completely fresh and made to order, with none of the items coming from a freezer or ordered pre-made from someone else.
Meat is sourced from a nearby butcher.
According to Schon, the only other location like The Crown Room on Bell Boulevard that has more of a lounge atmosphere is Bourbon Street, which she is a fan of. The upstairs of Schon’s bar is filled with couches and a long dinning room table, which used to be in her own home and an additional bar where drinks can be served.
The storefront has been refurbished from the way it was when Beer Belly’s was located there, with the dominant color being black. New tile lines the floors and there are mirrors on the walls.
But the work is not yet complete, said Schon, who has a unique vision for the image her bar projects.
We’re going to take the elements from our other places and try to put them all into one spot,” she said. “A lot of them are dive bars, and we want someone to be able to come in and have a $3 beer and also a $15 drink. That way we cater to everybody.”
Schon rejected the idea that the dive bar is a dying species in the city and said, “Not for me,” when the topic was broached.
“We will always be a dive bar, whether [Vallejo] builds it and makes it beautiful, it will still have that dive bar concept,” Schon said, expanding on her affection for dives. “A lot of people like to go to nice places, of course, but I’ve always been the type that can go to the most expensive restaurant and the cheapest bar and be comfortable in both places.”
The Crown Room is a dive bar with versatility, in Schon’s view.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall