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In his book The Hidden Dimension, anthropologist Edward T. Hall defined the concept of proxemics—the cultural relevance of the spatial distances that individuals maintain. It helped me understand what felt so alienating about the United States when I moved here from Europe: I have a different sense of personal space. If I sit next to you on a sofa, I am practically in your lap. The rectangular two-tops in restaurants that put me at arm’s length from the person I’m dining with feel excruciating. I much prefer to eat at the bar, which fulfills my need for intimacy.
By his own admission, Grant Henry had to dumb down the decor of his provocative new dive bar on Edgewood Avenue. From the street, Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room & Ping-Pong Emporium (Church, for short) looks enough like the real thing that people regularly walk in expecting to find a storefront religious sanctum. After they take in the big, tacky flower cross and the velvet Jesus behind the liquor bottles, they beat a hasty retreat.
There are more than ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall behind the bar at The Porter (I counted). There are tap handles by the dozen. The bar could overwhelm even the most dedicated beer drinker with the depth and breadth of its inventory. But instead of just playing a numbers game, the young owners display a curatorial finesse. Better yet, without gloating about running a “gastropub,” they serve pretty remarkable casual food to go along with the lagers, pilsners, Belgian whites, and, of course, their favorite porters.