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13 Plymouth St.
MARCH 19, 2013





Porches are scarce in New York City, but not nearly as scarce as porch swings, those staples of movies that take place in a colorful little hometown where everyone is content with who they are and their only expectation is to live a long and good life.

Later, these expectations will be challenged by a meteor that falls to earth, carrying with it an alien plague. Or maybe the town holds a dark, dark, dark, dark secret, unbenownst to the respectable citizens who live there. I'm speaking, of course, of an alien plague.

Or maybe I'm confusing my small-town films.

I grew up with a porch swing, which faced my back yard, with an apple tree, raspberry bushes, and flowering dogwood trees. It also had an excellent view of the parking lot of the apartment building that towered over our family house. Still, it was quiet enough, and I remember trying to read Bakhtin or Balzac or something very serious with a B by the light from the porch swing, soft light coming through the window, being totally distracted by all the damn crickets.

I can't ever remember eating while being seated on a porch swing, and this is the defining attribute of Swing - - the restaurant where you sit on a porch swing that hangs from the rafters of the old paper clip factory in DUMBO.

"I had these Amazon gift certificates that I didn't know what to do with," says owner Ben Thalman, "and there was a special on porch swings - - two for under two hundred. So I bought them for my loft space. I never used them, but at parties, everyone loved them and people kept asking if they could come by and sit on the swing."

I ask if it might be something more, perhaps the desire to have a restaurant with porch swings might stem from growing up in a town where life was simpler, and yet still having that big dream of moving to a big city, dreaming of being a part of something larger.

"Umm. No," says Thalman, "Is that a thing?"

I guess not. It's weird to actually try to eat while you're swinging, which is why most people don't. They tend to swing while they're waiting for their gooseberry jam sandwiches on sourdough, and sipping from jam jar with a mint julep, or a variation on a Manhattan with some simple syrup and honey added.

A jar in hand, a sandwich on a gingham napkin in your lap - - the fact that you will be probably want to take a cab home because you more than likely do not live in DUMBO is forgotten.

The restaurant is nine swings in all, each sitting two comfortably - - and sometimes three after a few cocktails. There's a bar for those who would rather just contemplate porch-swinging, perhaps with some spiced nuts or with a selection from the wine list.

The lighting is slightly evocative of a night sky and is suitable for imagining yourself in a location where there is a real night sky and no one to bring you a drink, which, come to think of it, would be a real shame.

But best of all, there's no music. Just the sound of porch swings swinging, and a recording of some damn crickets.


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