At first glance, a bar named Onderdonk & Sons is fitting for an establishment that opened up on Onderdonk Avenue in Ridgewood. But the bar’s name doesn’t just refer to its location.
Brian Taylor opened the bar, located at 566 Onderdonk Ave., the weekend after Thanksgiving. Before finding his corner, Taylor was working full time searching through Ridgewood for the perfect location. What he found was more than a location on an oddly named street. He stumbled onto a lost story that seemed even more fitting for a tavern’s name.
In his research, Taylor came across a Bishop Onderdonk who was an evangelical minister in the 19th century. Taylor found out that Onderdonk was the subject of a scandal involving relationships with several women and was suspended from his duties as a bishop. Taylor found the story fascinating and went ahead to name his new bar after Onderdonk — the man, not the street. He also admitted that the name does have a cool sound to it, which made him like it even more.
“I always liked history, and the word Onderdonk and its historical nature just made it an easy pick,” said Taylor.
The new spot is described by Taylor as just a regular neighborhood bar. Before he opened, Taylor was expecting to have a full spirits license to serve a wide variety of drinks and liquor. But that request was denied in favor of a license limited to beer and wine.
The bar also does not have a sign outside indicating the name of the establishment. Taylor said he wants to keep it that way to kind of stay off the radar, which he later jokingly admitted is a view that would lead a business to its own demise.
But that did not stop him from a hot start once he opened. Taylor said the crowds have been larger than expected for only recently opening his doors. He didn’t even throw a grand opening party. He offers a wide variety of beers and wine and will soon be adding burgers and a brunch menu.
Taylor, being a man who likes history, has filled the bar with touches of the past. The floor throughout the bar is largely the original wood that he discovered after ripping up five layers of old flooring. He has a juke box playing mostly country music and the blues, a refrigerator behind the bar dates to the 1930s, there’s a vintage telephone booth in a corner, and an old mirror is set up above the bar.
He and his wife and business partner Louise Favier live in Manhattan, but they felt a calling about opening a bar in Ridgewood. He described Ridgewood as a “solid neighborhood” and wanted to provide its residents with a place to go 365 days a year.
He admires the tight-knit nature of the community. But he gets a laugh out of so many people who come into the bar and say they lived around the corner — if they all actually did, there would be a massive high rise there instead of historical attached houses.
“We’re just a bar,” said Taylor. “I’ve been thrilled with the start and hope we will continue to grow organically.”