Brannon's, Louie and Chan: Just another Saturday night on the good old LES
Louie and Chan's wants you to hate it the second you walk in. It's too small and too cramped. You've seen pretty much this exact cocktail list a million times (maybe I need to get out less). The crowd is straight up hideous. The man to our left is wearing a miniature fedora. The woman to our right orders a "skinny margarita." Is this a thing? Is it served in a straw? Maybe small/skinny/miniature is the theme. The bartenders are slammed, so your cliche of a cocktail takes forever to arrive. But! then things get considerably better. One of the bartenders is a consummate professional, and the other is at least very well-intentioned. The cliche of a cocktail is competently prepared (also kind of wee, but hey! theme). Best of all, the braised octopus appetizer with potatoes & fennel is just this side of fantastic. Those guys you can see just standing around in the open kitchen while the bar staff goes insane are apparently very good at their jobs.
Brannon's wants you to like it. Everything is arranged just so. The tables and the bar stools are lined up like soldiers, there's copious breathing room, the lighting flatters, the staff is welcoming and warm. The place smells as new and hopeful as a freshly mown lawn. If only the food were as appealing as the space. The menu trudges dutifully from kale to mussels to roast chicken to cod - yeah, yeah, comfort food, whatever. My fried calamari was...fried calamari, not appreciably better than anybar (although the aioli was top-notch). Fortunately, they've got a lot of good gin, so I might come back for that reason alone.
re: small h
It's a pre-mixed commercial by-product of a Bravo network franchise. That alone makes me loathe it, though I admit it is a snobbish attitude. I like your take, "The Crystal Light of adult beverages." I have had many a homemade Crystal Light Tom Collins in the past, so maybe I should just keep quiet....