Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Amsterdam, But Not Holland

I decided to check out another so-called brewery and headed up to Amsterdam Avenue. Before I got to the Westside Brewing Company I ran across:

578 P&G Café Bar

What a find. Another classic old bar that you just have to walk out of a subway station to find. It is on the corner of Amsterdam and 73rd, also known as Firefighter Kevin Bacon Corner. Is life great, or what? An old wooden bar with a wood-grained Formica front and a black footrest. Old mirrored cabinets behind the bar topped with stained glass panels. The mirrors are pretty much covered by the liquor bottles sitting on tiered shelves. In the middle is a picture of the bar, similar to mine, that looks like it was taken in the early fifties. As you can see, the bar looks pretty much the same. Dark paneled walls except for the back wall that is covered with a yellowing painting of a European, I presume, castle and surrounding landscape. The current owner’s family bought the place in 1942 but I am not sure how old the place really is. The owner wasn’t too sure either.

There is a small dining area separated with a partition that also had a ledge and stools so you could sit and have a drink if the bar was too crowded. The dining area consists of old booths but with light yellow stained glass lighting fixtures. There are also a few plastic fish and a few paintings on the wall back there as well.

The place was full of regulars and a beer distributor who was in negotiations with the owner about getting Coors to sponsor some kind of charity event. My favorite part of the conversation was when the distributor was telling the owner about how he had to sneak the beer glasses brought out of the warehouse. Both the owner and I rolled our eyes at that one.

Despite the dive bar look of this place, they did, somewhat incongruously, have large smiling sunflowers in the windows.

I had a draft Sam Adam’s Boston Lager.

579) Westside Brewing Co.

Well, they have a very large selection of beers including such favorites as Goose Island Honker’s Ale and Hitachino Nest from Kiuch, Japan. Unfortunately, Westside Brewing Co., at 340 Amsterdam Avenue, has taken the same course as Typhoon and Heartland. They no longer brew on the premises. Typhoon and Westside now both sell a couple of beers brewed by the Chelsea Brewery but the don’t even bother to have them brew to their own specifications and don’t carry any beers with their names. It is Bar Man’s humble opinion that if you no longer brew your own beer on your premises you should not be allowed to have “brewery,” “brewing company,” or anything similar in your name.

They do have a nice wooden bar with a brass rail. The bar chairs are wooden with purple patterned cloth seats. Copper helmeted globe lights hang from the brown tin ceiling. Quite elaborate wood cabinets behind the bar hold a large selection of liquor, including an impressive selection of tequilas and bourbons.

It is on a corner and has large windows all around topped by stained glass panels. The inside dining area retains an old pub feel to it with wooden tables and chairs. There is also a darker back room dining area and a good-sized sidewalk café replete with planters with flowers. Sometimes a theme just follows me around. Yesterday there were flowers on the bar. The only negative about this place was a rather unpleasant, well beyond stale, beer odor. And this was despite the door and a window open and a healthy breeze blowing through the place.

I had a draft Casa Zilla Monstrously Hoppy Red Ale from the Ithaca Beer Company. See, I told you they had a decent selection of beers. This was a pretty good beer and lived up to its hopped up reputation. The Casa in the name is a truncation of Cascade hops, a favorite of brewers. Hey, if you read this blog long enough you will pick up any amount of trivia. Interestingly, I can find no information about this beer anywhere but I was very careful in copying down the name. Any information would be appreciated.

580) Time Out

Ah, nothing like reaching to set down you newspaper and encountering a black furry object, and I don’t mean another customer’s nether regions. It was the bar’s cat sitting on a black vinyl covered bar chair and seemed to like me. According to the bartender, and don’t be thinking about nether regions,

the cat doesn’t usually like people. I think she (the cat) wanted me to buy her a drink, probably a Bailey’s Irish Cream, or a Pousse Café. Bar Man once wrote a paper about career choices and how what you learned in school would apply. I wrote about being a bartender and how the knowledge of the specific gravity of liquid was essential to making a Pousse Café. I guess somehow I always knew I would be on one side of a bar or another.

This, and I don’t mean to repeat myself, is another classic New York bar, at 349 Amsterdam Avenue, that you should really try to visit before they are gone. They occupy space to valuable to remain so it is just a matter of time until they are gone. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Anyway, it has an old dark bar with a suitably stick top and a brass rail. There are glass bricks on top of the wooden front to the bar but they are largely hidden by the overhang. There have nine televisions with a few baseball games and tennis playing. This would be one of my recommendations as a place to hang out and watch ballgames.

There is a pool table and an industrial sized fan blowing through the place. The ceiling is black and covered mostly with metal beer signs and a couple of Indiana University banners. The wall behind the bar chairs is brick and lined with well-worn maroon benches that are high enough that they warrant their own foot rests. The wall above the benches is pretty much covered with beer signs, a large American flag, and a collage of photos of the bar’s regulars.

Behind the bar are a couple of ice chests cooling down bottles of beer and fairly plain wooden tiered shelves (looked like something you would make in a grade-school wood working class) holding the liquor selection. These were in front of the requisite mirrors. There was also a small cooler holding Red Bull and above that a sign saying that if you bought a shot of booze you could get a Rheingold beer for a dollar. I wish I had seen it before I ordered.

I had a draft Blue Moon Belgian White and because the have Happy Hour almost all day long it only cost $2.50, a real deal.

581) River

Just next door, is this somewhat eclectic mixture of a place. It bills itself as a Vietnamese Thai restaurant but I had a chilled sake served by a Japanese bartender.

Go figure. She was a bit surprised that I pegged her as being Japanese, but Bar Man has had a bit of experience with Asian's of the female persuasion (just ask the Mysterious Chinese Woman). It did have a nice little bar area that gave one the feeling of being somewhat off the beaten track. The bar had a bamboo front and a somewhat gold colored plastic top. The had a few draft beers but nothing interesting. The interior was mostly bamboo with a few fishnets hanging from the ceiling. The flooring was wooden and their were lights covered with woven cones hanging from the ceiling. The back of the bar was kind of a combination of bamboo, mirrors, rattan, and corrugated tin. It sounds a bit weird, but it works. That, coupled with woven coolie style hats hanging on yellow washed walls rally made you feel like you were somewhere other than in Manhattan. Only the glimpses of the traffic on Amsterdam Avenue distracted from the illusion.

I had a Otokayma (Man’s Mountain) chilled and straight up. I am really developing a taste for sake.

Well not too bad, four bars for the day and 581 for the year leaving 419 to go. I headed home but felt the need for another gargle so stopped back at Keefe’s and had one under the watchful eye of my buddy.


Daniel Sigler said...

Hey man, I just want to wish you the best of luck! I've been keeping up with it and I love the idea! It's totally something I want to do one day when I'm out of college and have time. You rule!

Matt said...

I enjoy reading your blog daily. The best part is the hidden gems of information on things like breweries, different kinds of alcohol, and descriptions of the city. I am from Canada, and I find reading the details about the city and its history fascinating. People probably think you are doing this for the alcohol, but it is obvious it is for the culture.

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We had been blogging trying to find how our world sees restaurant food. It has been a lifeline for us. Your site provides some of the best examples of this sort and we will bookmark yours. Another one we found was and appears to be related to yours is restaurant food site/blog. It pretty much covers restaurant food related stuff.

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The Blah Brain said...

Hey, you live in Ithaca? So do I! ha

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