Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Back In Time Tuesday

I had to go back and retrace Monday’s steps a bit because I forgot to put my card in my camera on Monday. As a result I couldn’t take any pictures. That is why Monday’s blog came out a bit late. As long as I was in the neighborhood I figured I would stop in a few places I had seen before, no sense wasting time. It was a good decision.

575) Bill’s Gay Nineties

The awning out front just says Bill’s but that is because the larger banner proclaiming “Bill’s Gay Nineties” Apparently the support for the banner broke and they took it down and never replaced it, not because people might have though it was a gay bar. Interestingly, the Gay Nineties bar in Minneapolis where Bar Man grew up (the city, not the bar) is a well-known gay bar. But I digress. You can find Bill’s at 57 East 54th Street.

As it stands now, only a plain green awning with Billy’s written on it in white identifies this fairly small (at first appearances) place that is down several steps from street-level. It definitely has the feel of a speakeasy and, as I came to find out, for good reason. There is an old dark-wood bar complete with a foot rest a bit too narrow to be comfortable. But that would be the only complaint about this place. Old wood shelves behind the bar hold little bottles of soda (this is another place that makes your drinks with the mix poured out of bottles) and glasses. Above these shelves are mirrors built into ornately carved cabinetry sporting carved scowling faces on the columns separating the mirrors. In front of the mirrors are tiered shelves holding the liquor. The place is filled with pictures of prize fighters, and baseball players. One section of the was has pictures of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago. This was to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America by, who else, Christopher Columbus.

The lighting in here both hanging from the mirrors behind the bar and overhead, are converted gas-lights that now hold dim orange light bulbs. Tables with blue checked tablecloths line the wall behind the bar chairs and classic looking swinging doors separate this bar area from an upstairs dining area. There is also a bar on the third floor and I am most certainly going to make a return trip, probably with the Mysterious Chinese Woman in tow, to explore it. Supposedly it is made from a fireplace that was purchased from one of John D. Rockefeller’s homes, although it may have come from the old Delmonico’s.. The upstairs dining area is filled with old theater posters and programs. You gain entrance to the stairway through a pair of swinging doors topped with stained glass panels.

I chatted a bit with Rich, the bartender, and Barbara, the owner. The were most engaging and most gracious. Really made me feel at home. Now maybe one of the reasons I felt so comfortable there is that back in old days the bar man’s name was Dan. Hmm, anyone believe in reincarnation. As regular readers of my blog know, I am Dan the Bar Man. Rich told me his theory about the origin of the term 86 to mean being kicked out of a place after dismissing my theory about it having to do with Chumley’s. He said it was because back when America was still a British colony, meeting of colonists was limited to no more than 85 people. When the 86th person showed up they were denied entrance. This is as good a theory as any and I certainly wasn’t about to argue with Rich. If you meet him you will understand why.

Suffice it to say I had a wonderful time here and will be back again. I strongly encourage anyone who is able to visit this place for a touch of nostalgia, a very decent drink, good conversation, and a good time in general.

I had a Dewar’s and soda with the soda poured from a little bottle.

576) Bobby Van’s

Just down the street a bit at 131 East 54th Street is this place that, from the outside, looks like it could be an office of some type. It is, in fact, a highly regarded steak house with a very nice bar up-front. You enter at street level but then walk down a few steps to the bar. The bar is fairly small but a nice, dark wooden affair with a brass rail. There was a large and very aromatic bouquet of flowers sitting on the end of the bar where I sat. This place has mostly wood paneled walls. There is a large light fixture with 15 alabaster shades hanging from the ceiling. The bar stools are square and sit on a tan tiled area of the floor immediately in front of the bar. The rest of the flooring is wood.

There are wood cabinets behind the bar with a large mirror with a bulls head mounted on it and shelves that hold an ample liquor selection with lots of wine racks, wine seeming to be a big thing here as you might expect in a steak house. In fact I sat next to a salesman who was sharing tastes with the bartender, but not the Bar Man. He was eating a very nice looking steak but I couldn’t smell it because everything smelled like flowers to me. A partition with glass windows separate the bar area from the dining area in back that looked to be doing a decent luncheon business.

I had a Dewar’s and soda.

577) Pig ‘n’ Whistle On Third

This Pig ‘n’ Whistle is located at 922 Third Avenue between 55th and 56th. It looks to be an older version of the Pig ‘n’ Whistle that I went to before, obviously the same owners because the same dapper pig is in evidence. This place is quite ornate, from the ceiling of light wood lattice work framing painted Celtic designs to the alabaster lamps hanging above the bar and from the ceiling. There are also three nice pinkish light fixtures hanging from the ceiling up front by the entrance. Two booths with frosted glass partitions also sit up front and little tables line the brick wall behind the bar chairs. Mirrors and pictures of old Ireland hang on the wall along with a blackboard advertising what appears to be their house band; pie boys flat. A row of high round topped tables with stools runs down the center of the place.

There is a nice wooden bar with a foot rail. The front of the bar has an interesting ridged effect. Wood cabinets, mirrors, and glass shelves for liquor behind the bar along with more posters for pie boys flat taped over decorative stained glass panels. There are three televisions, a large one in the middle showing CNBC flanked by two smaller ones showing a soccer game between Argentina and Germany. The score was tied 1 to 1. Is it just me, or do soccer games almost always seem to be tied.

Mirrors against the back wall advertise Martin’s Worcester Sauce and McGuire’s Groceries, which also sold spirits and tobaccos. All the necessities of life in one place.

I had a draft 20 ounce pint of Newcastle Brown Ale and headed home.

Another three for the day bringing my year to date total to 577 with 423 left to go.


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