Wednesday, July 27, 2005

One Heck Of A Day

I headed back up to the West side again, but a bit further uptown. Man, it was one hot day too. Hit a couple of somewhat mundane bars and a couple of real classics that should be on everyone’s short list of places to go.

684) Carmines

As I mentioned, it was a real scorcher so walking into this wonderfully air-conditioned bar and dumping down a cold one was heavenly. It is an Italian restaurant located at 2450 Broadway between 90th and 91st Streets. It had a nice dark-wood bar with a black foot rest. Tubular metal bar stools with red spinning vinyl seats. Lots of antique lighting fixtures hanging from the ceiling. Unfortunately the ones at each end of the bar were missing several pieces of glass. Lots of framed black and white pictures of guests and parties from years gone by. There is a large, loud and fancy dining area up a short staircase and in the back. There was a tour bus parked out front so I guess the majority of the diners were from that. There are also tables under an awning on the sidewalk but you would have to be a mad dog or an Englishman to be sitting outside. Did I mention that it was hot out?

The bar back has a lot of narrow shelves in front of mirrors displaying stemware, two bottles each of Stolichnaya Vodka and Sapphire Bombay Gin, the bottled beer selection, a wide array of wines, and about a hundred small bottles of Lurisia mineral water. This water comes from a spring, Fonte Santa Barbara Di Lurisia, located at the base of the Northwestern Alps in the Italian region of Piemonte. Now you know. Why they have a hundred bottles on display is a question I cannot answer.

There is more liquor on tiered shelves above coolers with wooden doors and brass fittings. They have some interesting liquors, Michter’s Straight Rye, for example. I have never seen that before. Not quite ready for a variation on a Delaware Club Cocktail yet. This is a nice looking place with a friendly bartender. Not friendly enough for me to ask to take his picture though.

I had a draft Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and it hit the spot.

685 Docks Oyster Bar and Seafood Grill

Not far away at 89th and Broadway is this seafood restaurant and bar where I found another air-conditioned sanctuary. It is a seafood restaurant with a bit of a French touch. At least there is a large poster for what I take to be a French fish monger, “La Compagnie Francaix Pecheurs Reunis.” The wood bar is fairly new with a brass rail and there are dark wood chairs. Crushed ice with oysters sit at one end. One beer station with four spigots sits on the bar. The bar back is light wood shelving with mirrors in kind of a Swedish modern design. Lots of black tile on the walls and small, mostly white tiles, on the floor. The walls above the tiles are painted white. Pictures of fish and a mounted sailfish on the wall up front convey the flavor of the place without overdoing it. A blackboard in the back above a window into the kitchen lists the available fish, the daily specials, and the lobster prices. Not a cheap place, $70 for a three pound lobster. I probably won’t be coming here for dinner anytime soon. There was a nice lunch crowd though. They did have a good lunch special, $11 for half a dozen clams or oysters with either a glass of wine or a beer. Seeing as how my drink cost $8 that wasn’t bad at all.

I had a Tanqueray and tonic.

686) Crossroads

Well, the day started to get really fun here. This is the former uptown branch of the downtown Raccoon Lodge. It is on Amsterdam Avenue, on the corner of 83rd. As you can see, the Raccoon Lodge sign hasn’t been replaced yet and the Crossroads sign is still temporary. I was assured that nothing would change due to the change of hands, but that isn’t quite true. Not all of the possessions were sold along with the bar so some of the decorations that were on the wall are missing. I am pretty sure there was a moose head hanging somewhere. If the bartenders remain the same this place should have no problems. Did I say the day started to get fun here?

Crossroads is a great old (kind of) place with a nice old long wood bar with a wooden footrest. Tubular metal barstools with green vinyl seats that do not spin. Well, you can’t have everything. They have a small selection of draft beers but a real nice selection of bottled beers. There was a pool table, a foosball table, and a Silver Streak Bowling machine to provide those all important sound effects. Customer’s ties hung behind the bar back that was primarily brick walls with mirrors. The rest of the place was either brick walls or wood paneling and there is a nice arched window. I loved the Periodic Table of Brewing Styles, chemistry could have been so much more fun.

I was perusing the bottled beers when the bartender, Melissa, suggested Dogfish Raison D’Etre. It was an interesting beer that is brewed with Belgian beer sugars and green raisins. You did taste the raisins and it had kind of a funky taste. Not one of my favorites. Without asking I got a Dogfish Head Shelter Pale Ale and this was more to my liking on a hot summer day. A beer distributor was sitting at the end of the bar and he and I got into a conversation along with the bartender and another customer. Naturally the conversation got around to my tour of the bars (facilitated by my passing out my cards left and right). The bartender wanted to use my expertise to check out a few of her specialty drinks (this is what Bar Man lives for). First I tried one of her specialty and unnamed cocktails that was quite refreshing, reddish pink with foam on top. Of course we then set about trying to name it, names like Bloody Sea Froth, Shark Attack, and, I am sure, a hundred others. The bartender settled on Ruby Mel so now the cocktail has a name. Be sure to ask for it if you ever go there. Then we got to try her specialty shot, the Raven Haired Slut. Kahlua and Butterscotch Schnapps. Well, Bar Man has gotten into trouble with Butterscotch Schnapps before, but that is a different story. Just had the one here and then made the mistake of saying how I liked well made margaritas but didn’t like the ones made with a mix. As you might imagine, Melissa had to demonstrate her prowess and making them and so, to be polite, I drank up. It was a very well made margarita too.

Melissa saw me taking notes about the place and the beers so she carefully removed the labels from the bottles and gave them to me. I thought that was sweet.

Melissa, The Considerate Creator Of Great Drinks

Her shift was ending and an equally friendly Heather showed up.

Heather; And The Party Continued

Whew, I could have stayed here all day, and almost did. However I wanted to get one more bar under my belt so I bid a tearful goodbye and promised to return.

I had, well, a lot.

687) Hi-Life

Luckily I didn’t have to stumble too far to hit my next bar, it was just kitty corner on the Southeast corner of 83rd and Amsterdam. And then the fun started again. A customer from Crossroads, William, who was chatting with us decided he wanted to go to Hi-Life too, so in a way the party just relocated.


If Crossroads was a bit barren with a lot of the wall decorations having been removed, this place was jammed with stuff. A lot of 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s pinups on the walls, some kind of a statue of an Indian elephant god, a large aquarium. On top of that the place has a semi-diner type of interior, that polished aluminum look. There is also an upstairs and a downstairs area too, but I never managed to see them. Ah well, this is another place I would gladly go back to again so one day I will, indeed, check it out.

Another set of good bartenders that were really friendly so we engaged in a conversation that meandered from inside to out to the tables in front on the sidewalk whenever someone needed a cigarette.



Again, I had a few more draft beers than I should have. I think I was drinking mostly Pilsner Urquell, but a Samuel Adams Summer Ale might have snuck in there too.

I got William to write down a few thoughts about the places we had visited and I swear, I could read what he wrote yesterday. Today, however, I can’t decipher it. I am sorry William, next time I see you we will have to try it again. We did have an interesting conversation though and he recommended some other bars in the neighborhood that I will be checking out soon.

I had a couple of draft beers at least one of which was a Pilsner Urquell.

A fruitful day with four bars visited and a couple of classics to go into my list of places to return. That makes 687 for the year leaving 313 to go.


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