It was a lovely Sunday, bright skies and quite warm. A fine day to visit one of my favorite neighborhoods, the East Village (AKA Alphabet City). And, as isn’t difficult to do in that neighborhood, found three bars closely clustered.
At the corner of Avenue B and 14th Street is this dark, narrow bar with no markings outside other than a sheet of typewriter paper taped to the door that said you have to be 21 and able to prove it in order to enter. Of course this place doesn’t really need a sign, it is a neighborhood bar that has been around since the 1970’s, long before this are was trendy and, in fact, was barely habitable. The bar is old dark wood with a crushed stone in cement foot rest. The rest of the floor is the same, but with different colored crushed stones. Two mirrors behind the bar and separated by columns with built in rippled bluish-gray lights. Below the mirrors are old wooden cabinets with tiered shelves of liquor on top. You can have your choice of sitting on metal bar stools or chairs with black seats. There are three old tubular brass beer stations, two have three spigots and one with but a single spigot pouring hard cider.
I chatted with the bartender, Nicole, about the neighborhood, other bars, life in general…, the usual stuff that you chat about. She was most friendly and it was a fun visit.
Nicole, The Friendly And Informative Bartender
The walls are mostly deep rose except for a stretch of brick painted a reddish brown. Up front under the two small windows is a small dark wood bench with purple cushions. The wall opposite the bar has wood paneling going up about waist high with a ledge on top and chrome barstools with black cushions sitting in front of it. The wall above the ledge is unpainted brick.
There is a good sized back room with a pool table. They have live Irish music on Monday’s and this seems like it would be a fun place to listen to it. By the way, Mona was a cat. Doubtful if it is still alive though.
I had a Woodpecker Cider.
Just down a block at 204 Avenue B between 13th and 12th Streets is this place that is configured much like Mona’s, narrow, dark, with a back room with a busy pool table. An old bar with a metal top and a wood arm rest, plus a brass rail. Te front of the bar is wood with circular decorations. The bar back is patterned tin and mirrors covered with snapshots and blackboards with drink specials written in white chalk. I wonder who actually orders a $9 Mudslide. On the other hand, Bar Man could go for the $5 beer and a shot special, a can of Rheingold and a shot of whiskey. A string of Jack-O-Lanterns hang above the bar.
I chatted with this bartender, Tracy, about drink preferences. She likes Maker’s Mark, as do I , but seems to prefer it on the rocks or tossed down as a shot. I fancy Maker’s Mark Manhattans. We also discussed the proper way to make Margaritas and how Gimlets give you heartburn. A kindred spitit.
Tracy, A Kindred Spirit
The wall opposite the bar is red paneling with a narrow ledge and patterned tiles above. Pinup girls painted on pieces of what looks like a metal airplane wing. The ceiling is patterned tin with light fixtures that reminded me of water sprinklers with red bulbs at the end. Two statures of characters from Hellraiser sit on top of the television sitting to the right of the bar.
I had a bottle of Woodpecker Cider.
906) Luca Lounge
On the way back to 14th to catch the subway home I passed by Luca Lounge which was just opening up when I passed by it the first time. I would have to say that if you are only going to visit one bar in this neighborhood you might want to pop into this one. On the other hand, why would you only want to visit just one bar when there are so many great ones around here.
This place is like a cross between your grandmother’s parlor and the hotel in Psycho. It probably looks much cheerier during the day but the dim lights, candles, and Halloween cobwebs strewn about the place add to the spooky feel. The bar is old wood with a foot rail. Wooden bar chairs. A vase with a large spray of pussy willows sit on one end of the bar. There are two silver beer stations on the bar, one with four spigots and one with a single spigot poring Guinness. Old wooden cabinets and shelves behind the bar along with a couple of old mirrors hanging on the brick wall. White glass inverted mushroom shaped lights hang over the bar. Mel, the bartender, was most friendly and, again, we chatted a bit about the place and the neighborhood before she pulled me my beer.
Mel, The Bartender Pulling My Beer
There is a large back area filled with old over-stuffed chairs and sofas and coffee tables. There was also a foosball machine and a table-top Ms. PacMan machine. This is a most comfortable and quite large area. It looks like this was once two places that have been joined together. The back area spans the width of two places while the bar is in a more narrow section with the dining area and small kitchen in the room “next door.” In the back is a large outdoor area that has two levels to it. A balcony type seating area rings, on three sides, the lower and larger area. There are plenty of tables with red umbrellas and chairs so it would hold a lot of people. There is also a lot of foliage and I have to say it is one of the nicest outdoor areas that I have seen. It was cheerfully lit with candles and given how warm it was I could see where it would do a nice business. It is too bad this place doesn’t open until 5:00 P.M. because it would be a great place to hang out on a warm sunny afternoon.
After I finished my beer at the bar the Mysterious Chinese Woman and I went to the next door room for a pizza. This area has wooden tables with chairs and a bench along a brick wall. The opposite wall is white tile like you might see in a subway station going up about half way and beige paint above that. Paintings with a wide variety of subject matter, some of it a bit bizarre, hang on the walls. You can look into the open kitchen at one end with a pizza oven occupying the place of honor. The pizza was very good too, especially if you like the crisp thin crusted kind.
I had a draft Pilsner Urquell before toddling off home.
A nice three bars making 906 for the year and leaving 94 to go. It still feels a bit strange typing in only two digits for the number of bars to go. Oh Mama, I am heading home.