I had a meeting with one of the owners of Pioneer which is going to be bar number 1000 for me. I decided to scout out the area before meeting him and found a number of neat bars in the vicinity.
935) Five Points
On the little stretch of Great Jones is this relative newcomer. The bar is in the front half of this fairly narrow place and the dining area is in the back with the open kitchen back further still. The bar has a dark wooden top with a black front. The bar chairs are light wood. There is an interesting beer station, brushed metal that kind of looks like a small barrel mounted sideways on a fat cylindrical base. Only three spigots though. Lots of beer glasses are stacked next to it.
Cooling units with metal doors and a small wooden wine rack sit behind the bar with tiered shelves of liquor, a bunch of wine bottles, a red cash register and shelves of glasses sit on top. Lots of little metal cocktail shakers, individual portion size, sit there too. A bit of a cluttered look. There is a wooden shelf built above the clutter and it holds their fancier stuff along with an assortment of small gourds. A modern looking narrow rectangular wood framed mirror sits above that shelf.
Blackboards on each side of the shelves list the wine and drink specials. A large cylindrical clear glass vase surrounded by more small gourds sits on one end of the bar and holds a large spray of branches covered with dark green leaves. Opposite the bar are a row of small tables in front of a long wooden bench with an oxblood colored cushion. Bar chairs sits on the other side of the tables and a few more chairs sit in front of a ledge on the wall next to the door. There is a small round table with two chairs on the other side of the dore.
The walls are pale green as is the ceiling and the floor is wood. The light mounted on the ceiling above the bar is an oblong pale green Lucite box in a wooden frame and the same size and shaped light is mounted on the wall opposite the bar above the bench.
I had a draft Schneider Weiss and my only complaint was the price, $8.37. A bit much for a beer that usually goes for five bucks. I guess I can’t recommend this place for someone just popping in for a drink but the people eating here seemed to like the place.
The real deal when it comes to dive bars, including the boisterous, tipsy crowd singing along to the juke box. And its only early afternoon. It is at 51 Houston Street, just about where it intersects with Bowery. I think this might be the cathedral of dive bars. It even has cathedral like stained glass lights hanging from the high patterned black tin ceiling. It also had the requisite old guy mumbling to himself at the far end of the bar. And the bar is a classic old beat-up wooden one with a raised front ledge to keep the spilt drinks from running onto your lap. And, like every good dive bar must, it has a rack of snacks; pretzels, popcorn, chips, behind the bar.
The bar back looks positively ancient and it might very well be. This place is reputed to have been established in 1880. There are old coolers and cabinets with beat-up wooden doors, tiered shelves of liquor and sagging shelves loaded with large and small bottles. Every inch of wall space is covered with everything from old Coca Cola signs to a large yellowing picture of a young Frank Sinatra mounted on the head of a base drum. All kinds of photos of customers, sports figures, Marilyn and Joe, movie posters, photos of politicians, you name it and it is on the wall somewhere.
The front window and the back wall are covered with neon beer signs and they seem to provide most of the light, of which there isn’t much. All and all a great place and I give it a three thumbs up. If you like to sing along with Working Class Hero and Whiskey River, or just like to listen to other people singing along, this is certainly the place for you.
I had a bottle of Red Stripe.
937) Nolita House
Right next door to Milanos and up a flight of stairs is this decidedly different type of place. Not fancy, but certainly no dive. It is as comfortable as your grandmother’s kitchen, but with a decent sized and nicely grained wood bar and wooden bar chairs. A globe sits on one end of the bar. A set of black iron pipe and wooden shelves in front of a mirror behind the bar holds the liquor, glasses, and a decent sized television. Overhead fans and inverted spider-like metal light fixtures with small bulbs hang from the pale green ceiling. The spiders all seem to be missing one leg though.
The walls are a bit deeper green than the ceiling and are mostly decorated with grade school class graduation pictures. Somewhat of a bizarre concept but what was really strange was that one of the pictures was from the 1977-78 Barton Elementary School in Minneapolis. Now Bar Boy grew up in Minneapolis but never went to that school. Damned if the name of the teacher, Mrs. Halverson, doesn’t ring a bell though. I will have to ask my friend, Donna, who retired from the elementary school system in Minneapolis and who I have known since first grade knows why this might be the case.
The flooring is wooden planks and small tables and chairs line the walls with a wrap-around bench up front by the windows. A couple of large green chalkboards list beer and wine specials and advertises their Boozy Blue-Grass Brunch on the weekends. One chalkboard had a riddle, a variation of the “this man’s father is my father’s son…” written on it.
I ordered a glass of the house red but they were out of it so the bartender, gave me a better wine that he liked for the same price. He poured me a glass and then poured a little sip for himself. He wasn’t happy with it though. He said that particular wine didn’t last long after it was opened so he opened a fresh bottle and poured me a fresh glass. I was quite good and I appreciated his gesture. I probably wouldn’t have known that the first glass was a bit off.
Marc, The Bartender Who Knows His Wine
The wine I had was Spanish and I thought it was Solar de Raudez, but I can’t seem to find any information on it. If anyone knows what I might actually have had, drop me a note.
938) Tom & Jerry’s (288) Bar
Located at 288 Elizabeth Street this is a good sized place with a large screen on the wall in the back and where they show movies at night. Interestingly, both the bartender, Isabel, and her friend Vicky, used to work at a bar down the street a bit, MeKong, that I had visited earlier in the year but was now closed.
The Now Defunct MeKong
They also both knew the guy, David, that I was going to meet later at Pioneer. Life is just full of coincidences today. For some reason neither of them wanted their picture taken though. Same with the bartender at Milanos who actually covered her face when someone else popped in to take a picture of the interior of the bar.
The bar is long and wooden with a black foot rest. The bar stools are black metal rods with round black vinyl seats that spin. The bar back is brown wooden shelving with bottles and glasses and large amounts of crockery on display that all has “Tom & Jerry,” or “Tom and Jerry,” or “Tom n’ Jerry,” or some other variation thereof embellished upon them. There is a large mirror with an ornate gold frame above the middle section of the bar back. The wall opposite the bar is mostly glass brick between sections of concrete wall. There are neon beer signs on the front window. Lots of small tables and chairs line the walls. Spot lights hang from the black ceiling and there are a couple of overhead fans. Kind of a dark distressed tile floor. Looks like it would be a fun place to hang out when the movies start.
I had a draft Widmer Heifweizen, a European style white beer that is brewed in Portland, Oregon, and then headed over to see where Pioneer was so I could come back later when it was open.
On the way to Pioneer I passed by a place that I thought was named Porcupine and popped in just to check it out for a future reference. The people were very friendly so I figured I would stop back with the Mysterious Chinese Woman later on for dinner before looking up David.
Well, I did come back to what I thought was Porcupine only to find out that it was now Jacques. For some reason the owner decided to change the name just a couple of weeks ago and make it more of a French bistro. Damn, I should have hit this earlier so I could have gotten a twofer. The bartender said the interior hasn’t changed that much but it certainly seemed to have that French bistro feel to it. In fact, even this late in the year, there were people sitting at outside tables.
There is an old wooden bar with a brass silver foot rail. The chairs are dark wood. The silver T shaped beer station had spigots with stubby unmarked black handles. Wooden mirror backed shelves held a decent selection of liquors. Globe lights hang from the tiled ceiling and two of those upturned spider like fixtures with clear bulbs and orange glowing filaments hang over the dining area. Clear glass bulbs with orange glowing filaments must be the new style because you see them everywhere now. The lights mounted on the walls have the same type of bulbs.
The walls are kind of like cream-colored plaster with mirrors and windows looking out to nowhere mounted on them. Lots of little framed posters and pictures and one large poster on the wall next to the bar that I really liked.
The floor is multi-colored tile and there are dark red banquettes and tables around the walls. After my drink at the bar The Mysterious Chinese Woman and I had dinner and I must report that it was great. We had grilled octopus for an appetizer and it was delicious. I had the flank steak, done to perfection, with French fries and the Mysterious Chinese Woman had hake and it was also great. Certainly a place worth returning to.
I had a Bombay martini, up with a twist, at the bar and then headed to Pioneer.
After meeting with David at Pioneer, a most pleasant person who seemed really excited about it being the 1000th bar I headed home but popped into Tom & Jerry’s for a night cap and to see what was showing. We managed to catch the ending of Psycho. I also want to say that Pioneer looks like a perfect place for a party. It is quite large with a good sized front area and bar and another big bar in a large back room with a pool table. I think number 1000 should be a real blast.
A very productive and enjoyable day with five bars hit bringing my total for the year to 939 leaving just 61 more to go.