Saturday, February 19, 2005

Across The River

Today I got across the river for the first time, albeit, briefly. I guess a brief sense of geography would make my travels a bit more understandable. Puerto Vallarta is a decent sized city along the shore of the Banderas Bay. This is a fairly large bay and the city is pretty much on the center of it. Over the years there has been extensive development to the north, all the way to the end of the bay where there is a new Four Season´s Hotel and a PGA golf course. Not as much sprawl to the south because there is a river that, so far, has no bridge for sutomobiles.

Puerto Vallarta itself has a river running through it, the Rio Cuale. In the middle of the river is a decent sized island with one end just about at the point where the river enters the bay. There are two bridges for both pedestrians and automobiles, buses, trucks, etc., that cross the river. Last year they also finished a sizeable pedestrian bridge right on the beach that also has a stairway down to the island. For the adventurous there are also three swinging wooden pedestrian bridges. One connects the north side of town to the island and two connect the island to the south side of town.

In the north side of town along the beach is a wide pedestrian walkway called the malecon. This is a place where there is a lot of pedestrian activity, artists displaying there wares, food vendors, musicians, and more. At the south end of the malecon is a small amphiteter where there is music at night, the occasional wedding, and general party area.

I stay at a place on the south side of the city and that is where all of my bar hopping has taken place so far.

222) Pau Pau

Still on the south side of town is this open air bar right on the beach. It is a fairly large place but not real fancy. There is an elevated DJ stand in the middle so I assume there is a pretty lively crowd in there later in the day. There were about a dozen or so people while I was there and it looks like they have a pretty decent menu. There are a few colored lights hanging from the ceiling which is the fairly typical woven out of straw, or whatever, ones that you see a lot of. Also a disco ball. An interesting wooden carving of a moustached fellow wearing the bottom half of a fish for a hat. A couple of TVs on the side of the DJ stand rounds out the ambience of the place. Oh yes, must not forget the mural of cartoon cats sitting on a brick wall with the caption ºAnother Shitty Day In Paradise.º

I had a Pacifico.

223) Monchis Sport Bar

Well, if having two small televisions make you a sport bar I guess this qualifies. There was a small 5 stool bar overlooking a tiny kitchen in the back of this small and narrow establishment. A large mirror on the left side of the bar kept it from being two claustrophobic. This place was located just up a couple of blocks, going away from the bay, of course, from Pau Pau and two doors down from El Toritto´s and across the street from Senor Frogs. The walls were decorated with more pictures of Zapata and happy customers with a couple of framed minature bullfight posters. Between Nonchis and El Toritto were two bars that don´t open until late, Bar Amigos and The Disco Bar, a couple of small places that will have to wait for another day.

I had a Corona.

224) Cafe Frankfurt Biergarten

Next door to Steve´s this is a hotel with a large courtyard full of palm trees and a couple of squawking parrots, one of which would occasionally say ºHola.º You follow the little red bathway from the entrance on Badillo through the courtyard and end up at a little bar. A very nice, quiet place that is usually pretty empty during the day. The German restaurant is supposed to be pretty good, but I have yet to try it. The bartender iced my glass before pouring my beer. A nice gesture, particularly when you seldom get a glass when you order a beer. A large pinata hung over this otherwise German bar.

I had a Spaten Premium and went home for lunch.

A quick aside here, if you find a bottle of a thick Mexican hot sauce that your buddy bought in the refrigerator, do not assume it can be safely used on a sandwich like you would use mustard.

225) Hooters

Well, I crossed the bridge and stopped into Hooters. It is right at the end south end of the malecon and has a nice view of the goings on. It is up about half a floor above street level so your view is pretty unobstructed. It is a pretty generic Hooters, if you have seen one you have seen them all. Major difference is that most of the staff wasn´t as amply endowed as you would see in the U.S. I was going to have a gin and tonic but simply could not convey that information to the bartender. I gave up on the concept after the third time she reached for the Jack Daniels.

I had a Dos Equis.

226) Carpe Diem

I headed to where there used to be a Planet Hollywood that was then replaced by a bar called Rex. It too is now closed. I hooked a right and walked up the block to a new place called Carpe Diem on Calle Galena. This place just opened up last week and is fairly small but the bartender said they were going to open an upstairs area if things worked out. It has an open courtyard with a couple of tables and then more tables under cover along the edges. One side of the courtyard faces their glassd-in kitchen. In the middle of the courtyard is a large tree so the two tables have large umbrellas to protect the customers from falling leaves and bird droppings.

The bar itself was small but at least the bartender knew what I wanted. She was very friendly and quite pretty.

I had a gin and tonic.

227) Mickey´s No Name Cafe

This place is on the main drag across the street from the malecon. It advertises itself as the unofficial home of the Chicago Cubs and is just jammed with sports memorabilia. They have the largest collection of sports pennants that I have ever seen. There isn´t a square inch that doesn´t have some sports related item on it, mostly pictures of players. On the stairwell and pillers are characatures of some sports celebraties and the one of Dennis Rodman is a beauty. They have plenty of televisions a sports on all of them, including a replay of a NHL hockey game so people who rue the missing season can get their fix. This is a pretty dark and nicely air conditioned place with only small windows so you could look out at the bay, but only if you really wanted to.

I had a gin and tonic and then, because it was two for one, a second one.

228) Vitea

Heading back toward the south side of town I came across another new place, Vitea. They are extending the malecon all the way to the new pedestrian bridge that I mentioned earlier and I expect there will be a lot of new places opening up on this stretch. This was a very nice, open-fronted restaurant with a small bar. It has a light tan tiled floor and walls to match. There is blue stained-glass trim along the top of the walls and a large mirror with blue class surrounding it. Also neat little lamps hanging right over the bar itself. There are a number of overhead fans keeping the place pleasantly cool. Many of the chairs have interesting backs to them, and no two the same. Under the mirror was a long tan soffa. This place is owned by the same people that own Trio´s, a very nice restaurant that I have eaten at. I took a peek at Vitea´s menu and it looked interesting, but certainly not cheap.

I had a gin and tonic and headed home to get ready for dinner.

After watching the sunset with friends down at the pool we headed off to eat.

229) Roberto´s

On our way to the restaurant, that doesn´t have a bar, I popped into Roberto´s on Badillo. It has a small bar up front with a fairly large restaurant in the back. I very nice mural, I guess you would call it, of abalone shells with water trickling over them. On one wall was a large mural of what looked like a canal in Venice and at one end of the bar was a large swordfish mounted on a wroght iron decorative grate. There was a nice looking cabinet behind the bar.

I had a gin and tonic.

230) Fajita Republic

On the way home from dinner on the corner of Bidillo and Pino Suarez, is this large, outdoor restaurant. Right along the sidwalk is a large cement bar that pretty much just begged me to have a drink. You don´t even have to go inside the courtyard, just step of the sidewalk and sit down on a stool. Can´t get more convenient than that.

I had a margarita and headed home.

Tomorrow is Sunday so I don´t expect to be too active but, Who knows (I can´t find the question mark on this keyboard). Stay tuned.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Day Two in Paradise

Woke up early and decided to get a headstart on the day. Lot's of places open early here.

213) El Jacal Chavalon (Sport Bar

This place is right on the main drag, and is a great semi-dive bar. It was only 8:00 A.M. but there was already a guy in there who could barely keep his head up but was managing to drink a very large frozen margarita through a straw. This place has a nice little sidewalk seating area where you can get decent, and inexpensive, Mexican food. The bar inside is quite large and features more pictures of Zapata and his crew with a nice picture of him on horseback at my end of the bar.

I had a Negro Modelo

214) Andale

Well I was drinking my beer at El Jacal they guy with the margarita left but I found him here with another one in front of him and a straw in his mouth. Good stamina, wonder what he is going to do with the rest of his day. This is another place that is just jammed at night and usually somewhere along the way they bring in a live burro. No sex acts though, just a guy with his burro. They have nice cushioned bar stools with mosaic supports that match the mosaic on the floor. There is another set of bar stools that ring the entire place one half-floor up. The whole place, walls and ceilings, is lined with egg-cartons. While I was there some very heavily made up woman came in that was well perfumed. If it was New York and she didn't have such large breasts I would have though it was a drag queen for all the drama she brought to the place. Good action for 8:30 A,M.

I had a Tecate

215) Langostino's

I headed down to the beach and stopped into this lovely little bar and restaurant. It is not too far from where I am staying so it was kind of on my way home.

I had a Bloody Mary and headed back to pick up the rest of the crew and have breakfast.

216) Tequila Town

After breakfast a a bit of pool time my buddy and I headed out to hit a few. Our first stop was this place on the corner of FCO. I. Madero and, I think, Vallarta. It is the road you hit if you drive across one of the main bridges from the other side of town. It is a small place barely big enough for the pool table that they have. If you don't sit at the bar you can sit at a stool by the window and get a carbon monoxide high. Nice life-sized carved wooden skeleton that people like to stand by and have their picture taken. I am no exception.

I had a frozen margarita

217) La Ballna Azul (The Blue Whale).

This is one of the few remaining authentic Mexican taverns left in this town. Typically, and today was no exception, I and whomever I am with are the only gringos in the place. Kind of dead in the afternoon but quite lively at night with a few hookers, the occasional brawl, and a lot of hollering. All and all though it is a pretty friendly place and I have never had a problem there. Great spicy peanuts on the bar and a machine where you can buy cigarettes one at a time.

I had a Corona and a shot of tequila

218) Cactus Bar

This place has gone through a number of changes. When I first started coming to Puerto Vallarta it was the Corner Bar, then it had a brief incarnation as a Mexican leather bar, and now it is the Cactus Bar. It has a pool table and windows that look out onto the street.

I had a Dos Equis and a shot of tequila and headed home for a break before the evening's festivities.

219) El Dorado

This is one of my favorite restaurants, right on the beach and not far from my place. Usually it is the first restaurant that my wife and I go to when we get into town but because of our late arrival and other planned activities it took us until now to get there. They have a good sized poured cement bar that looks vaguely like a very large brown anaconda. They have live music and a great view of the sunset which, tonight, was spectacular.

I had a staight-up margarita at the bar before sitting down to dinner.

220) Coca Tropicana

This place is just down the beach a bit from El Dorado. It used to be where the Corner Bar was after it relocated from what is now the Cactus Bar (see above). It is a bit back from the beach and has a large courtyard with tables for dinner. It is across the sidewalk from the beach and a bit walled off so it doesn't have quite the view but is still a nice enough place. One year when we went out fishing and caught a few small tuna we took them here and they cooked them up for us for dinner.

I had a gin and tonic. I had had several at El Dorado and this may become my new favorite drink down here, for awhile at least.

221) Lazy Lizard

On the way back home we passed by this place and popped in. Most of the drinking is done outside but they did have a small, four stool, bar inside that was kind of messy. We managed to find enough space to set down our drinks though so that was good enough for us.

I had a gin and tonic and called it a day, and a very successful day at that.

Well, with 221 down I have a mere 779 left to go.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Puerto Vallarta - At Last

Woke up to a beautiful sunny day on in our place on Play Los Muertos (Beach of the Dead). Despite the name, which the town keeps trying to change to Play del Sol, it is a most pleasant beach and it is a pleasure to be here. But you didn't come here to read a travel guide, so let's get down to business.

205) Steve's Sport's Bar

After having breakfast I stopped into this place, a great favorite of mine. It used to be called Le Club and the metal chairs still feature a large club (the card type, not the banging type) on the back. The owner and most of the customers are Canadian. Steve is a very personable guy and the place is always crowded. The feature a lot of Nasar on the televisions, but also show just about every other sport that is on too. The place is packed with Nascar memorabilia, signed pictures of drivers, pictures of cars, you name it and they have it.

I had a Pacifico.

206) Reggies

This is a little place on 509 Olas Altas. It is a bit off the beaten track and right across the street from the somewhat infamous Palm, about which I am sure you will here more later. When to a great drag show there last year. Anyway, back to Reggies. It had a nice parquette surfaced bar with a copper, rather than a brass, rail. Some original artwork on the wall that was for sale, but not much else distingquishing the place except for a friendly bartender.

I had an Indio (a Mexican beer).

207) La Bamba

On 212 Basilio Badillo (known as restaurant row) is this little place. I have eaten here in the past and the food is pretty good. The owner is quite friendly and said if we came back for dinner we would get our second round of drinks on the house. There are a lot of photos of old Mexico featuring revolutionaries from the Pancho Zapata era. This is a quite common decorating theme down here. There was, somewhat inexplicably, also a large picture of what looked to be a Japanese tea ceromony.

I had an excellent frozen margarita made from scratch. It really hit the spot.

208) Senor Frogs

This is quite the spot late at night when it is often so packed you cannot get in. A very young crowd then. I figured I would take advantage of it being almost empty during the early afternoon. Pretty flourescent place with a large green flourescent call hanging from the ceiling that had a large flourescent orange udder. There was an elderly couple having a drink there and they looked so out of place I went over to talk to them. It turned out they had come in on a cruise ship and Senor Frogs was on the recommended list of places to visit. I said that was a shame because it is so touristy and there were so many other places they shoud see. I told them about a few but they had to catch a cab and head back to the ship. A real shame that out of the whole city this was the only place they saw. They didn't look to happy about it either.

I had an ice-cold shot of Jagermeister.

209) El Torito

Right across the street (I will try to get the addresses later) is this rather large sports bar that has some of the best and most inexpensive ribs in town. There is a little L shaped bar by the window so this is where I sat.

I had a Bacardi and Coke.

210) Sweeny's

This place is on Olas Altos, the short main drag in the part of town where I stay. The major part of the city is across the river and this area is known as either the Old Town or the Romantic Area. Sweeny's is owned by a guy that has a few bars in St. Paul, kind of my old stomping grounds. I grew up in Minneapolis, the better half of the Twin Cities. Anyway, this place has nice seating right by the window where you can watch the goings on down below. Has a great mural on the wall that will give you an new appreciaton for maps, topography, and the female anatomy.

I had an inexpensive margarita and I got what I paid for, not much.

211) Oscar's

This place is a very nice restaurant on the island in the middle of the river that separates the two sides of town. It is on the end of the Island closest to the bay and has a nice view of the sunset. A lot of birds fly up the river as it gets dark so the view is very nice. We had a lovely dinner there but before that I sat at the bar and had a drink.

I had a margarita

212) Daquiri Dick's

A very nice bar and restaurant right on the bay that also has great food. My friends who got down here before me have already eaten here three times. It has a nice tiled bar inside and an interesting statue of, what looked to me, to be a horny cow. But then I was a bit tipsy by now so who knows what it really was. If I get a chance I may take a second look and fill you in later.

I had a daiquiri and headed on home after what was a fun first day in the sun.

Made pretty good progress and now have 788 left to go.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


Well, last night I took my wife out for dinner to make up for my Valentine's day fiasco. We went to our favorite neighborhood restaurant, Armando's, and had a pleasant evening so all is right with the world. I had a glass of wine with my meal but, of course, didn't count it because I didn't drink it at the bar and I have already had a drink at the bar here.

203) Brooklyn Beer Garden

In terminal four at JFK there are only two bars. This one was open when I got there so I popped in. It is a typical small airport bar that featured Brooklyn Brewery beers, some of my favorites. The windows in the bar overlooked another terminal so you could see parked planes but couldn't see them landing or taking off. They had an impresive display of antique beer bottles and some reproductions of old brewery advertisements.

I had a Brooklyn Weisse

204) Napa Valley Wine Bar

This bar opened later in the day, 3:00 P.M. I thought that was a bit strange for an airport bar but they said that the earliest departing flight from the gates where they were located wasn't until 4:00 P.M. The view from here was of the check-in counters and, lookiing through the lobby, of the AirTrain as it passed by. Although it is a wine bar they didn't have an overly large selection of wines.

I had a Samuel Adam's Boston Lager

I passed by two bars in the Mexico City airport but didn't have time to stop in because we were pressed for time and had to clear immigration before catching out connection to Puerto Vallarta. We didn't get to Puerto Vallarta until midnight so just called it a night when we got there.

Not a great day, but not bad considering. Down to a mere 796 to go.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Valentine's Day Stroll

Today was a really nasty day to be taking a stroll, but take one I did. I was originally going to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to the waterfront area in Manhattan, but it was actually snowing when I left the house, although it quickly turned to a light rain that became heavier as the day progressed. Instead of walking across the bridge I took the subway to Wall Street and walked from there.

197) Jeremy's Ale House

On 230 Front Street, on a block that is being totally redeveloped, and as close to the water as you can be without yet being in a tourist trap, is Jeremy's. It is now in its third location in the same general area, but still retains most of the trappings from its original place, including all of the brassieres that willing patrons have contributed to decorate the place. It used to feature cut-off neckties as well. If you wore a necktie in the place the owner would cut it off and hang it on the wall. I guess the price of neckties made that no longer doable. I hit this place shortly after it opened and the only person in there having a drink, other than me, was Jeremy himself. He was decked out in a dress shirt, black dress pants with bracers, and a natty black hat. Turned out that Monday's, after the football season is over, are given over to films and tonight they were featuring Casablanca. Everyone was supposed to come dressed as a character, or at least as a character might be dressed. Great place, I chatted with the owner and the bartender about places we all knew and loved. Jeremy's has recently opened a new place in Freeport, Long Island, a lovely little area, although a bit touristy, on the water that is always fun to visit. I will certainly be popping in later in the year.

I had a Murphy's Stout and a Tullamore's Irish Whisky (the latter on Jeremy himself).

198) Bridge Cafe

Almost under the Brooklyn Bridge, on 279 Water Street Manhattan, is this venerable establishment. Along with a slew of others it claims to be the oldest bar in New York. The building is supposedly the oldest wood-frame building in Manhattan, but who knows. It has been a lot of things over the years, and being a waterfront place you can guess at some of them. Now it is almost respectable. Nice bar, photographs and paintings of waterfront scenes on the walls. Quite pleasant and friendly manager and bartender. The little tables in the place were very attractively set and it looks like it would be a very pleasant place for a bite to eat.

I had a Samuel Adams Winter Lager.

199) MJs (aka Mark Joseph's)

Well, the building is old, the bar (imported from upstate Connecticut) is old, but the place is fairly new. The place had a nice, albeit contrived, ambience to it. It is located at 261 Water Street between Dover Street and Peck Slip (I threw in the cross streets just because Peck Slip sounds cool). Supposedly a really nice steak place. It was still early but there were a few suit and tie guys in there downing there early afternoon libations. When you consider how the neighborhood is a developers paradise right now, one can only imagine the deals being cut. I really liked the little blue lights hung low over the bar. The bartender was the classic Irish bartender and therefore a good conversationalist.

I had a really tall and hefty Dewars and soda. No complaints about the drink. A man's drink in a man's steakhouse (I am awaiting the feedback from my female readers on this sexist comment, however there were no women in the place while I was there).

200) Heartland Brewery

Well, sadly, but not too sadly, my two-century mark was hit in this new spin-off of the original Heartland Brewery that I have written about previously. It is located at 93 South Street and is hard-by the South Street Sea Port, a bit of a tourist trap but with a few decent places in it. I visited Red the other day and wrote it up and that place was fine. But, I digress. It was these spin-offs of the original Heartland Brewery at Union Square (see earlier post) that made it no longer practical for them to brew on premise so although they sometimes advertise themselves as a brewpub, they really are not. Still, the bartender was friendly, the customers were great, and I stayed longer than I should have drinking beer and chatting. This time the beer was top-notch, although they were out of the Apricot Ale that I wanted to try.

I had an Indiana Pale Ale, then another.

201) Radio Mexico

Another waterfront place and a really neat, I would venture to say great, Mexican bar. It is right by the Brooklyn Bridge at 259 Front Street. Not the oldest of bars, but it has been around since 1991 so it was here before all the redevelopment began. It has a nice, old feel to it. It has a pool table, and great margarittas and an outdoor area that would be nice in the summer. I wish I could remember more about it, but I was getting a bit blasted at this time. Must remember to maintain focus. The bartender was Mexican and because I am leaving for Puerto Vallarta on Wednesday we chatted a bit about Mexico.

I had two margaritas and then went home.

202) Magnetic Field

Well, I was going to take the wife out for a Valentine's Day dinner but she disapproved of my days travels, rightfull so I might add, and decided she didn't want to go anymore. Not missing an opportunity I headed for this neighborhood establishment. It is at 97 Atlantic Avenue and is a cross between Shane, the western, and some science-fiction movie, with a customer base that kind of resembled the Pet Shop Boys. It is relatively new, having taken over the space of another bar, but has become a great neighborhood fixture. The lamp-shades were made by the owner's wife (a co-owner, I presume) who also makes dynamite classic drinks. A pool table in the back and pretty good music with DJs most of the time and live bands as well. They have karoke with a live band twice a month but haven't made it to that yet.

I had a $2 can of Shaefer's beer and went home to face the music.

Well, this is it until I get to Mexico. Tomorrow I pack and organize my place for a six week stay in Puerto Vallarta. On Wednesday I depart and will probably hit three bars at the most before I arrive. Two at JFK and, if time permits, one in the Mexico City airport where I switch planes. I don't actually get to Puerto Vallarta until almost midnight so no posts until Thursday at the earliest and maybe not until Friday.

Until then just remember, una cerveza fria, and only 798 bars to go.