Friday, November 11, 2005

And Old Is New

I headed once more to a neighborhood I once lived and worked in. In fact I once worked in the very building of the first bar that I visited today. Guardian Insurance outgrew its space where the W Hotel now stands and for awhile rented additional space in various buildings around the area. This was one of them at 225 Park Avenue South.

932) Barca 18

Earlier this year I visited and wrote-up Park Avalon. Barca now occupies the same space and is, in fact, owned by the same people. I guess they just thought it was time for a change. Now it is a fancy Spanish restaurant with a decent offering of tapas and a nice looking dinner menu. The bar has a thick clear plastic top over bright orange, red, and white strips, all very shiny. The front of the bar is a faded orange and there is a foot rail. The bar chairs are dark wood with black leather seats and woven fabrick backs in chocolate brown and gold. A couple of tall glass vases sit on the bar with large bright flowers in them.

The bar back is more functional than decorative, but the size gives it an imposing look. Pretty much just gray coolers separated by a gray pillar with black tiles at the bottom up to the height of the coolers. Liquor and wine bottles sit on top of the coolers as well as some glasses and mugs. Two gray steel beams serve as a shelf for a large selection of wines. The ceiling is quite high and the space above the beams and bottles is filled with a modernistic design of red and brown shades and white lines defining upright rectangles. Made me think of a city full of skyscrapers.

Large spider-leg like lights surrounded by orange fabric in the shape of squares hang from the gray ceiling. Three gray steel beams split the room down the middle. Gray is the predominate color in here. Three large planters at right angles to the bar are filled with gray stones and large leafless trees that looked like they came from a haunted forest. These serve to split the bar in two so it doesn’t seem overwhelmingly long. There is a large dining area in the back and a number of orange banquettes for seating. There is a large yellow banquette under large mirrors on the wall opposite the bar.

Everyone in here seemed quite friendly and I ever ran into a couple of old friends who were just finishing up lunch at the bar. They said the food was very good so I will have to stop back one day and try it out.

I had a bottle of Sagres, a dark Portuguese beer.

933 Dos Caminos

This is a fancy Mexican restaurant and bar that is owned by the same people that own Barca 18 and is just up the street a bit at 373 Park Avenue South. It has a very impressive selection of tequilas. The bar isn’t too big, but more than adequate. It has a black acrylic surface with a dark wood front with a wide silver panel at the bottom from which a flat matching metal foot rest protrudes. The bar stools are a bit on the strange side, thin black metal legs kind of a shallow scooped out elliptical dark seats. You weren’t weather to sit on them like a swing or straddle them like a saddle. I opted for the swing.

Hanging over the bar are two lights that look like they were made out of large tree trunks. Quite impressive even though they didn’t seem to give off much light. The major portion of the bar back is metal coolers below with glasses and a few bottles of wine and liquor on top. Above that is mounted metal cabinets with glass doors filled with bottles of tequila. Above them is a large, to the ceiling, wood framed mirror. To the right are seven fairly narrow glass shelves mounted one above the other and going up to the ceiling. The bottled beer selection is displayed on the bottom shelf and fancy tequilas sit on the other six shelves. To the right of those shelves are two frozen margarita machines and you can have your choice of either a traditional margarita or a prickly pear margarita. More tequila bottles sit on top of them. Next to this are shelves of glasses and above them a large dark orange chalk board listing some of their specialty margaritas and tequilas.

On a section of the wall at right angles to the chalk board is a set of wooden shelves holding another 18 tequila bottles. Above that is a decent sized wine rack and above that shelves of little clay pots holding small cacti. There is a very large dining area that hooks all the way around to another entrance on 27th Street. They have a small serving bar back there as well. Despite the size of the dining area the bar manages to retain an intimate feel because it is set off by dark framework partitions. Again, another place that looks like it would be worth a visit for dinner.

I chatted with the bartender, Melanie a bit about tequilas, the neighborhood, and life in general. We shared our philosophies about margaritas and she whipped me up a couple. No complaints on my part.

Melanie, Purveyor Of Excellent Margaritas

I had a Patron margarita, up with a salted rim and it was so damn good I had another.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Harlem Hop

I headed up to Harlem today to meet my buddy Bernie. Bernie is the guy that picks me up at 8:00 A.M. for 1:00 P.M. games so we will have enough time to tailgate. The next home game is an 8:30 P.M. game against New Orleans and he is picking my up at 1:00 P.M. for that one. It’s a good thing we don’t live on the west coast. He would have to spend the night so we could get to the stadium early enough.

We got off the A train and started looking for bars. The first one we found had a sign on the door saying that the owner would be back in a few minutes so we decided to keep looking. Then we found one that was closed, but at least the door was open and there was a guy in there cleaning up so we asked him where we could find a place that was open. He gave us directions to one and headed out.

928) Lenox Lounge

This place is on Malcolm X Blvd (Lenox) between 124th and 125th. This is a great looking place that has an art deco interior. It has been around since the 1930s and was recently renovated. Over the years it has showcased a lot of great jazz talents such as Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane. Their pictures still grace the walls. It has a large dark wood topped bar with brown and tan panels in front. The bar chairs are wood with light blue seats and backs The bar back has mirrors with tiered shelves above black coolers. The lights above the mirrors are panels of frosted glass sandwiched between wood. Above the lights is a narrow mirrored panel. Kind of an interesting effect.

Against the wall opposite the bar are settees with round tables and chairs in front. Lights between the settees are large finned white glass fixtures that look a bit like torpedoes. There are ornate mirrors against the back wall. The floor is nicely patterned with small hexagon tiles.

Now for some reason the bartender didn’t want me to take a picture of her. I can understand that, but she also didn’t want me to take any pictures of the interior. Maybe you can only do so if you are a known photographer working for some publication. I notice that the place has been photographed and the pictures published in the past. It is quite a famous place. Well, just because they wouldn’t let me take a picture doesn’t mean I can’t post a couple.

They still have pretty decent jazz in here at night.

I had an Old Crow and water. I don’t know why I felt like bourbon and water today, maybe because of the décor. And Old Crow was a bourbon I used to drink when I was but a youth.

929) Sylvia’s

Sylvia’s is just down Lenox a bit, and they still list their address as being 328 Lenox Avenue. Sylvia’s is best know as a soul food restaurant, and justifiably so. It originally opened in 1962 and only sat 35 people. Now it occupies almost the entire block and has a capacity of 450. Because it is broken up into several rooms it still manages to feel small and homey. And Sylvia is still a presence keeping an eye on everything and making sure everyone is happy. Strangely enough, Sylvia has branched out into a line of beauty products and you can see them on display by the door. Seems a bit out of place, if you ask me.

Although this is primarily a restaurant there is a little bar with a pink and gray marble top and a shelf behind it with liquor, although not a large selection. They didn’t carry any bourbon. Luckily they did have scotch though. The guy who served us our drinks poured with a heavy hand and even asked us if he put enough in. We figured we better stop him while there was still room to add water.

While we were sitting at the bar Sylvia popped behind it to mix up some sort of a ghastly looking things that had Southern Comfort, Amaretto, pineapple juice, something red, and who knows what all else.

I had a Johnny Walker Red and water.

930) Paris Blues

On the corner of 121st and 7th Avenue was this classic place. We were told that it is the oldest bar in Harlem and I have no reason not to believe it. It was most definitely a neighborhood bar where everybody seemed to know each other and before it wall all over you knew everybody too. There was a Twins fan in there so I got a another chance to make my case for Kent Hrbek getting into the Hall of Fame. To his credit he didn’t laugh in my face, like some of my so called friends do.

There was a good sized bar with a wood-grained tile top, a wood paneled front and a ledge for your foot. Behind the bar were pale pressed wood cabinets and shelves with glass doors. There were also two semi-cabinets that had a lot of inverted bottles on devices that let you pop out a shot by pressing against it with a glass.

There was a pool table in the back but it was covered with a cloth. It looked like it was going to be used for food because there were a lot of tinfoil containers and racks. I think I was told what was going on but it didn’t really register. One of the patrons, Danny, insisted on buy us a drink when we were finishing up the one we bought, and who were we to say no. He turned out to be a poet and has a book out called Grass Root Poems from a Grass Root Poet. His full name is Daniel W. Brown. I couldn’t get him to write a poem about my visit though. The bartender, Sue, joined our conversation and we ended up having a grand time.

Sue, The Conivial Bartender

There were pictures on the walls including a couple of President Clinton, and an upright piano against one brick wall. It probably gets some use late at night. There was kind of a semi-enclosed room off to one side with a few sofas and tables back there.

I had an I.W. Harpers with water. Well, actually, a couple of them.

931) Showmans

This was the place that we stopped at first but the owner or manager or someone was out for a few minutes. It was on our way back to the subway at 375 125th Street. Well another great place. Supposedly it has the longest bar in New York City. It is a nice green marble topped bar too. Green flying saucer like lights hang above it. This is a great place and convenient to the 125th Street A line subway stop. It is a well-known jazz club with no cover and a 2 drink minimum. Thursday night is tap dance night and I can only imagine that that would be a real hoot.

Showmans has been around since 1942 but in its current location, its third, only since 1998. Over the years a lot of greats have played here as well, Sara Vaughan, Lionel Hampton, Duke Ellington, Eartha Kitt. There is a good sized stage in the back and back-lit photos from the original location hang behind the bar.

The Manager, Mona, And The Bartender, Tanya On Stage

I wish I could remember more about this place, but the drinks were starting to catch up and we weren’t slowing down here. It was our last stop before heading home and I had at least three of whatever I was drinking. I know it was bourbon and water, but don’t know if I ever found out the brand.

We met an interesting fellow, and that is putting it mildly. Frank Minaya was the third black basketball player at Seton Hall in the 1950s. He earned two Masters Degrees: A Master of Science (MS) in School Administration from the City University of New York and a Masters of Arts (MA) in Technology from Columbia University. In 1960s, produced the first full-length feature Bahamian film called Banana Boat Beat and created one of the most famous nightclubs in The Bahamas, Frank's Banana Boat.

Frank Minaya is a direct descendent of the former freed North American slaves brought to the Dominican Republic in the early 1800's. He established Inmobiliaria Minaya y Willmore, S.A. landholding company which, for the last three decades, has focused on accumulating property on the Samaná peninsula. He created a Cultural Art Therapy Programme within Her Majesty's Prison focusing on the creation of Bahamian National Crest sand sculptures. He created first Bahamian Fire Prevention and Safety Programme and donated the first fire truck to the island of Bimini. He also produced Fire Safety, Public Service Film 'From New York City to Bimini' which was shown during Prime Time on ZNS.

Not done yet, he facilitated introduction the Irving Burgie musical programme into all Bahamian primary schools and brought the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture together with the Bahamas National Archives to document Bahamian Heroes, established the Bahamian/Dominican/American Partnership which facilitates humanitarian projects in The Bahamas, the Dominican Republic and the United States.

Well, you get the picture and in fact here is a picture of him after receiving Bahamian Consulate awards.

And now he can say he met Bar Man.

Bernie, Frank, And Bar Man

I had bourbon and water, several actually, and then it was to the subway and on to home. If my buddy Bernie sends me more details of what went on yesterday I will add them. He is a professional partier and I am just an amateur. Also, we spent a lot of time just chatting with people.

A great day with four places hit, and all of them were interesting and enjoyable. Now that I know how easy it is to get here I will be back one night to take in the entertainment. That tap dancing on Tuesday intrigues me no end. 931 for the year and just 69 to go.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A Fifth On 3rd? No, Wait, 53rd

I looked at my most recent Murphs’s email and saw a reference to The Upper Deck on 53rd between 1st and 2nd so I headed on over. Now this was billed as a sports bar so I just assumed that it would be open during the day, but no. Here we go again, why can’t the hours of operation be given when a bar is mentioned in Murph’s, or anywhere else, for that matter. Just so you know, on weekdays, at least, The Upper Deck doesn’t open until 6:00 P.M.

926) Metro 53

Well, at least this place that was right next door was open. It is a very nice bar and I met the owners, Mike and Tony, who also own The Upper Deck. They were a couple of gregarious Irishmen (aren’t they all) and were really fun to talk to. They made sure that I would return and visit The Upper Deck one day when it was open, and I will be sure to do so. They introduced themselves when they saw me taking a picture of Denise, the bartender, and said the recognized me from a newspaper article. Denise thought she had met me before but I hadn’t been in here yet and she said she didn’t work anywhere else. A case of mistaken identity, I guess, or else it was a variation of that old "Haven't I seen you someplace before" line.

Denise, The Charming Bartender

Metro 53 is quite a large place with a large, three-sided bar. The bar has a grayish marble top with black and gold flecks and a wooden arm rest. The front of the bar is wood with wide silvery metal bands at the top and bottom. There is a foot rest and wooden chairs with black vinyl seats. Two beer stations sit on the bar, one an inverted flat-bottomed U shaped affair with eight spigots and the other is an upright round one with four spigots. Blue spotlights in the ceiling illuminate the bar.

The bar back is wood shelving and mirrors. There are tiered shelves for liquor in front of the mirrors on my side and liquor and glasses on the wood shelves as well. Lots of metal ice chests. There are two televisions behind the bar, one on the wall opposite the bar and at least three more in the other room.

Opposite the bar is a wooden ledge above a red painted wall that is a washed pale yellow above the ledge. Black and white photos of old New York decorate the walls along with an Art Deco poster for New York Central System that featuring locomotives. There is a large dining area with tables, chairs, and comfortable looking leather banquettes against the wall. I enjoyed myself in here and I suspect you would as well.

I had a draft Magner’s Hard Cider.

927) Parnell’s

This is a dark Irish bar on the corner of 53rd and 1st that has a touch of old-world elegance to it. A long dark wooden bar with a ledge for your feet and wooden bar chairs that had bright red vinyl seats. There are three tubular brass beer stations protruding from the bar with a total of eight working spigots and a spot where another could be added. Three large mirrors separated by wood shelves are behind the bar. Tiered shelves of liquor sit in front of mirrors at each end and a silver cash registers sits in front of the middle one under a clock. Coolers with brown doors sit below the shelves. A row of orange helmet shaped lights hang immediately behind the bar chairs and lots of lights with stained glass shades with various designs hang throughout the rest of the place.

Opposite the bar is a wood partition with a stained glass set of panels on top and a brass rail on top of them. Small tables with bar chairs line the side of the partition closest to the bar. The wall on the other side is brick and covered with framed racing and hunting paintings. Along the top of the brick wall is a shelf covered with urns, statues, mugs, a cannon, and other assorted knick-knacks. All kinds of mugs and pitchers hang from the tan patterned ceiling towards the back. A ledge in front of the windows are covered with small pumpkins, gourds, and branches with fall colored leaves. Pitchers hang above the window.

There are tables on the other side of the partition, up front by the windows, and in the decent sized dining room in the back. Lots of dark wood paneling and all kinds of shelves with interesting stuff sitting on them. The bathrooms are on either side of a cloak room that is built out from a wall and this structure has stained glass windows. There is a definite look of an authentic Irish pub. The crowd in here was a bit older than usual but everyone seemed like they knew each other and they were all having a great time.

I had a draft Pilsner Urquel.

Just a couple bars today, but I am begining to taper of a bit as I get close to the end. Up to 927 for the year leaving 73 to go.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

West Of The Pecos, Or At Least West Of Park

I decided to head up to Central Park today, given that it was yet another gorgeous fall day here in New York. I didn’t actually go I the park though, just stood at the southern edge where they park the horse carriages and gazed into it. Always a lovely sight. I wood have liked to have gone into The Plaza for a drink but it is being remodeled so that was out of the question. Instead I just wandered a few blocks until I got to:

923) Judge Roy Bean

Now I hope most of you know that Judge Roy Bean referred to himself as “The Law West Of The Pecos” and presided over a courtroom in his bar, the Jersey Lilly, named in honor of Lillie Langtry, a British actress (who was known as Jersey Lilly having been born in Jersey, England) with whom Mr. Bean was apparently smitten, but never met. Interestingly, the Jersey Lilly was located in Langtry, Texas and, not unexpectedly, people assume that Judge Roy Bean also named the town after Ms. Langtry. Not so, however. The town, such that it was, existed before the arrival of the Hangin’ Judge and had been renamed from Eagle Nest to Langtry after a railroad boss, George Langry, from the Southern Pacific who was in charge of running the railroad's tracks through it. Lillie Langtry did actually visit the town once, but it was after the good Judge’s death (he died peacefully in his sleep after a night of heavy drinking).

Well, that was a bit of a digression. This bar is located at 39 West 56th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues and is, in fact, just west of Park Avenue. It is a bit of an oasis of tranquility on this bustling street even though it was bustling a bit inside. Despite the Western themed name it is just another Irish bar in a city with a thousand of them. The old, somewhat beat-up wooden bar is set back a bit from the door. Between the door and the bar is a wide entryway that is wood paneled with large mirrors on the walls. There are ledges underneath the mirrors for drinks on the side with only bar stools and for elbows on the side that has little tables and chairs in front of it.

The bar has no foot rest or rail. The bar chairs are dark brown wood with dark green vinyl seats. There are two beer stations, each with four spigots. One is an old brass tube affair and the other is newer and silver. An old Wildwood Hard Cider brass spigot also sits on the bar but it is defunct.

The bar back is kind of plain with arched set back shelves in front of mirrors. Actually, the shelves aren’t arched, that would be silly, the bottles would slide off. The shelves sit under arches. There are plain metal coolers underneath and one ice chest filled with bottled beer. A couple of old chandelier like light fixtures with multiple upturned glass lamp shades hang over the bar. The ceiling is heavily beamed and the spaces between the beams are painted with leaves.

Opposite the bar there is about three feet of light and dark green marble like tiles with dark mirrors above them that run to the ceiling. Mounted on the mirrors are lights that look a bit like truncated ice-cream cones made out of white glass. There is a round illuminated Bass Pale Ale sign and a Stella Artois mirror but not too much else in the way of decorations.

I had a Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale.

924) Zona Rosa

Keeping with the TexMex theme I just walked next door to this Mexican restaurant that has a bar up front. Not a large bar, just seven bar chairs. But the bar chairs were comfortable bucket seat like things in dark and light tan vinyl and the spun around. The had a ring for your feet which was good because this bar didn’t have any place for them. The bar had a light wood top made up of various sized wood planks and wood paneled sides.

The bar back is a combination of wood that matches the bar top and small, reddish orange tiles. Just two levels of shelves, but they are deep so they hold three rows of liquor each, mostly tequila. In the middle of the bottom shelf is a small metal sink that give it kind of a kitchen-like look. A kitchen like Bar Man would want. The wall at each end of the shelves is yellow tile. The floor in the bar area is distressed gray and yellow. There is a good sized dining area in the back with mirrors and wood paneling that matched the floors. On one side the walls were kind of a rounded and padded tan and maroon. This area is set off from the bar by a curved section of yellow tiles topped by mauve poles.

I had a Patron Margarita, up with a salted rim.

925) Tequila Lounge

This place is right upstairs to Zona Rosa but has a much larger bar and appears to be much more spacious. The bar is similarly configured to the one downstairs. The bar chairs were also the same but this bar did have a wooden foot rest. There is even more tequila up here with one shelf running beyond the bar and into the next room where tables and chairs were set up for dining. There is a wide window next to the bar overlooking the street. It had white curtains that were pulled back and elongated bare bulbs with the filaments glowing orange hung from the ceiling on black cords. There is a wide ledge in front of the window with small oil lamps, cacti, pumpkins and gourds, and a large tequila bottle sitting on top. There are also chairs in front of it.

They have the same type of flooring up here, both the tiles by the bar and the wood flooring in the back and in the front the walls are tiled the same. More tiles up here though because it is a larger space. When you get too much of this type of tile it always tends to convey a bit of the feel of a subway station or a public restroom. I was the only customer so probably when it gets crowded the ambience changes a bit.

In the back the walls were covered with nice dark mauve or light purple, take your pick, wall paper with white geometric shaped flowers with black leaves. The ceiling was lemon yellow with a pale green overhang separated from the top by a band of orange. In the back the ceiling looked like a pale green as well with large recessed circles of orange. The chairs in the back were plush white and surrounded the small tables. There was enough floor space to suggest dancing later on. I think they were setting up for a private party.

I had another Patron Margarita, up with a salted rim, and then headed on home.

A pleasant enough day, a nice stroll, three bars hit making 925 for the year and leaving but 75 to go.

Why, Oh Why!!!

Why, when people write reviews of bars or bar guides, don't they include the hours of operation. Now I know that I don't do this either, but then I am not really writing either a review or a guide. You can't imagine how frustrating it is to be heading out at around noon and not know if a bar that you have your eye on is going to be open or doesn't open until later in the day.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Game Day

No bars today but one hell of a party. It has become a tradition that the last home Jets game before Thanksgiving our tailgate group has a Thanksgiving themed affair. This year was no exception.

Bob cooked the bird, Bernie brought the Wild Turkey and Apple Cider and collard greents, Loretta cooked all kinds of stuff, and Bar Man brought candied yams with rum soaked raisons.

Bernie, Bar Man, Bob, and Loretta With The Bird

Bob Carving The Bird

Bar Man Gets His Reward

Our Youngest Fan

Youngest Fan's Father, James

By the way, congratulations to James, the baseball team that he coaches and that his other son, Jordan, plays on won the Championship of the Dumont, New Jersey Baseball League in the 9 and Under Division. He also brought sausages and peppers for after the game.

The Mysterious Chinese Woman Is A Fan (And Made The Corn Pudding)

Ronnie bought the bourbon and marinated chicken breasts for the after the game party.

Ronnie And Bar Man

Another Young Fan, Harrison, And Bar Man

I can't remember what everyone else brought but the elder Steve's wife made delicious apple pie using apples grown in their back yard and Brian's wife made sausage bread. The sausage bread was also delicious, I don't know how she got it so crusty and crisp.

The Elder Steve (Center), Younger Steve Is To His Left and Brian Is On The Right.

Bar Man Putting On His Game Face (And Attire)

Yes, There Was A Game

Celebrating A Score

Well, we lost the game and it was a heartbreaking loss. Less than two minutes to play and the Jets had the ball 1st and Three on the Charger's goal line. But could we get it in, NOOO!!! Oh well, it was a lovely day with great company and fantastic food.