Thursday, August 04, 2005

Putting the "I" Back In Irish

I decided to concentrate my efforts on Irish bars today, specifically Irish bars listed in Jimmy’s “Fairly Reliable” Best New York Irish Pub Guide. I have come to the conclusion that the mistake on the map with Doc Watson's was that because it was number 57 on the guide it somehow got placed on 57th Street on the map. Oh well, it is still a good reference. There were four listed in there that were grouped conveniently close together so I took the subway up to 59th and made my way to:

704) Kennedy’s

Located at 327 West 57th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues is this New York institution. Ask people to name an Irish pub in New York and probably four out of five will mention Kennedy’s. It seems to be known by everyone and loved by all. Well, no complaints from me. You have the classic wooden bar with a brass rail and your conversational Irish bartender. In fact he was so conversational that I had a hard time taking notes about the place. We got to talking, somehow, about New Orleans and spent a good half an hour reminiscing about the good times we had had there. I am sure if I had ordered another beer we could have talked for another hour. It wasn’t too busy at the bar but a lot of people seemed to be headed to the back dining area.

There is a large copper Kennedy coat of arms behind the bar that is flanked by white branches festooned with little white Christmas lights. An old wooden bar back, not overly fancy, but with nice wooden shelves and oval mirrors. Yellowish orange helmet shaped lights are affixed to the columns flanking the mirrors. Brass racks for glasses hang above the bar. Two silver beer stations with eight spigots each sit on the bar. Little national flags hang from the wooden overhang above the bar.

A round table with four chairs sits by the window up front that has drapes featuring English fox hunting scenes. Plush red banquettes are against the wall opposite the bar with tables with green tablecloths in front of them. Little glass vases with red and white roses sit on the tables. Above the banquettes are shelves with mostly ceramic jugs sitting on them. Three stained glass skylight-like lights adorn the dark green ceiling. There are lots of photographs of politicians on the walls as well as a framed painting of J.F.K. at his desk. A collage of pictures of entertainers and a framed map of Ireland sits up front.

I had a draft Pilsner Urquell.

705) Jake’s Saloon

I first swung by D.J. Reynold’s because it is on the same block as Kennedy’s but it was so packed there was no place to sit at the bar, or anywhere else, for that matter. There is a construction site not far from here and it looked like it might be lunch hour for them because everyone seemed to be of that ilk. In fact a lot of them were wearing union tee-shirts of one kind or another. Hopefully these aren’t the heavy equipment operators. But, I digress; as I said, I skipped by this place temporarily and headed to Jake’s Saloon at 875 10th Avenue, right on the corner of 57th Street.

This place was certainly noisy enough even if not quite as packed as D.J. Reynolds. I did manage to find a place at the crowded wooden bar, with a brass rail, where a lot of people were eating lunch. The barstools were wrought iron with well-worn vinyl seats. The back bar was nice looking with fairly ornate molding at the top. There were five panels of mirrors with glass shelves in front of the mirrors at each end. Small, 7 bottle by 4 bottle, wood wine racks sat in front of the two mirrors next to the ones on the end and an old, wooden-looking cash register under a wooden shelf sat in front of the middle mirror. Below the mirrors were a set of wooden cabinets and drawers with brass handles. To the far left were what looked like mounted kitchen cabinets, but of the same color wood as the rest of the setup. Under those was a more functional looking cash register but there was another antique one sitting at the far right end of the bar. The portions of the wall that were exposed were brick. There was also a large framed mirror with “Jake’s Saloon” etched on it on the wall to the far right.

The ceiling was brown tile up front over the bar area. A wooden bench sat under the window up front with tables and chairs in front of it. This little nook was under a lowered ceiling of red tiles from which hung miniature versions of the lights that hung over the bar, kind of opaque glass helmet looking things. A dining area opposite the bar was separated from it by a wood partition with a ledge and a brass railing on top. There was another small dining area in the back. Because this is a corner place there were windows all around so it was nice and light, especially in the dining area.

I had a Tanqueray and tonic.

706) D.J.. Reynolds

Well, I wandered back to this place at 351 West 57th Street and the crowd had thinned out quite a bit. There is a nice long mahogany bar with a brass rail and an ornately carved overhang with embedded spotlighting. Set back from it over the area where the bartender, Katie, plies her trade were lights with stained glass shades in varying colors and patterns.

Katie, Posing, Not Plying

The wooden bar back is very ornate with wooden shelves and mirrors. Coolers with wooden doors and silver handles and hinges are down below and flank a large open set of tiered shelves that hold most of the liquor. There was also some liquor up on top of the shelves too, of course. The wooden bar chairs had oxblood colored vinyl seats. There were more stained glass lights hanging from the ceiling throughout the rest of the place which is mostly devoted to dining.

The walls are nicely paneled and decorated with large framed black and white photos of New York, Joe Dimagio, and, my favorite, Bogart lighting a cigarette. I had that same Bogart poster in my apartment when I lived in downtown Minneapolis many a year ago. Ah, the memories. There was also a more colorful poster for the movie “The Quiet Man,” which starred John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. Although the movie is set in Ireland, only two weeks were actually spent on location. For those of you interested in trivia, at the beginning of the horse racing scene there are a bunch of people playing bagpipes. However, they are playing Scottish bagpipes, not Irish bagpipes. How can you tell the difference? Scottish pipes are blown into while Irish pipes are pumped up with a bellows under the right elbow. Hey, who says you can’t learn anything by reading this blog.

I talked with Dennis, the current owner of D.J. Reynolds. He is the son of the original Dennis Reynolds that opened the place in 1989. Very pleasant chap, and Katie was pleasant as well. Dennis recogized me from my picture in the paper long ago and I had already given my card to Katie. We talked about my endeavor for a bit, always a fun subject for me. Dennis offered to buy me a drink but I had to take a rain check because I had one more bar to visit before heading home.

I had a Tanqueray and tonic.

707) P.J. Carney’s Pub

A bit of a walk away, but not too far, at 906 7th Avenue between 57th and 58th Streets. It is right by Carnegie Hall. It is a surprisingly small place, but very convenient to public transportation.

There is a rectangular bar with the serving station in the center that has protruding shelves displaying their better liquors, including a nice selection of single malt Scotches and Bourbons. They had Old Whiskey River, and I have never, to my recollection, seen that before. The wall that faces the street is floor to ceiling windows so, at least during the day, it is fairly light. Neat yellowish marble-like saucer-shaped lights hung over the bar.

The two side walls had green cushioned and cushioned back benches with small wooden tables and chairs sitting in front of them. Above these was about three feet of wainscoting and above that a panel of plum-colored paint. Quite attractive. The wainscoting had shallow rectangular recesses that held pictures, alternating between charcoal and pen cartoon-like sketches and more colorful, jazzy looking ones. On the ledge that separated the wainscoting from the painted area sat a variety of other pictures ranging from serene Irish landscapes to cluttered pictures of people. A large painted collage of people, customers I guess, hangs on the wall between the restrooms. Neil Diamond was playing on the sound system so the Mysterious Chinese Woman would probably have melted if I brought her here. Particularly if I slipped her one of what I was drinking.

And what was I drinking? Shoot me. They had a sign advertising their daily special “martini,” a Zentini. Arrgh, it was made with Absolute Citron, Green Tea Liquor, and a splash of sour mix. What the hell was I thinking? It looked like piss and the back taste of tea was, to me at least, most unpleasant. I should have had a shot of the Old Whiskey River bourbon and chased it with a beer. Bar Man learns a lesson he should have learned long ago, do not drink daily “martini” specials, no matter what. I would like to blame the bartender, Katie, for talking me into this concoction, but she was, in fact, blameless.

Katie, The Blameless Bartender

A thoughly pleasant day nonetheless, and I managed to hit 4 bars bringing my total for the year to 707 leaving 293 to go.


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