Saturday, November 19, 2005

Back To The Bronx

I headed up to the Bronx again to meet my friends Damian and Carmel. The plan was to hit a few bars and then have dinner and maybe hit a few more afterwards. We executed the plan well, very well indeed.

948) Keenan’s

Just as you come down the stairs from the subway at 231st Street you find this old Irish bar. I am afraid my descriptions of the places I visited this evening are going to be, for the most part, a bit sparse. The problem I have when I am out drinking with other people is that I spend too much time socializing and neglect making notes of my observations. A bit of a pity too, because the bars up in this neck of the woods are all real classics. Although my friend Damien, who lives around here, tells me there are a lot few of them than there used to be, the ones that remain have that authentic old neighborhood Irish bar feel to them.

About all that I can remember is that the place had a beat-up wooden bar and was very crowded. One old guy was trying to talk to me about something but I really couldn’t make out what about. There was a lot of old stuff on the shelving behind the bar that held the liquor and on the walls as well. I might have to go back here one day just to take better notes, and because I liked the place as well.

I had a bottle of Bass Ale

949) Randall Og’s

Not far away was this Irish bar that was, to a large extent, much like Keenan’s. It did have a large picture of footballers on the wall along with the name of the bar.

Damien And Bar Man

Having come to the conclusion that I wasn’t going to be of much use as far as writing descriptions of the bars I handed the duties off to the Mysterious Chinese Woman. Unfortunately, she didn’t start until we got to the next place.

I had a Guinness

950) Piper’s Kilt

This was a nice Irish pub at 170 West 231st Street that was packed with a very lively crowd. The old wooden bar is U shaped and above the bar is a shelf filled with knick-knacks and a large sign admonishing “Thou Shalt Not Whine.” The floor is dark wood and some of the walls are wood paneled. You can’t really see much of the walls though because the are nearly completely covered with pictures of baseball players. The white ceiling has dark wood beams crisscrossing it which give the place a bit of an old world look.

A floor to ceiling wooden beam near the bar has street signs for W. 231st Street, where the bar is, indeed, located. A large green board is mounted on one wall and it lists the menu which consists of pretty standard pub fare. The wooden dining booths near the bar are packed with diners. The food looked and smelled delicious. The place is reputed t to serve great hamburgers. Two doorways on the far side of the bar area lead to a larger dining area in the back.

I had a Guinness

951) Josephina

We hopped in a cab and headed to this classy Italian bar and restaurant at 3522 Johnson Avenue. The large picture windows in front are framed with wine red curtains. A large porcelain umbrella stand sits next to the maitre d’s station. Wooden, open lattice room dividers separate the bar from the dining area. More of the open dividers carve the large dining area into more intimate spaces.

The wooden bar is long and U shaped. Lots of wicker baskets hang from the ceiling and a couple of oriental rugs hang over the bar area. There are wine racks on the wall behind the bar and two small televisions are mounted next them.

I had a glass of wine at the bar before we sat down for dinner.

I must say everyone enjoyed their meal. I had oxtail stew and it was very good. Not as spicy as I make it, but this was Italian style and I make my more in the Cuban or Puerto Rican tradition.

952) An Beal Bocht Cafe

This bar is located at 445 West 238th Street and is another classic. The name means “Bad Mouth” in Gaelic and refers to someone who complains too much. There is a large painted mural on the wall behind the bar of an old woman bending over a large black iron pot set inside a fireplace. Perhaps she is the complainer. Next to the L shaped wooden plank bar are shelves holding cans of beans, bottles of salad dressing, and bottles of Lucozade, an energy drink.

Damien And Bar Man Shopping For Groceries

Now why you would have a grocery store inside a bar is anyone’s guess, but I guess they do sell specialty Irish products to their Irish customers. Hanging above the shelves is a large picture of famous Irish writers, Joyce, Beckett, O’Brien, Behan, the usual suspects.

A large wooden canoe, or at least the ribs of one, hangs from the ceiling and is wrapped with small red and green lights. The walls are decorated with Irish coats of arms and framed playbills from Irish theatres. There are also many photographs of President Kennedy, pictures of him and his wife on vacation and waving and smiling and waving in a motorcade. Juxtaposed with the happy pictures is the framed front page of the Daily News with the headline “Kennedy Assasinated.”

A band was starting to set up for live music when we walked in but we couldn’t linger to hear them play. We had one more stop to make before heading home.

I had a Guinness.

953 Fenwick’s Bar & Grill

Kind of minimalist furnishings in here, The tin ceiling is painted black with a small inflated airplane hanging from it to provide a splash of color. The lighting is provided by a couple of clear glass pendant lamps. The walls are painted raspberry red and the floor is covered with brown tiles. The wooden bar is L shaped and has foot railings constructed from metal pipes painted black. There are no cabinets behind the bar, just two very large mirror with a counter underneath that holds the liquor bottles.

Bar Man And Mark The Bartender

The front wall is made up of glass doors that can be opened up accordion style when the weather is more accommodating. The owner, Mike, was there and while chatting with him I discovered that he knows Dave, the owner of Pioneer where I will be marking my 1000th bar.

I had a Guinness and then headed to the subway for the long ride home.

A very good night indeed. Lot's of fun and 6 bars hit making 953 for the year and leaving 47 more to go. After this is over I am going to have Damien and his crew visit me in my neighbor hood so I can show him around. He does an excellent job showing me the Bronx and many truly great bars.


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Lennard said...

I'll tell you why they had a small groceryshop inside that irish pub you visited on this day; it is common fair in the irish countryside, especially in the smaller villages, that the pub is at the same time a grocery store, a bicycleshop or whatever other shop. It happens quite often that the publican is also the village bicycle repairman or the local grocer.

It was probably some kind of tribute to Ireland.

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