Friday, January 14, 2005

Penn Station

Sheesh, another rainy and chilly day here in New York. I was saving Pennsylvania Station (AKA, Penn Station and Madison Square Garden) for later, but it was always a rainy day type of thing. Today was rainy so I took the subway to Penn Station.

71) Tracks

When you first get of the subway from Brooklyn, just go down the first set of steps, to the back, and you will run right into Tracks. It used to be a real dive of a bar not that long ago. And, as you can imagine, I stopped in a few times. They closed it for a couple of years and now it is a pretty nice plac.

The dinning area is outfitted somewhat like a railroad dining care. The rest of the bar is decorated with railroad oriented things and memorabilia, but not overly done to be contrived. It was a very nice place to have a drink and was fairly full, being a bit after noon so you had lunch people and the early-for-the-weekend-getaway crowd in there

They had at least eight televisions and nice overhead lights with green shades.

Either this was a very nice bar, because it was the first one and I wasn't in the bag yet, or I, after some of them I went to yesterday, anything halfway decent looked nice.

I had a Sierra Nevada

72) Fridays

Ah, another Fridays. After my experience with the one in Brooklyn I thought I would never go to another. But not all Fridays are the same. The one in Penn Station does manage to have a bit of the dive about it. It was, of course, packed, but it has a really diverse and interesting clientele. All and all, if you are going to go to a Fridays, go to this one.

I had a Bass Ale

73) Kabooz's

Ha! Ha! A place called Kabooz's (sounds like more than one caboose, the last car in a train) in a train station. So Clever. But, it was a nice bar. I think this was once an Itallian restaurant and bar and the head guy was someone that used to work at Cappucine's. Things do change fast.

Anyway, it was a very nice place. A couple of televisions showing CNN and sports, always a good combination. There was a little enclave in the front with a small settee and a couple of tables for drinks. Considering this is Penn Station, this is class.

They had a nice long bar that was separated from the eating area with a partition. They had nice pictures and posters on the wall. My favorite was from a production named "Hail Canada" with The Rockettes and The Music Hall Ballet Company. Poster may make you rethink about whether or not you would mount a mountie.

I had an Anchor Steam

74) Houlihan's

This is a great place to have a drink while you are waiting for a train because you can see the train postings from the bar, depending upon how many drinks you have had.

Another place that is better in Penn Station than its chain-name would have you believe. Order a martini there and get it in a glass you can't sit down other than in the little bucket of ice they serve it to you in (check that sentence for grammatical errors, please).

I had a Dewars and soda there. Didn't see the martini until after I had ordered, thank goodness.

75) Local West

This is a new place, replacing an old place. I don't remember the name of the old place, but we used to go there a lot after Knicks and Liberty games at Madison Square Garden. This place is right across the street so I have emerged from Penn Station. The rain has also stopped.

The place was just about empty, compared to every place in Penn Station. Just two other people in there when I arrived and only me when I left.

Looks like they replaced the bar stools and maybe either put in new sparkly mosaics behind the bar and around, or, they cleaned what was there, or, they just brightened the place up a bit.

It was nice enough and they did have a good nut selection on the bar.

I had a Dewars and soda.

76) Tir Na No

I was going to go home after I hit my 75th bar, but, then as I was leaving Local West, I saw this place above the street. I don't know why I have never gone there before, but it was a very nice place. It was an Irish pub that you might expect to find in Ireland. Not your typical Irish bar, but a real Irish pub.

The bartender was Irish, the waitstaff was Irish, half of the customers were Irish (the kitchen-help and cooks, of course, were either Puerto Rican or Mexican).

At any rate, if you get a chance stop into this place. Nicely carved woodwork, stained-glass windows, just a really nice place.

I had a Tir Na No Stout, their house blend, obviously, and it was pretty good. Tasted a bit like Guiness but with a bit more of a coffee and toffee flavor.

One over my goal, so feeling a bit pleased with myself, as well as a bit mellow. A big 76 trombones and the parade is down to 924 bars to go.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Desolation Row

I hit up the old neighborhood again today. Took the subway to 14th and then headed East on the North side of the street. I passed a few places that were closed so I will have to hit them another day.

63) Cellar

Interesting place on 14th between 1st and 2nd. The first thing I noticed were the three dogs running around the place. Two of them left with a customer but the third one must have lived there.

The place had a nice long bar but it was a bit sticky. There was a comfortable looking back room with a couple of tables. There was also a side enclave that had a sofa and a couple of easy chairs with two reading lamps and a tapestry featuring a few deer in a snowy wooded setting. In the front was another small enclave with a couple of small settees by a window.

There were a lot of unlit candles at one end of the bar so I imagine the place is quite festive at night when they are all lit.

I had a Newcastle Brown Ale

64) O'Hanlon's

Down the street, this is a typical Irish bar that has been around a long time. I have been in there many times because a friend of mine has an apartment just down the block. Always a decent crowd in here but not a whole lot to distinguish it. Six televisions all tuned to CNN.

I had a Guiness

65) Quigley's

At the corner I headed uptown and this place was on the northwest corner of 1st Avenue and 18th Street. It was a new smelling place and, in fact, it turned out the place was new. Had 6 televisions above the bar, a couple of nice big ones that were turned off. The ones that were on were showing pool, the world's strongest man competition and OTB.

There was a nice little eating area in the back and a small outside area with a couple of tables where you could duck out for a smoke if you wanted.

The overall look was a bit too blond for a place that didn't have ferns and the crowd seemed much older than the place should have, like they drifted in from somewhere else or were here and they built the place around them.

I had a Dewars and soda.

66) M.T. Armstrong's

This place was up a block and was a nice place with a large beer selection. The bar area was seperated from a line of tables against the windows where you could eat. There was a downstairs with dart boards and a pool table.

I passed up the house beer, M.T. Armstrong's lager for a Samuel Adam's Chocalate Bock. It was a good decision as the beer was excellent.

67) O'Donnell's Bar

Now this was indeed a seedy bar on 23rd and 1st, and one not to linger in, at least if you were me. The place smelled vaguely of urine and the guy next to me was nodding off at the bar. Next to him was a guy who was talking loudly to no one in particular about who knows what. The guy on the other side of me was pleasant enough for being half in the bag. He was complaining about the weather because he had to go to his outdoor construction job soon. I certainly hope it didn't involve heavy machinery.

I dumped down a Dewars and soda and headed out.

68) McSwiggans

On 23rd Street and 2nd Avenue, this was a nice bar with a pool table, darts, video games, the usual.

I had a Dewars and Soda

69) McCarty's

This place was a block over and down, on 2nd Avenue and 20th Street. Just two people in there besides me, and one looked to be nodding off. The other guy was smoking furiously and telling the bartender how he had to quit. Fat chance of that, seeing as how it is illegal to smoke in bars in New York now and he couldn't even make it to the door to light up. This was another kind of small and typical Irish bar that abounds in New York.

70) Posto

My final stop on 2nd Avenue and 18th Street. Not really a bar as much as a pizza place but they did have what looked to be a bar in front with some stools so in I went.

I had a glass of Chianti (it was served in a water glass) and called it a day.

Slip slidding my way to a thousand with only 930 left to go.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

A Short Stroll

It is a bit chilly today and quite damp. I have put in a few good days so I thought I would take it easy today and just do a short stroll around my neighborhood. Tomorrow it is supposed to get up to almost 70 so I will plan on a longer day back in Manhattan.

60) Paradisus-121

This place just opened about a week ago and was formerly Las Tres Palmas. It is on 121 Livingston just off Adams, which is the main drag if you drive into Brooklyn over the Brooklyn Bridge. By the time you go up another block to where I live Adams has changed its name to Boerum. This, as you can imagine, is a source of confusion to many people coming into the neighborhood for the first time.

The place has been newly remodeled and has a nice bar in front with a sofa by the windows where you can sit and have a drink. They still have a Cuban/Puerto Rican style menu, but the prices have jumped quite a bit. But now there are tableclothes, so I guess it is worth it.

I had a Dewars and soda.

61) Kevin Barry's

About a block away on Willoughby between Jay and Lawrence, this is a nice Irish bar with quite a lunch crowd. I wonder what the place is like at night. Just two televisons that I could see and they were both tuned to news.

I had a Guiness

62) K-B's 140 Club

Just around the corner on Lawrence was this place, and I would say it was an Irish bar, except I was the only white guy in the place. Guess it was more of a Black Irish bar. Pleasant enough bartender, but they had Maury on the television and the crowd, such that it was, was way too into it. The topic was women who were accusing men of fathering their babies and then the DNA results to establish paternity were presented. Whew, what a concept.

A fellow that I used to drink with at a Chinese restuarant that had a bar in the back that has since closed came in so I chatted with him for awhile about the "old days."

I had a Guiness

Just 938 bars to go.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Union Square and Around

Another cold day that actually saw a wee bit of snow later on in the afternoon. I headed back again to my old stomping grounds, this time the Union Square area, but ended up going a bit further astray on the way home.

52) Coffee Shop Bar

This place once upon a time long ago was a real coffee shop. It is on the corner of Union Park West and 16th Street. When Union Square moved from being a real drug dealers paradise (it was totally fenced off and patrolled by mounted cops for two years) to an upscale haven the Coffee Shop went with the trend. The place has a nice bar up front with a glassed in area behind it with tables. Most people in there were eating (it was about noon) but there were a few having drinks like me. There is also a neat downstairs lounge area that comes alive at night.

When you first walk in there is a large curvey bar/counter where you can either order food, coffee or a drink.

I had a draft Yuengling Lager to get my day started on the right foot.

53) Heartland Brewery

Across the street from the Coffee Shop Bar and still on Union Park West This place used to be a real brew-pub and made their beer on the premises. They expanded to three locations and now their beer is made off-site and the brewing equipment is for show only. The quality of the beer has, in my opinion, slipped a bit. Needless to say the owners do not agree.

The decor in this place is kind of rural midwestern (check out the murals above the bar).

I had a Smiling Pumpkin Ale and it tasted a bit funky to me. Just my opinion, but I have drunk a lot of beer in my day. Suffice it to say I would not order it a second time.

54) Republic

Right next door to Heartland and kind of a large, Asian style place. A bit austere and loud. They have a decent menu and their soups are especially good.

I had a hot saki.

55) Havana Central

This place was around the corner and down a bit on 17th Street. There was a small bar in the front and booths in the back. More of a lunch place than anything else. No bartender so I had to flag down a waitress to get a drink. She seemed a bit put-off by it. Probably won't be going back here again unless I want a sandwich or something.

Rum and coke.

56) Basta Pasta

I was heading down 17th toward 6th to catch a subway back home and passed this place. It is fairly small with a small bar in front. It smelled good and their was an open kitchen just to the right of the bar. Italian food on the menu. The wait staff, mostly Asian, was very pleasant. The kitchen staff looked to be all Italian. Interesting pictures above the bar.

I had a 2001 Salviano Turla (a red wine) that was very good.

I got on the subway intending to go home but fate stepped in and dealt me an opportunistic hand. The subway stopped at Houston (pronounced HOW STUN) and I needed to change trains to continue on home to Brooklyn. I decided to pop above ground to see what was going on in this neighborhood during this time of day (way early by most standards).

57) Lucien

A very nice French restaurant with a very small, 4 stool, bar in front. A little kitchen in full view and about 8 tables that I could see. There might have been more somewhere else, but out of my sight.

I had a 2001 Cafe de Rhone (a red wine).

58) Lil' Frankies

This place, the only other place open on either side of the street without going more than a block from the subway, really wasn't that lil'. It was actually quite large.

I had an espresso and sambuca.

59) TGIFs

After getting off the subway in Brooklyn I passed by this place on the way home and it was kind of like shooting a fish in a barrel. This place used to be a very nice restaurant called Gage and Tollers. The owner got into some legal difficulties (can you say mobbed up) and ended up selling the place to TGIFs which then immediately began to disregard the land-marked status of the old place and make changes in violation of the building codes. They were stopped before they could do too much damage.

I had a Dewars and soda and was charged $9.78 which, when you add in the tax that everyplace else just counts as part of the price of the drink, made it a cool $10.50. Now this is the most expensive drink, by far, that I have had to date on my journey, and in a TGIFs, of all places. Needless to say I wouldn't go back there again if I was dragged kicking and screaming.

Well, beating the dead horse, I now have 941 bars left to hit.

Monday, January 10, 2005

The Old Stretch

Today I thought I would take a trip up memory lane, and in my case that meant 3rd Avenue. At one time I lived on 22nd Street between 2nd Avenue and 3rd Avenue and worked on 17th and Park Avenue South. I also spent a bit of time in the Gramercy Park Hotel. About ten months, in fact. So anyway, today I took the subway to 14th street and began my journey.

41) Barfly

This is an old haunt of mine on the corner of 3rd Avenue and 20th Street. We used to have some fun company parties here in the old days. This is a nice bar, suitably dark for 11:15 A.M. and, best of all open. A pool table in the back and 4 nice televisions above the bar that were all showing, for some reason, a fashion show. There were another 6 televisions strewn around the place that began to click on one by one while I was there, and they mostly featured sports.

Lots of blue and white Chirstmas tree lights and lots of white, somethings that looked like trees with no leaves. All and all though it was kind of pretty.

I had a Bloody Mary.

42) Paddy McGuires

Across the street and back a bit was another Irish bar that had the same type of white tree-like things and was also strung up with the same kind of lights. Also a Christmas tree in the front window that was in the process of being dismantled.

No tables or booths in this place but stools and chairs along the walls which had little shelves so you had a place to put down your drink.

They had a total of 9 televisions that I could count and 2 pool tables in the back.

They had 16 draft taps but a few duplicates. The standard Irish bar beers on draft but Tetley's English Ale was a nice departure.

I had a Newcastle Brown Ale.

43) Rolf's

Now this was kind of close to home. In fact it is only half a block from where I used to live. You have to see this place to believe it this time of year. The Christmas decorations look like something you should have to pay to see, if you could even find a place. It truly is like being inside a story-book.

This time of year in addition to their usual German fare they have goose on the menu and it is fabulous. I may end up going back before the end of the month, when they change the decor and the menu, just to have it.

I had a Dab Dark Dortmunder and toddled on down the road.

44) Molly's

This place, on 3rd between 22nd and 23rd, back when I lived in the neighborhood, was once Molly Malone. New owner's but the place has pretty much remained the same. A sawdust on the floor Irish bar with the best Irish coffee and hamburger in the city, as far as I am concerned at least. As a plus The Pogues popped up on their sound system while I was there. If you don't know who The Pogues are I would suggest that they may be the best Irish rock-band ever.

Anyway, I had a Guiness and headed out.

45) Andrea's

Just across 23rd at 307 3rd Avenue is this good sized Italian restaurant that specializes in pizzas. It is fairly fancy with a shiny wood bar with a brass rail. The two round brass beer stations had plastic replicas of the Venus de Milo on top and a few more of them were on the shelves behind the bar. There were mirrors behing the shelves and opposite the bar the wall had mirrors that looked like wooden framed windows. That wall is brick but the walls in the rest of the place are wood paneling.

I had a glass of red wine.

46) Bulls Head Tavern

Back across the street from Molly's was the Bull's Head Tavern and it had finally opened up.

Another fairly large place with a couple of pool tables and a dartboard. They had some interesting, somewhat religious, paintings on the wall and 3 televisons that I saw and a bowling and a golf machine.

I would have stayed longer but interviews for staff were being conducted and the person that was conducting the interviews had, for me at least, a very unpleasant voice. Something off-putting about conducting interviews within earshot of the customers, both for the customer and, I would think, for the person being interviewed. The bartender, however, was a very pleasant person.

I had a draft Boddington's Pub Ale.

47) Plug Uglies

Down the block a bit, and I was getting lazy and let the bartender write the entire review:

"Plug Uglies, hot bartenders, titillating personalities, shuffleboard, pool table, free spankings. Ask for Elizibeth, she is so charming you will stay all day."

Well, that about sums it up except that I couldn't stay all day, places to go.

I had a Dewars and soda.

48) Mumbles

There are a few of these around town and this is another one. Most notable thing about this place is that it used to be the Old Forge back in the day when I used to hang out in the neighborhood and have a drink or two. Very nice bartender though who, when he heard about my quest, bought me a free one.

The quote from the bartender was "Mumbles - where the elite meet to drink! From young to old, laid-back to bold - the spirits are always first class."

Two Dewars and sodas.

49) Shades of Green

This place is on 15th and, as long as I was heading back this way to the subway, I had to stop in. For some reason it wasn't open when I walked down the stret earlier. It is your typical Irish pub and, by this time, I wasn't really able to notice anything that would differentiate it from any other Irish bar I have been in. Might have something to do with the number of drinks I had in me. It is a friendly local bar.

I had a Guiness.

50) 119 Bar

Another bar on 15th that you could almost miss if you didn't know it was there. Kind of looks like a basement rec-room, if your basement had a pool table and a bar in it. Kind of dingy, but hey, it was open this time around. I believe this used to be a Polish-American club of some type and, if I am not mistaken, it still operates upstairs.

I had a Dewars and soda.

51) Belmont Lounge

Just down the block on 15th, a bit of a dark place that wasn't quite open yet so I just downed a quick one and left. I used to go to this place once in awhile long ago and it was a dark place then, but it did have a little open area in the back that was nice when the weather was warm. They also had a pool table back there, but I didn't actually look this time around.

I had a Dewars and soda.

I was just going to go to six bars today but because so many memories came bubbling to the fore I just decided to go with the flow and almost doubled that. I am glad that I did, but I do not expect there will be many days like this.

Well this makes 51 bars down and 949 to go. I feel like I have passed a milestone of sorts and am begining to think that I am making real progress. I cannot afford to let down, however, so I will be back in the neighborhood again tomorrow.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

A Sunny Sunday

Today it was sunny. A welcome change from yesterday's rain. Still cold but not that bad and I didn't go very far. I took my wife to brunch and we stopped at one other bar for a grand total of two today. But that is what I had planned upon.

39) Jolie

This is a very nice French restaurant, but not overly fancy. It is on Atlantic Avenue, not far from where I live. Before brunch I had a glass of Montes Cabernet Sauvignon at the bar so I would not compromise upon my drink at a bar philosophy. The bartender was very pleasant and lived in the neighborhood. She seemed interested in my journey so I passed along this blog address.

I had an oxtail terraine appetizer and steak tartare for brunch. My wife had a lamb shank. All the food was excellent and we have most of the lamb shank in the refrigerator so I can have it for lunch tomorrow.

40) Downtown Atlantic

Just a couple of blocks away on Atlantic, towards Hank's Saloon, is this nice bar and restaurant. I sat at the bar and had a Maker's Mark Manhattan and my wife had a cup of tea and a slice of their chocolate-marble cheese-cake. Various critics claim this cheese cake is even better than Junior's, a Brooklyn institution. I can't say for certain, I would need a side by side comparison to be sure. But damn, I will have to say this was one good piece of cheese cake.

The Manhattan was pleasant and the atmosphere was as well, but I don't think I would make this a regular haunt as far as a bar to drink at goes.

Well, I did my nut for the day and have now hit 40 bars. A nice round number leaving me with a mere 960 to go. I think I will just veg out on the sofa and watch the Vikings/Packers game this afternoon. Being from Minneapolis, Minnesota I will naturally root for the Vikings, even though I think Randy Moss is one of the biggest buffoons in the game, his talent not-withstanding. But, he is oh-so-cute with those big diamond earrings. Maybe Randy hasn't figured out that there is no "I" in team, but he has sure figured out that if you drop a couple of letters and rearrange what is left you can get a "me" out of it.