Saturday, May 21, 2005

An Old Favorite

A good friend of mine was in town from Miami and he invited me and the mysterious Chinese woman to have dinner with him and a few other or our friends at one of my very favorite Italian restaurants.

514) Capucine's

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Capucine's is located at 327 2nd Avenue, right on the corner of 19th Street. I have been going here for over twenty years and, to a large extent, the staff has remained the same. Every time I show up they treat me like a long lost relative and, for those of you who are Italian, you know that is an affectionate greeting indeed. I will have to admit, however, that I seldom have a drink at the bar. Probably because it is so small, just three chairs. Tonight, however, I made an exception.

The bar is, as mentioned, very small but the drinks are very good. The wooden bar, although small, does have a brass rail although with the three chairs packed in there really isn't any room to stand. Above the bar is a wooden rack for glasses that is the same width as the bar and supported by narrow columns positioned at each end and at the corner of the bar where it hooks around. Little white Christmas lights surround this and there are flowers and an American flag above it. Small shelves for the liquor are built into the recessed area around a small window. The walls are a light pink with a band of painted, or wallpaper, grape vines.

There are two dining areas, one by the bar and one in separate room to the left when you walk in. It is a cozy place with a largely neighborhood crowd. What makes this place special, in addition to the great food at reasonable prices, is the attentive and very friendly staff. When I lived in the neighborhood I used to go here at least once a week. I don't get here nearly that often now but whenever I do it is a real treat.

I had a Bombay martini, up, with a twist at the bar and a couple more with my excellent meal of veal with eggplant, prosciutto, and cheese. Looking forward to the leftovers.

Not much of a day in terms of upping the count, but I did pass a few bar as I walked to Capucine's from the subway so I will be heading back soon. Perhaps I will hit them on the way to another meal here. This was number 514 for the year leaving 486 to go.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Rainy Friday, Remembered Sun

Well, it was rainy today so I decided to not go out and instead spent some time figuring out how to add pictures to my blog. I thought I would post one showing me when I was hard at work in Mexico, where it was sunny. Please note the small pad and pencil.

Let me know if you think pictures are an improvement or if they get in the way of the Dostoyevsky like plodding through the bars.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Back To The Bowery Again

Another lovely Spring day and I was particularly interested in hitting Scratcher, an Irish bar on East 5th Street. Unfortunately it was closed. In fact it was so closed I walked right by it once without noticing it. I have the vague feeling it is gone for good. Oh well, plenty of more bars in the area.

510) Poetessa

More of an Italian restaurant than a bar at 92 2nd Avenue, they did indeed have a small, narrow, “L” shaped bar with a light marble top with wood edging, a wooden front, and a brass rail. The short end of the bar is just a foot away from the large open doors letting in a nice breeze and the sounds of 2nd Avenue traffic. Outdoor seating is available on the sidewalk. There is wood shelving behind the bar with bottles and several antique looking framed mirrors. The bar chairs were dark wood and had dark brown padded seats. The floor was wooden as well. There is a pleasant, homey feel to this restaurant. What looks like old family photographs are framed and hanging on the walls and this adds to the ambience, as does the old living room style lamp sitting on the corner of the bar.

A large, somewhat poorly proportioned, mural of a canal and middle aged women sitting on a bench dominates one wall. The clientele, the place was packed with a private party, for the most part resembled the women on the bench. An old fringed velvet shaded light hung from the ceiling in the back corner. An ornate gilt framed blackboard with a poem about Spring and morning and snails written on it hung next to the mural.

Flying saucer type lamps hand over the bar and smaller lamps with metal fixtures and dome shaped yellowish glass shades hang over the tables along the wall with the mural and poem. The ceiling from which they hang is white painted tin. Somewhat out of place but unobtrusive white track lighting provides the rest of the illumination (other than the sun coming in through the doors and windows). The walls were primarily a pale yellowish wash with enough exposed brick to give the restaurant an authentic bistro feeling. The food smelled great and everyone seemed to be having a great time.

I had a nice glass of Chianti served in an elegant, long-stemmed wine glass. It was pricey, however, $11 plus tax made this one of the most expensive drinks I have had so far on my trek.

511) Kabin

Just next door is this bar that is much larger looking once you get inside. It has a copper topped wooden edged bar with a black front. There is a pool table in the back and a comfortable looking lounge to one side. Mirrors and shelves holding liquor and glasses are behind the bar. The have a lot of draft beers poured from three sets of spigots sprouting from the top of the bar. There are a couple of nice flat screen televisions up front and a sign advertising $2 Rhinegolds. The place has deep rose colored walls and kind of a muddy brown ceiling with fairly ornate fans hanging from it. The floor is large orange tiles. A narrow ledge lines the wall behind the wooden bar chairs with black vinyl seats. The same type chairs sit in front of the ledge. Mirrors in window frames mounted above the ledge adds to the somewhat miniscule cabin-like ambience.

A little nook by the windows next to the door has a small round table surrounded by four hassock-like seats. There is a bit of log like paneling along with a small “Canoes For Rent” hanging behind the bar to help justify the name of the place. There were a lot of signs trying to recruit softball players for the bar’s coed softball team. Bar Man is too busy, and too old, to partake. I did have time to chat with the bartender, Denise, about neighborhoods we both new and how much they have changed over the years.

I had an draft Ithaca Apricot Wheat and it was nice and refreshing.

512) Sin Sin

On the corner of 5th Street and 2nd Avenue is this interestingly dark bar that manages to be dark even though it has large windows on two sides and it was mid-afternoon on a sunny day. Sin Sin actually means That’s That in Gaelic, but I think the double meaning is obvious and warranted Small lit candles on the bar and small tables add to the night during the day ambience. The beat-up orange plaster walls and black painted plywood floors give this a decidedly punkish ambience. The Ramones playing on the jukebox added to the feeling. There is an upstairs area called the Leopard Lounge with live music, DJ’s, and comedy, depending on the evening.

The bar chairs and stools, a mixture, have red velvet seats. The rest of the seating is brown fabric benches and hassocks arranged around the small round tables. Interesting orange lit panels sit atop short square wooden boxes. I am not sure if they can be used as tables or not. Probably. Most of the overhead spot lights seem to have the bulbs missing. There are nice little shaded lamps with red bulbs hang on the walls.

The bar itself is kind of a plain looking wooden affair with a brass rail. Plain wooden shelving behind the bar holds the liquor and glasses.

The whole place smells like cherry candy and the reason became apparent when someone came in to change the little canister air fresheners, complete with little fans, that hung about the place. Something a bit out of character about that smell in that kind of a place but the friendly bartender, Clair, said the owner liked the place to smell that way.

I had a Magner’s Irish Cider and, because it was happy hour (I think it is always happy hour) I had another.

513) NoHo Star

On the way back to the subway, in fact right next to the entrance at 330 Lafayette at Bleeker Street is this place that has a small bar but looks kind of like an old ice-cream parlor, a very big ice cream parlor. I had a few too many fruity drinks so I decided I need a stiff one and this looked like as good a place as any to get it. There is a small half-square wooden bar with luncheon counter stools that have sparkly turquoise seats. There is kind of a rubber mat covered foot rest. The bar is built into a corner and in the very corner on a perch on a shelf above the liquor is an illuminated plastic Howdy Doody head. No Phineas T. Bluster or Flub-A-Dub though. Nonetheless, it brought back memories of my youth parked in front of a small black and white screen television. There were also dark green marble panels framed by wood behind the bar that were separated by very narrow mirrored strips. Unlit little yellow shades hung over the bar. An old Quaker State Motor Oil clock with kind of a rotating green edging to the face hung on the wall to one side of the bar. For some reason there was a two level ceramic dish holding hard boiled eggs. Each egg was stamped with “certified organic” in red. One would hope so. I would hate to try to eat an inorganic egg.

The whole place has a light airy feel to it augmented by high white patterned ceilings and large, white framed windows on two sides. The floors are kind of a smooth white cement with embedded multi-colored marble pieces, some large and some quite small. Three pillars each with a different multi-colored design run down the middle of the floor. It is kind of loud and clanky sounding in here.

I had a very decently made Maker’s Mark Manhattan and called it a day.

Not a bad day, hitting four, making it 513 for the year with 487 left to go.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Back To The Bowery

This neighborhood has a lot of great bars and many of them are open early. I still haven’t really started my evening crawls but probably will next week. There are just too many places that I pass by that don’t open until 5:00 P.M., or even a bit later. However, there are still some in this neighborhood to hit during the day.

507) Phebe’s

This bar, on the corner of 4th Street and Bowery, has been around since the 60’s, although it has gone through a few changes. The most ill-advised was when it tried to switch from being a regular old hangout bar to a lounge with the name of Fuel at Phebe’s. It is back to Phebe’s now and has recaptured some of its original style, but upgraded significantly. It has large windows on both of the sides that face the streets. Adjacent to the windows are tables and chairs so that you have a sidewalk dining experience without actually being outside. In New York I like my sidewalk dining to be indoors.

There is a nice old bar, probably the original, with an ornate front and a brass rail. The wooden bar chairs have oxblood vinyl seats. Columned wooden cabinetry behind the bar has three deep set mirrors with paneled side lighting. There are three sets of two level shelves with glasses below and liquor above. Two smaller shelves are between the mirrors and hold beer bottles, deer antlers, Scotch, a small keg, and other paraphernalia. They did have a bottle of Johnny Walker Green Label, quite unusual. The bartender, Wendy (a very pleasant young lady) said they had just sold the last of the Johnny Walker Blue Label. The cupboards and coolers below the shelves had wooden doors. Very nice stained glass lights hang over the bar. The floor immediately in front of the bar is white and black tile while the rest of the flooring is wooden planks. The ceiling is wooden beamed. There is a small side room that also has a bar. A small raised dining area backed by a mirror is behind the far end of the bar. There are several televisions, sport’s related pictures, and old signs hanging on the walls.

I had a draft Phebe’s Ale.

508) B. Bar & Grill

Sometimes known as the Bowery Bar, it is right across the street from Phebe’s. There is a large patio garden full of happy people enjoying drinks and lunch in the warm sunshine that you must pass to enter the darker, deserted bar. This is, of course, the home to the Bar Man. The bar is rather small and dark wood with a brass rail. A fairly plain wood and metal back to the bar with see-through shelves allowing you to see the patio from between the bottles and glasses. Above that are narrow panels of mirrors that have the names of the draft beers that they supposedly serve and their specialty cocktails written in white. Two stainless steel looking tubes sport six spigots with unmarked black handles. I tried to order two of the beers they claim to have on tap but they were out of both of them.

On the wall behind the bar metal tube barstools with black seats are two sepia shaded pictures of dump-trucks. I am not sure what they were supposed to represent. There is also a large mirror with the appetizer menu written on it and a panel of a beach scene that looks like it could have been lifted from a 1950’s Florida postcard. Below it all is a light wood paneling topped with light bulbs. In front are 50’s styled booths with dark orange Formica topped tables and black and white cushioned seating. The adjacent wall has a much larger version extension of the same beach scene. This is topped by shelves displaying inaccessible liquor and wine bottles. There is a small metal staircase in the corner that leads to what must be a space behind the liquor and wine display.

Giving up on the beer I had a bloody Mary. It was small, stiff, and expensive, $7.00.

509) Bleeker Street Bar

An older looking place at 58 Bleeker Street it has a decent sized wooden bar with a brass rail and bar chairs with dark green vinyl seats. Three pool tables dominate the back room that also has three dartboards. A lot of trophies sit on a shelf and numerous plaques are mounted under the dartboards so I assume the must sponsor some teams. Industrial like lights with white enameled metal shades hang over the bar. Behind the bar are nice old looking shelves and coolers that have wooden doors, some with little cut glass windows. Above these are three large arched mirrors with the tiered shades for liquor.

The same type of lights that hang over the bar hang from the ceiling elsewhere along with overhead fans that are also somewhat industrial looking. The wooden floors are nicely finished. The windows in front and to the side let in a lot of light on this sunny early afternoon. Booths line the wall behind the bar chairs and high round tables mounted on columns and surrounded by the same type of chairs as the ones at the bar fill out most of the rest of the space. A Silverstreak Bowling video game sits by the door and a couple of old looking coin operated machines dispensing who knows how old nuts and candies sit towards the back next to the juke box.

I ordered a Magic Hat #9 from Jennifer, the bartender from Chicago, and we had a pleasant chat about the joys of moving to New York from the Midwest.

Another pleasant day with three bars hit making 509 for the year and 491 left to go.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Putting The "P" Back In Demsey

I decided to head to the East Village and check out the real Dempsey bar and a few others in the neighborhood. I only went to three but it is fertile ground so I plan on going back again tomorrow and maybe the day after as well depending upon how many bars I spot.

504) Dempsey’s

Over on 61 Second Avenue between 3rd and 4th Streets is this narrow bar that is four steps down from street level. There is always something a bit decadent about walking downstairs into a bar, especially on a sunny morning. There is an old dark wood bar with a wooden foot rest. Over the bar is track lighting with small spotlights. There is dark wooden cabinetry behind the bar with drawers on each end, coolers with dark doors in the center, and shelves for liquor on each side of the coolers. Above that are more shelves for liquor and glasses. Mirrors behind the shelves and four blackboards listing the beers and on advertising a three hour open bar for $30 a person for parties. Alas, you need at least 14 other people to take advantage of this offer. There is a lot of paraphernalia on shelves high on the walls. There is a television mounted above each end of the bar. One wall up front is brick and the other walls are kind of a muddy looking pinkish brown. The floors are old wood planking and the bar chairs are also wooden with black vinyl seats, a bit beat-up looking. There is a back room that has a pool table with Budweiser lights hanging over it and there is a dart board hanging on the back wall.

I got here shortly after 11:00 A.M. so they were just opening up. The place smelled heavily of disinfectant, a good thing, I guess, although it didn’t enhance the enjoyment of my drink a whole lot.

I had a draft Guinness.

505) East 4th Street Bar

I walked up to 4th Street and headed west a bit to 78-80 E. 4th Street, between 2nd Avenue and Bowery. And yes, the Bowery down here is still a bit seedy, but nothing like it once was. This is a fairly small place that is divided into two separate rooms side-by-side. I guess, from the address, that it must have once been two small places that were joined. The bar is L shaped and old wood with a brass bar rail. The barstools are silver metal with black seats. There is a big bin of ice and beer bottles behind the bar along with a shelf for glasses. Above that are tiered shelves of glasses and the beer spigots are mounted back there as well on the brick wall. Three metal light fixtures hang by chains from the ceiling above the bar. Each one sports three lights with old fashioned glass shades. Half a dozen televisions are mounted on the walls with two of them above the bar. There are at least another three in the small side room that has a few tables for eating and drinking. The floor in the room with the bar was kind of a beat up dark orange tile and the side room had a wooden floor. The ceiling in both rooms was an interesting patterned dark tile.

There is a pool table tucked in the corner of the room with the bar and it looks like there would be a lot of cramped shots because there is not a lot of space around it. Three blue glass shaded lights hang over the pool table but two of them had burnt out bulbs.

I had a bracing bloody Mary.

506) Swift

Moving further west across Bowery on 4th Street, and passing by a couple of bars I am saving, I came to Swift at 34 East 4th Street. This was a most interesting bar with a very large selection of beers, both bottled and draft. There is also a decent selection of single malt Scotch and a few bourbons and decent tequilas. This place is named after Jonathon Swift and one wall is covered with a most interesting, somewhat hallucinogenic, Swift themed mural. There are also some authentic looking old books by him on a shelf mounted on the wall.

The bar itself is kind of curved and angular and has a light wood top, a darker painted front, and a wooden foot rest. There are little hooks mounted under the overhang. The wall behind the bar is brick with shelving for the bottles. The four brass stations for the beer spigots are mounted on the bar. Nice wood plank floors and long pub-style benches with stools. The lighting overhead is track spot lights. Blackboards with beer selections, drink specials, and pub fare are mounted on the wall behind the bar along with a mirror with an ornate gold frame. There is another gold framed mirror surrounded with framed title pages from some of Swift’s books in a little nook with a few stools and a ledge for setting down your drinks.

The back room has a lot of benches and stools, some booths, and a pulpit that serves as a DJ station later at night. This is a very interesting place and one I would certainly recommend that you seek out for a beer.

I had a draft Chimay and it was very good.

Another three bars with several more spotted for the future. That makes 506 for the year and 494 left to go.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Back At It Again

Well, I can’t afford to rest on my laurels for too long. I took Sunday off after the celebration at The Gate on Saturday, and a mighty fine time I did have.

501) Heartland Brewery

This is, I believe, the newest of the Heartland Brewery’s to open up. It took over the space previously occupied by Houlihans in the Empire State Building. I can’t say that I am too sorry to see Houlihan’s go, although they used to make a decent frozen margarita. For those you who keep up with this blog you probably know my feelings about T.G.I. Fridays, and they, along with Houlihans, are part of the Riese Organization that also owns, among other things, Pizza Hut, KFC, Nathan's, Dunkin' Donuts and Charley O's. It is kind of funny that without even realizing that Charley O’s was part of this group I had given it a knock because of the bartenders statement that if you didn’t use margarita mix you couldn’t make a margarita and how they had no fresh lime juice on hand even though the menu said they used it in their margaritas along with mix. I am beginning to wonder if Heartland Brewery, as it expands, isn’t about to join the group as well. I hope not. But now that they have five locations and no longer brew their beer on premises (although they still refer to themselves as a brewpub call their establishments Heartland Brewery) it is moving in that direction.

This place has been totally redone since Heartland took it over and has seating for over 500 people now, at least 75 upstairs and the sign says a maximum capacity of 428 downstairs. The upstairs manages to retain a comfortable, if somewhat fancy, pub feel to it. The upstairs bar is decent sized, but not that big. It has a dark wood top and a wood and dark olive leather front. Brass headed tacks border the large leather panels. It has a black bar rail. The bar chairs are red with red leather seats and fronts. Black shelves, coolers (some with glass doors) behind the bar are topped with a black and white marble ledge. Above that are glass backed shelves holding the liquor. There is a television above the middle shelf and pictures of horses and a bull flanking the shelves, two on each side. Overhead lighting is a combination of track spots behind the bar and large overhead light fixtures rimmed with lots of small bulbs hanging from the ceiling elsewhere. Also a lot of track lighting with lights that you see illuminating stages. There are also brick columns circled with candle-like lights. The floor around the bar is a marble-like and wooden floors elsewhere. Pictures on the walls evoke kind of a 1950’s Midwestern feel that is typical of all of Heartland’s locations.

The large downstairs area had a separate bar and although it refers to itself as a beer-hall it is set up more like a restaurant with booths and tables. I just don’t see an ompah band, busty waitresses, and carousers down here.

Generally speaking their beers are quite good, but watch the prices. Although the standard beers go for a not totally unreasonable $6 a pint, the beer that I had, a seasonal, was $6 for much less than a pint. Also, the seasonal beers did not have the prices posted in the menu or anywhere else that I could see. What I did spot, in small print at the bottom of the menu, was the much hated “18% gratuity may be added for parties of 6 or more.” That alone is enough to prevent me from ever showing up here with a crowd of people.

I had a Mother’s Milk Maibock and it was quite good.

502) Foley’s

From newly built to look old to authentically old. This place is at 18 West 33rd St, between 5th & 6th Avenue, just a short stroll from Heartland. This place has a large wooden bar with a wooden foot rest and wooden bar chairs. Old cabinetry behind the bar has shelves for glasses underneath along with a few coolers with wooden doors. Mirrors and cabinets with glass doors on each end are on the upper level. The cabinet at my end of the bar was jammed with sports related books. Above the mirrors the wall is lined with shirts for, to me at least, obscure teams. The walls are packed with sports memorabilia including autographed baseballs and bats, pictures and newspaper articles, and plenty of caps. The back wall has a stained glass mural but I couldn’t make out what it was supposed to be. Maybe just a design of some sort. The floor is a decorative patterned mosaic. Old chandelier type lamps hang from the ceiling. A large model of a donkey pulling a coal cart hangs from the ceiling. The walls here are covered with much more memorabilia than Heartland’s, but this stuff is the real deal. Be sure to check out the men’s room. The porcelain urinals are large enough to shower in, although your feet might get a bit cold from the ice. The doors to the stalls are wood and stained glass.

I had a Foley’s Ale

503) Jack Demsey’s

Just down the street at 36 West 33rd Street is this place and note the missing “p: in the name. You can make a lot of money betting people there is no Jack Dempsey’s bar in New York. I suspect they had to drop the “p” to avoid some kind of copyright infringement because there is plenty of boxing memorabilia in here. There is a big wooden bar with a small hood at the end by the door. Wooden bar chairs have oxblood leather seats fastened by brass headed tacks. The entryway is recessed from the street and there is a narrow space to the side with a mural of what looks to be the Dempsey (with a “p”) Tunney fight. There is a stone fireplace in the back dining area. Ornate arched woodwork frames mirrors behind the bar and there are the usual tiered shelves holding the liquor. Several televisions were showing classic boxing matches, all featuring Ali on this particular day. There are neat booths behind the bar chairs, wood with wrought-iron trim and cloth brocade cushions.

There was a large Henrik Larrson banner hanging behind the bar, but I don’t know who he is. The ceilings are rose colored as are the walls above dark wooden paneling. The floors are flagstone-like tiles and there is a lot of stone trim on the walls. The bathrooms here have speak-easy type windows in the doors so you can decide whether or not to let in whoever is banging on the door.

I had a Tanqueray and tonic.

After a sprint to the first 500 bars I think I can afford to slow down the pace a bit so hitting only three a day seems reasonable. That makes 503 for the year with 493 left to go.