Saturday, June 11, 2005

Upended Upstate

I headed up to Callicoon to visit friends this week-end so I didn’t hit too many bars, but that isn’t to say I didn’t have too many drinks. We will not go into any details about that though, Bar Man has an image to maintain. A somewhat blurry image to be sure, but an image nonetheless.

556) Mr. Willy’s

If you are ever in Monticello do not miss this place. It is great, from the service to the food. One time the Mysterious Chinese Woman and I came up here to meet friends for dinner. We took the bus and arrived about 3 hours before the appointed hour and 2 hours before the place opened. We knocked on the door and explained our plight and they let is in, gave us a couple glasses of wine, and let us sit and watch television and read our newspapers until everyone showed up. Now that is service with a capital S.

Maria, The Very Friendly Bartender This Evening
She made me take three pictures until I got it right.

The bar has a comfortable recreation room feel to it, if you have a large recreation room. The bar is a light colored wood with a brass rail. The bar chairs have metal legs and wood framed maroon seats and back with a Mr. Willie’s logo in white on the backs. The walls are knotty pine and there are ferns hanging below two narrow skylights. There is also a large fish in a basket. The walls have pictures of the regulars and the softball teams that the bar sponsors hanging on them and they are illuminated by green glass shaded lights.

The Belmont Stakes was on television and major action was taking place. Twenty-five cent straight up bets. By the time I arrived there were only a couple of horses left so I ended up with Nolan’s Cat, a 50 to 1 long shot. Who says life is fair. When the gates opened the tension was so thick you could cut it with a butter knife. Needless to say I lost and The Judge cleaned up winning almost two and a half dollars in quarters.

Bar Man, Dorothy, Shirley, MCW, Fred, The Judge

Shirley, it isn't my fault you made a silly face when the picture was being taken.

After the race we headed to the dining room and at least I ate like a winner. The King Kut prime rib could also be cut with a butter knife.

I had a V.O. and water at the bar, several actually, and a few more with dinner topped off by a Rusty Nail. Bar Man was not driving though so everything was cool.

Friday, June 10, 2005

A FANtastic Day

Three gentlemen from Chicago who read my blog came to New York to catch the Belmont Stakes. One of them sent me an email and we agreed to meet and hit a few bars when they got here. They are quite the traveler/drinkers themselves, having gone to bars all over the world. They too try to limit themselves to but one drink in a place so they can see as many as they can. The operative word there being try. Bar Man took them to three places in New York where they had not been before and we spent a most enjoyable evening sharing a few drinks and swapping stories. They had more of them (stories, not drinks) than I did.

553) Rosie O'Gradie's

The people I was meeting from Chicago started out at the 21 Club so I picked a spot not far from there. Rosie O'Gradies is a really classy Irish pub at 800 7th Avenue on the corner of 52nd Street. Within a few minutes of meeting these guys we were all chatting like old friends.

George, Bar Man, Dan, Michael

The bar is a rectangle that is open in the center. The end furthest from the door as well as part of the adjacent edge is devoted to servers and the storage of glasses. There is a brass rail. Above the bar is a similarly shaped set of wood and glass cabinets that hold all kinds of knick knacks, ranging from fancy crystal vases to a small copper still. There were also large models of cars and trucks and a good sized figure of a baseball player wearing the number 3. Lots of pictures of Yankees, Dodgers, and Giants players adorn most of the walls up front along with framed newpaper pages announcing significant wins, some from long ago. The back corner was covered with pictures of what looked to be golf outings.

The fancy dining area is separated from the bar by a partition topped with windows that had narrow lace curtains on the bottom. The windows on the 52nd side of the bar had similar windows and there were tables along that wall.

I had a couple of Tanqueray and Tonics.

554) Russian Samovar

Just down the street a bit at 256 West 52nd Street is this interesting Russian bar and restaurant. Lots of bright red and tourquise lights hanging from the ceiling but the place still has a bit of a dark ambience to it. There is a piano up front so I imagine that at some point everyone breaks into song. There are a lot of strange looking concoctions behind the bar that wouldn't look out of place in laboratory. Just about any kind of vodka concoction you could imagine, horseradish, garlic, dill, as well as more traditional mixtures such as pineable. A very pleasant and attractive bartender administered to our needs, at least as far as drinking was concerned.

We still saw her even with her eyes closed. Oh boy did we still see her.

I had a bottle of Baltika 3, a flavorful Russian beer.

555) Russian Vodka Room

Just across the street at 265 West 52nd Street is another Russian bar. Now this place seemed to be a bit smaller and more of a bar than a restaurant. But maybe that was just because of the layout. Also, this place was really crowded so it was hard to get a good look around. They had a happy hour going on so that probably explained it. They had a piano too and before we toddled off the pianist sat down and began playing. This bar was set up similarly to the one at the Russian Samovar and also had a large variety of vodka mixtures available.

Michael, George, Bar Man, Dan

I had another Baltika 3. I know, I know, I should have had a shot of horseradish or garlic vodka in at least one of these Russian places, but I wimped out.

Still, a fun evening and three bars hit making 555 for the year and leaving 445 more to go.

Margie's Beer & Bait

Bar Man is well known for his sartorial splendor. As might be expected by anyone who sets a certain stylistic standard, I get many questions such as "Wow, where can I get a cheesy looking shirt like that?" My "Margie's Beer & Bait" tee-shirt seems to attract a lot of attention. Believe it or not I have been told by people that they have had a drink there and might even have seen me. That would be interesting indeed. There is no such place.

This Is Not The Place

My sister, who is almost as demented as me, and I came up with the idea for this shirt one night while we were, I know this is going to be hard to believe, drinking. We were discussing the movie Fargo and the scene where Margie has to stop to pick up bait (nightcrawlers) for her husband so he can go ice-fishing. Well, one thing led to another and we thought a bar named Margie's where you could also buy bait would be a great idea. We also thought everyone who worked there, including the bouncers, should be named, or at least go by the name, Margie. We, unfortunately, could not actually afford to open the bar but we could afford to have a couple tee-shirts made. My sister did the design work so I can take no credit for that. My sister lives in Fort Myers so that is where we decided the bar should have been located. Anyway, that is the story behind the not even ephemeral Margie's Beer & Bait.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

HoJo A GoGo

Hooray, I found it. I was looking for a lounge in a Howard Johnson’s Hotel and didn’t realize that there was a Howard Johnson’s Lounge right in Times Square.

550) Howard Johnson’s Lounge

This place, on the corner of 46th and Broadway, really is like stepping back into the 1950’s. A simulated wood-grained Formica topped bar with brass rails top and bottom. Light wood captain’s chairs with maroon vinyl seats surround this two sided bar. The back wall is a gold patterned mirror and the section at the end of the bar has plastic shelves holding the liquor supply and showcasing their selection of bottled beers (no draft beers available). There was a battered blender sitting on the metal beer cooler behind the bar but given that there really wasn’t a bartender on duty I passed on the Pink Squirrel. And it was way to early for a decanter of Manhattans. I am not too sure when the appropriate time for one of those might be, actually.

A narrow shelf between two orange and white “COCKTAILS” signs holds Bacardi Rum bottles filled with beans of the appropriate colors; white for the vanilla and coco rum, orange for the orange rum, and yellow for the limon rum.

The rest of the d├ęcor is pretty standard Howard Johnson’s with a few framed posters for Broadway productions giving a nod to its proximity to the theater district. A brass coat-tree and orange cushioned booths complete the Howard Johnson experience. Large windows give an excellent view of the crowded streets and sidewalks. Sixties rock and roll completed the experience. The waitress that served me my beer put out a bowl of pretzels just for me.

I had a Sam Adam’s Boston Lager.

551) McHale’s

Just down the block at 46th and 8th Avenue is this not to be missed classic Irish pub. This place obviously has nothing to do with Kevin McHale because it is filled with autographed pictures of, mostly long retired, hockey players. There were a few pictures of Yankees players as well as pictures of a couple of race horses owned by one James McHale; Alwaysgoodthanx and Lill Orphan Groovy.

There is a nicely beat-up wooden bar with a brass rail. Black bar chairs with black vinyl seats and backs. An old looking back to the bar has three large mirrors. Kind of orange Lucite lights between the mirrors. Two orange globe lights that look like they were picked up by the claws in those arcade machines where you try to capture a prize hang behind the bar. A single tube shaped orange light hangs over the bar. Four slow turning fans with orange globe lights underneath hang from the ceiling. There are a couple of old living room like lights sitting on the shelf behind the bar that also holds several wedding cake like arrangements of liquor.

There is a small back room for dining. The hamburger with bacon that the guy next to me ordered looked, and smelled, great. Venetian blinds on the windows and the booths along the wall gave this a bit of a diner-like appearance.

I had a draft Grolsch.

552) The House Of Brews

Heading across the street and continuing down 46th towards 9th you come to The House Of Brews at 363 West 46th Street. It is a not overly pretentious place that has a very nice selection of beers and an impressive array of single malt Scotches. This is a narrow space with a long wooden bar and a wooden foot rest. Somewhat fancy wooden bar chairs with red vinyl seats adorned with brass headed tacks. The twenty beer spigots are mounted behind the bar on the fronts of four faux beer kegs. A couple of large screen televisions largely obscure the mirrors behind the bar. One of those large beer tube things with a spigot on the bottom was sitting on one end of the shelf behind the bar. Various colored lights with translucent plastic looking cube shaped shades hung over the bar. A narrow ledge above the bar displays the forty or so bottled beers they carry.

High round tables surrounded by high stools line the wall behind the bar chairs. The walls are paneled about halfway up and kind of a brown marbled paint above. The walls are decorated with framed brewery advertisements. There is a small area in back with booth-like seating for dining. There are also a couple of round tabletops set on top of wooden beer kegs. The floor is old looking wood. A large window in front looks out at the bar across the street that is calling out to Bar Man. Another day, another day.

I had a draft Holy Grail Ale from the Black Sheep Brewery in England. Quite flavorful and full of hops.

Well, I had my three for the day bringing my yearly total to 552 and now have but 448 left to go.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

HoJo A NoGo

Failure, an abject failure. I could not find the Howard Johnson’s that had the Horseshoe Lounge and I did not have the Pink Squirrel that I was so looking forward to. I took the subway to Penn Station and went to the Howard Johnson’s about a block away, but they had no bar at all. The doorman told me the Howard Johnson’s at 51st had one so I jumped back on the subway and headed up there. Sad to say the bar there was closed for renovations. There is a Howard Johnson Express in lower Manhattan, but I can’t believe that can be the place. I don’t think there are any other Howard Johnson’s in Manhattan so I just don’t know what to do. Bar Man can’t just go into anyplace and order a Pink Squirrel.

548) Caffe Cielo

It was the Mysterious Chinese Woman’s floating birthday so fighting back the tears after not being able to get our Pink Squirrels we decided to go to Caffe Cielo for dinner. It wasn’t far away, 881 8th Avenue between 52nd and 53rd Streets. Staying true to my standards I bellied up to the bar and had a beer there before sitting down to dinner.

This is a pretty classy Italian restaurant doing a pretty brisk pre-theater business. It has a nice dark wood bar with a brass rail that runs pretty much the length of the place, although this isn’t a particularly deep space, fairly wide though and the front has a number of lace curtained windows. Mixed nuts on the bar to help spoil my appetite. There is a large mirror with cut glass edging flanked by two smaller mirrors behind the bar. Glass shelves in front of the smaller mirrors hold fancy bottles, glasses, and a picture of the owner’s lovely daughter. There is a tasteful painting of a nude at one end of the bar and a decent sized wine-rack at the other end. There is fairly hefty track lighting over the bar with baskets of ferns hanging from it.

The walls are mostly pale vanilla colored with a few sections covered with pale hued plaid patterned wall paper. There is a round, somewhat non-descript mottle circular depression in the ceiling that is intended to be decorative. I didn’t quite get it though. One marble column sits in the middle of tables that are covered with white linen tablecloths. Half nautilus shaped lights hang on the wall. The carpet is kind of a worn brown.

I had a bottle of Birra Moretti.

549) B.B. Doyle’s

The downstairs, where the bar is, is a bit of an eclectic Irish pub. It is about five steps down from street level and has a somewhat beat-up wooden bar with a brass rail. The setup behind the bar is fairly standard, a couple of mirrors with the name of the bar etched into them, three televisions, tiered shelves holding the liquor, and a large chest full of ice and beer.

The walls are kind of a pale green with multi-colored rectangles of various shapes gave the place a bit of a retro 1950’s look. Lights mounted on the walls were curved metal with square cut-outs. There are three televisions in the back. Two smaller ones and one fairly large one surrounded by what looks like a large wooden picture frame. The floor is a very nicely tiled. There is a fairly large recessed fish tank but, alas, no fish. The last one went to the great beyond just a short time ago. They are going to be closing for a bit to do some remodeling (but the retro-look will remain the same) so they aren’t going to get any new fish for awhile. Somehow the discussion of the deceased fish turned to the parrot that used to live at Montero’s that also passed away and then to a discussion of parrots in general. Funny the conversations that occur when you have had a few drinks. The bartender, waitress, and the guy sitting next to me were all very friendly and interesting so this would be a great place to make a regular watering hole if only it was a bit closer to where I lived.

I didn’t get upstairs but they have a dining area up there that looks, from the pictures, to be very nice.

I had a draft Magic Hat #9.

Just two for the day, one more than planned though, but no Pink Squirrel. This made 549 for the day and leaving 451 to go.

Kids, Don't Let This Happen To You

Bar Man will be posting yesterday's journey a little bit later. Some tactical errors were made. Two delicious Belgian style beers at the second stop followed by three Saphire Bombay Martinis at the appropriately named Buzz Bar. I blame this on Chris, the guy who was doing a photo shoot of me. Bar Man is hardly ever to blame for anything. This was followed by meeting a couple of friends (Ron and Ben, are you reading this) at Fraunce's Tavern and more Bombay Martinis. I couldn't even count Fraunce's because I have been there already. I am only going to one place today but it should be a doozy. I am going to have a Pink Squirrel at the Horseshoe Cocktail Lounge in the Howard Johnson's in Times Square. I hope it is still there. This was suggested to me by a loyal, but somewhat demented, reader named Jonathon Lewis and it struck a responsive note. It will be like taking Pepto Bismol.

Today is the Mysterious Chinese Woman's floating birthday. She was born in China under the lunar calendar so another of her mysteries is when she actually has her birthday. Sometimes, I know, she has several in the same year. She likes cake and candles. Mysterious Chinese Woman's mother always makes sure I know (I think she is slipped a bit of cake on the side for this service).

Bar Man and Mysterious Chinese Woman
All Dressed Up For A Night On The Town

I have mentioned more than once how I got started on this venture New Year's Day when my brother-in-law and I went out to get milk and somehow hit three bars before we found the Supermarket. Those bars do get in the way sometimes. I am posting his picture so you can see the culprit. I think you can tell by the expressions on our faces who the instigator is.

Beware Of This Man

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Out Of Time, Outer Space

Arrgh. Well as those of you who read tomorrow's post before today's (you have to walk a mile in the Bar Man's shoes to know how that happens) I am going to backfill with limited information. Do not think having a margarita and a beer before noon will somehow make things better. I am really looking forward to that Pink Squirrel later tomorrow.

545) O'Casey's

Well, things were kind of okay here. A great Irish pub with a very friendly bartender and crowd. I had a most enjoyable conversation as I drank my beer. I only had time to take a few notes before Chris, whom I blame for everything, showed up. There was a little nook next to the entryway with a small round table and three chairs. On one side was a nice mirror with a frosted scene of a town on a river. The other side of the wall had a bunch of pictures of politicians and businessmen drinking at bars, looked to be circa 1950's or so.

And that, my friends, is about all Bar Man wrote, other than he had a draft Bass Ale.

546) Branzini

And here is where it became murky. Patially because I was doing a photo-shoot and an interview and partially because, well, Bar Man misbehaved. You can, however, see where I might get a bit distracted. And these were the professionals.

I had not one, but two of these delicious Belgium style, yet made in Ommegang, New York, Witte beers. Bottled but great.

547) Buzz Bar

We will say no more about Bar Man's professionalism other than that today I was following in Hunter S. Thompson's and perhaps Steve Donleavy's footsteps. Except, of course, for the ability to write. Sorry Steve, we do still need to get together for a gargle or two. And this place looks so innocent from the outside. I should have been suspicious when the security guard checked credentials while we were taking pictures out here.

Here is the professional bartender who made, I must admit, an excellent martini.

And here is another added distraction.

I had, er, shall we say more than one Bombay Saphire martini.

Three for the day, and a tough three I might add, making 547 for the year and leaving me with a mere 453 to go. Bar Man promises to be better in the future, but Bar Man has been known to break promises.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Back In The Saddle Again

I decided to hit a new area today and headed up to Bay Ridge. This area is south of downtown area and has more of a laid back ambience. The part that I visited seems to have escaped much of the gentrification that has hit elsewhere and the bars have more of a neighborhood feel to them. Now granted, this observation is based only on the four that I visited today.

541) Bogart’s

On the corner of 62nd Street and 5th Avenue in Brooklyn is Bogart’s. It has an old wooden bar with a black top and a brass rail. The bar chairs are black metal with black vinyl seats and a bit mismatched. Kind of a plain setup behind the bar with a few mirrors and mirror backed shelves holding the liquor. Above the mirrors is an interesting painted cityscape of New York with a full moon silhouetting a bat with outstretched wings. Somewhat incongruously there was also a frozen drink machine (that didn’t appear to be operable) with an inflated SpongeBob SquarePants sitting on top.

There is a kind of a beat-up white ceiling and a somewhat scruffed up wooden floor. The walls are red and festooned with Bud, Bud Light, and Yankees pennants. There is a big sign advertising both Coors Light and Bogart’s Fishing Trip that costs $60 dollars but includes free beer. You sail on the SS Captain Dave out of Sheepshead Bay. Sounds like it would be fun to me. There is a pale green back room but I never made it back there to check it out. Looked like some video poker games, for entertainment purposes only, might be back there.

On the wall behind the bar chairs is a mirror and a shelf holding baseball caps, a pool trophy, some baseballs and softballs, and other paraphernalia. There is a pool table and a dart board as well and a couple of comfortable looking upholstered wing chairs. There was a large screen television featuring Mike and Mad Dog. There was only one other customer in the place and the bartender was working on his pool game most of the time. Not that he wasn’t attentive when need be though.

I had a bottle of Sam Adam’s Boston Lager served in an ice cold mug. Really hit the spot because it was quite hot outside and no air-conditioning inside.

542) Furlongs

Just kitty-corner was this somewhat seedy place with many more people hanging out. It had a beat-up bar and shelves with bottles behind it. Lot’s of baseball caps hanging from the ceiling. There was also a football helmet and a gladiator mask hanging no the wall behind the bar and a lot of red and white bunting. Didn’t seem like the place that I should be spending a lot of time taking notes, so I didn’t. Also I should probably just wear jeans and a tee shirt instead of my usual Hawaiian shirts if I want to fit in. OTB was on the one television and the bartender was complaining about how it was raining so hard where the race was taking place that you couldn’t see the horses. The race was taking place in Sarasota, I think, so we chatted a bit about Florida and the weather there lately. My sister lives in Fort Meyers.

I got a glass of Budweiser for only seventy-five cents.

543) Killarney’s

Down the street a bit at 6911 5th Avenue is this interesting place. The exterior is a bit deceiving because it is so cute looking, what with the flowers and everything. The interior is a bit different because it sure isn’t cute. It is a neat old Irish pub though. That was good because I really wasn’t in the mood for a cute Irish pub. It had an old wooden bar with a grey tile foot rest. Somebody must have a lock on the bar chairs around here because this place had the same ones as the last two bars. There were kind of neat mirrors behind the bar with a vaguely art deco look, the operative word being “vaguely.” Behind the bar were glasses on a shelf above the coolers and cupboards.. Wooden shelves above the glasses hold the liquor. There was an amazingly large number of Fleishmann’s Vodka stored in one of the cupboards. Cutout shamrocks hung above the mirrors. There were also framed caricatures of sports figures, most of them from the pages of the Daily News. There were kind of cool looking metal shaded lights hanging above the bar.

The walls were mostly paneled with the rest of them painted a kind of dusty rose. On the wall behind the bar chairs there were several pictures of old New York and one large picture of snow covered beer barrels. Also an old Player’s Cut Tobacco and Cigarettes sign. The ceiling is kind of a dark beamed affair. Fairly wide ledges behind the bar chairs have stools in front of them to handle the overflow from the bar. A couple of owls, the kind you put out to scare away pigeons, sit on the ledge by the front window. There is a pool table in the back that was seeing a fair amount of action. It had nice green shaded lights above it.

There was some guy at the bar apologizing profusely for something that he must have done before I arrived. In fact he continued to apologize the entire time I was there except when he talked to me about old movies and the cost of cable television. Whatever he did couldn’t have been too bad because they kept serving him. He had three beers and shots of Jack Daniels while I was there.

The Fresh Picked Kiwi liquid soap in the men's room was a nice touch.

I had a draft Newcastle Brown Ale.

544) PC’s Bar And Grill

A bit further down the 5th Avenue, between 72nd and 73rd was this place that, in a way, was a bit opposite of Killarney’s. It looked a bit seedier from the outside than it did once you got inside. It was surprisingly light and airy looking. The fact that it also had the air-conditioning running which made it cool inside probably added to that feeling. Both the bar and the cabinets behind the bar were light wood, or at least lighter than the norm. The floor was also a nice light wood. The chair distributor must not have gotten here either because their bar chairs were light wood with green vinyl seats. The wall behind the bar was brick and had a couple of large mirrors with narrow, but ornate, gilded frames. The walls that weren’t brick were paneled about half-way up with kind of a light recreation-room look to it and then mist-green above. The ceiling is the same color.

There were six televisions. One of them had classic boxing and the other five had OTB. There was a group of elderly men and women at one end of the bar following the action and having a somewhat animated discussion about racing in general. There is a pool table in the back room that had grey tiles.

I had a bottle of Budweiser. Not something I usually drink but it seemed appropriate here.

Not a bad day with four bars hit and a whole new neighborhood to explore. I have now hit 544 bars for the year and have 456 left to go.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Left Bank Cafe

My brother, who owns the Left Bank Cafe in Slayton, Minnesota, sent me this shirt. He said I should be sure to mention that you can order coffee from him on-line and it is shipped while still warm from the roaster. I can personally vouch that it is very good coffee indeed and few people know more about roasting coffee than he does.

Shameless plug, I know, but he made me do this.

  • Left Bank Cafe (My Brother's)

  • By the way, Bar Man went to the Bronx Zoo yesterday and in addition to being totally worn out by his three young nieces got quite a bit of sun, as you can probably see. I plan on working on my bar room pallor a bit tomorrow though.