Saturday, July 09, 2005

A Peculierly Good Day

It started out being a pleasant enough day and I thought I would take a stroll down to Greenwich Village to visit a few old haunts, particularly the Peculier Pub. There was a bit of a street fair going but it wasn’t too crowded. Later in the day there were a few showers and that packed the bars up a bit. It was a fun day though and somewhat nostalgic as well.

628) Village Lantern

A venerable old institution at 167 Bleeker Street, between Sullivan Street and Thompson Street. It has good entertainment in the evening and the Italian food is reported to be very good. There is also a downstairs lounge that I didn’t get a look out. It has been around for a long time and looks it age. A really beat-up wooden bar with a brass rail. Dark wood and metal chairs with black vinyl cushions on some of them. Fairly plain wooden cabinetry behind the bar with glass shelves holding the glasses in the wooden spaces that flank three mirrors. There are tiered shelves in front of the mirrors holding the liquor selection and a glass shelf in front of them holds some of the bottles of their better stuff, including a bottle of Johnny Walker Gold Label. Televisions on each end of the bar are showing a Boston/Baltimore baseball game. The wall opposite the bar is brick and there are little niches in it that, I presume, hold candles latter in the evening. Tables and booths line the wall and there are gray leather banquettes in the back where some kind of renovation was going on. I had to wait a bit for my beer because some tourists with limited English skills were taking a long time trying to decide what kind of vodka they wanted to shots of. They kept going by color and then rejecting the selection when they found out what it was. Ah, red one. Watermelon, no, green one. They finally had shots of Smirnoff. Go figure.

I had a Hoegaarden with a slice of lemon. Quite refreshing.

629) Peculier Pub

Ah, memories of the old days. Friends of mine and I used to go to this place when it was located on West 4th Street where the Slaughtered Lamb is now located. Now it is at 145 Bleeker. Sometime ago the owner, Tommy, got an offer too good to refuse and relocated to this much larger space. You walk down a few steps and you are in a fairly dark cavernous space with wooden booths and a lot of bottle cap art (yes, bottle cap) and beer memorabilia on the walls.

They have a huge selection of beers, we are talking close to 500, and bartenders that know quite a bit about them. They used to have to take and pass a devilishly difficult test devised by Tommy if you wanted to stay employed. Don’t know the difference between a double and a triple bok, and when it is traditionally made, better study up a bit. Luckily you don’t have to know the answers to drink here. Strangely enough, with all the beers being offered, Tommy says he sells more Budweiser than everything else combined. Coors Light must run a close second though. This is because it is usually packed with NYU students who, one can only assume, don’t know any better because it isn’t any cheaper than the good stuff.

There is a great old bar with a black foot rest and some really neat porcelain beer stations sitting on it and all kinds of taps behind it.

Monique, The Friendly Bartender: Has Not Yet Taken The Test

Little blue shaded lights hang over the long end of the bar and little round Chinese style lights with blue stars hang over the short end. Ceramic cats, mirrors, and stained glass above the old wooden shelves holding the liquor behind the bar.

The owner keeps saying he is going to retire, but I have been hearing this for years. I guarantee you the place will not be the same if he does because he is the beer-master and I doubt if he could be replaced. Get here while you can because it won’t be here, at least as it is now, forever. Tommy gave me a shirt for old times sake and bought me my first (oops, more than one again) beer. We go back a long way. I was at his one-year anniversary party at his old place.

I had a Pere Jacques to start, a dubbel brewed by Goose Island Brewery in Illinois. Now, if you worked here you would have to know what a dubbel is. For starters, it is a Belgian abbey style beer. It was very good and was the owner’s recommendation. I followed this up with a Kelpie Seaweed Ale that, yes, is made with seaweed. It tastes better than it sounds, but you definitely get a taste of the sea. It is brewed in Scotland by Heather Ale LTD. Now the theory goes that in the 1800s alehouses on the coast of Scotland brewed there beer with malted barely that was grown on fields fertilized by seaweed. This gave the barley a specific flavor that is now being recreated by adding fresh seaweed to the mash tun. Not sure if I buy this. Most stuff doesn’t really taste like what you use to fertilize it. Anyone for a cow-pie porter?

630) Red Lion

Staying on Bleeker, I never get off it today, at 151 Bleeker, on the corner of Thompson Street, is another bar that has been around for awhile. Places are starting to pack up now because it is raining. The first thing I noticed was more bottle-cap art. Must be the work of a local artist. There is another beat up bar in here with a black foot rest and bar chairs with padded burgundy seats and backs. Interesting tan patterned glass shaded lights hang over the bar. Old mirrored wood work behind the bar with brass patterned decorations and lions heads on top. Lots of mirrors, glass shelves, and liquor. The small cocktail shakers sitting just behind the bar leads me to believe that they make decent cocktails here. A fair selection of draft beers are pulled from spigots mounted on two inverted U shaped stations. There is a stage up front and televisions on each end of the bar and one large screen television tucked away in the back. Lots of dark wood, high tables and chairs. Kind of Greenwich Village meets English pub. The weather was contributing to the English pub in Greenwich Village ambience. But, all and all, it was fairly pleasant. It looks like it might be clearing up a bit so maybe I will make it home relatively dry.

I had a Dewar’s and soda to take the chill off.

631) Back Fence

I figured I would pop in here for one last one and to wait out the last of the rain. This is on 155 Bleeker, on the corner of Thompson opposite the Red Lion. Strong smell of wintergreen when I walked in. Maybe the guy at the end of the bar had sore muscles and had applied some kind of liniment. He was busy trying to chat up the bartender by using that sure to score line, “If I was forty years younger.”

Jennifer, The Forty Years Too Young Bartender

Peanuts in shells on the old bar and peanut shells and sawdust on the floor. What’s not to like about this place. You actually get used to the wintergreen pretty quickly. I have smelled worse things in bars. The bar has a black mosaic foot rest and there is a strange looking brown plastic canopy hanging over the bar. There is a small stage in the back and lots of little tables with red and white checked tablecloths. Small paned windows on the two sides facing the streets. It was a decent little bar and a good place to end the day.

I had another Dewar’s and soda and the chill was off.

A fun day with just a spat of rain and I hit four bars bringing my total to 631 for the day leaving me with 369 to go. Still have to hustle a bit to hit 118 more by August 20th. No problem though, I shall prevail.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Done In By Druids

It was a miserable day and I contemplated just staying home. For some reason I got it into my mind that I wanted to visit The Ginger Man though. I guess it was because I was on the east end of 36th Street yesterday and this bar is also on 36th Street, just a bit further west. I put on my rain gear, stuck my cameral in a plastic bag, and headed out.

625) The Ginger Man

This bar can be found at 11 East 36th Street, between Madison and 5th Avenues. There is a long wooden bar with a foot rail and wooden bar chairs. The back of the bar has two large shiny copper panels separated by a cabinet with glass shelves. The shelves hold a good selection of single malt scotches, some brandy bottles, and a nice selection of small batch bourbons. Mounted on the copper panels are the beer taps, thirty on a side.

They have about 200 different kinds of beer here in total, and some fairly exotic selections. Above the taps are mounted a few yard and half-yard glasses but I was told people are discouraged from using them because they are hard to fill and hard to wash. The $150 dollar deposit you have to put down for the privilege of drinking a yard of beer should, indeed, discourage anyone from asking for one. They said this is what they cost them and maybe they are right. I tried to look them up on the internet and could only find them for sale from British companies. Some would ship to the U.S.A. because they couldn’t be insured against breakage. These glasses originated in Britain and were designed so that they could be handed up to stagecoach drivers so they didn’t have to climb down from their seat. Above the glasses is a narrow shelf displaying an impressive collection of beer glasses.

The bartender, Maria, was quite pleasant but semi-camera shy. Initially she didn’t want me to take her picture at all but after I chatted with her a bit she let me take one but only if I did it while she was working. She wouldn’t actually pose for one.

The Semi-Bashful Maria

Dark wood paneling and English pub style booths line the wall opposite the bar and there is a nice lounge in the back with couches and a beer bottle display on the wall. Framed beer and liquor posters are mounted on the front of the drop ceiling over the back area. I particularly liked the one for absinthe. Pernod made the original absinthe and you can see the similarity in the design of the bottle. It was the wormwood that done in absinthe.

I had a Druid Fluid cask conditioned ale from the Middle Ages Brewing Company that is located in Syracuse, New York.

626) McFinn’s

Right across the street at 8 East 36th Street was this relatively new place that had been an Italian restaurant. There is a nice old wooden bar with a black foot rail. Brown wooden chairs with black vinyl seats and backs. Behind the bar is a brick wall with tiered shelves holding the liquor selection. Nice cabinets and three small plasma televisions. The top of the cabinet has all kinds of copper vessels, a couple of signal lamps with green glass fronts, and one wooden grappa barrel. Black and white photos of old Ireland hang on the tan walls. Wraparound banquettes with tables in front for dining against the wall opposite the bar.

It had a very friendly staff that made me feel right at home.

The Not At All Bashfull Bartenders Brona and Ronin

After a bit one of the owners came in and he showed me around a bit, including a nice little upstairs dining area. There is a small bar up there that used to be the downstairs bar when it was still an Italian restaurant. Now it is a place to have a drink either before or after dinner and probably gets a bit of use when the area is used for private parties. There is a small dance floor too.

About half-way through my drink I started to feel really hammered and couldn’t figure out why, It was just my second drink for the day. I figured it out when I got home though. I looked up the Druid Fluid and found out that it has an alcohol content of 9.5%, and I had a 20 ounce pint. On top of that I kind of chugged the last half of it just before I left The Ginger Man.

I had a Dewar’s and Soda.

627) Woo Chon

I headed back toward Penn Station to catch my subway home and passed by this Korean restaurant at 10 West 36th Street that had a small bar up front. It was raining and chilly and I was damp so I decided to stop in to warm up a bit. It was only 3:00 P.M. but seemed much later because it was gray as only New York seems to get when it rains. On top of that I was still a bit tipsy from my Druid Fluid. This little pocket bar, just 5 chairs, hit the spot though. They served hot sake out of something like a coffee urn so I am sure it wasn’t top quality. But then hot sake usually isn’t. They also gave me three little dishes of kimchee so they helped to warm me up as well. A little corner shelf behind the bar holds the liquor and small blue saucer shaped lights hang over the bar. At my elbow was a bouquet of orange bulbed flowers in a vase with a Korean design. The flowers were fake though.

At the other end of the bar was a glass container of a clear liquid over ginseng roots and Bar Man couldn’t help himself and ordered a small bottle.

Big mistake. It cost twice as much as the larger bottle of sake and tasted like medicine. Oh well, live and learn.

Bar Man Preparing to "Enjoy" His Gingseng Liquor

I had a bottle of hot sake and small bottle of the ginseng liquor.

A fun day with three bars hit bringing my total for the year to 627 and leaving me with 373 to go.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Picture This, Or Not

For some reason I had less success than usual getting bartenders to pose for pictures. Actually, only the bartenders in two places didn’t want their picture taken. In one place the bartender was so wigged out that I don’t think she could have stood still long enough to have her picture taken. More on her later.

619) Hudson Place

A swanky looking place on 36th Street and 3rd Avenue. It has a tannish marble topped bar with a wood paneled front and foot rest. The foot rest was a bit too narrow to use comfortably though. Bad design. The bar chairs were black with black vinyl seats. There were several place settings on the bar with stemware and linen napkins. Plenty of places were left open for us drinkers though. Fresh peanuts in a bowl were set in front of me so I had a bit of lunch too (peanuts are one of the basic food groups). Candles were being lit and placed on the bar as I sipped and nibbled.

The back of the bar faces out onto 36th Street and two windows, the lower half with rippled glass, look out upon it. You can’t really see much though because orange awnings cover most of the clear top part, just a narrow strip gives you a view of the top of the occasional passing truck. Tiered shelves in front of the windows hold the liquor and there is a mirror between them separated by a flat wood column that has parchment shaded lamps mounted on them and two levels of shelves on top holding wine bottles. There is one of these on the other side of each window as well, for a total of four.

Opposite the bar and separating it from the dining area is a partition with a ledge for drinks and some stools. There is another more intimate looking dining room in the back that looks like a private library; bookshelves, floral patterned banquettes with tables in front, and framed black and white pictures of old New York hanging on the paneled wall.

The bartender was very pretty and very friendly. We chatted quite a bit because the place hadn’t filled up yet. She is from Taiwan and when I mentioned the Mysterious Chinese Woman and my quest she was quite interested. On of the barmen had seen a couple of articles about me in the paper but I still could not convince her to pose. She said she only worked part time and didn’t think she could really represent the restaurant. I think she was just shy.

I had a Tanqueray and tonic.

620) Earl’s

Up 3rd Avenue a block at 560 is this place decked out to look like a bar in a small town down south. Not that any small bar down south could ever have so much stuff on the walls. It is kind of a neat place though. The bar top is clear plastic covering beer bottle caps and coasters. The décor reminded me of Duke’s (I visited there earlier this year) and then I noticed that the coaster in front of me had “Earl Wuz Here ‘67’” and above that was scrawled “Duke Wuz Here Too.” It turns out that both places are owned by the same people. The front of the bar is plastered with baseball cards, cigar bands, and coasters. The overhang above the bar is covered with 45s (records, not guns). Old movie posters on plastered on the rest of the ceiling that is white painted patterned tin. The walls are covered with sports cards, ticket stubs, and small sports pennants.

Machines behind the bar churn out such drinks as Big Ass Hurricanes, Earl’s Spiked Lemonade, and the Duke-A-Rita. Three levels of shelves in front of a large mirror hold the liquor and also displays the bottled beer selection. Old bumper stickers for Presidential candidates are stuck to the mirror behind the drink machines. The Wallace for President sticker must be a classic. The lights hanging above the bar are in a variety of styles but are all kind of frosted white. The bar chairs are turquoise and sit on black poles so they spin; Whee. There is both a brass rail and footrests on the chairs.

Once again the bartenders declined the opportunity to have their pictures taken for some reason. Oh well, what can you do? I had a draft Allagash served in a jar with a handle. The beer is a Belgian style white and is made by the Allagash Brewery in New England. It was quite good. Allagash makes a wide variety of interesting beers and everyone that I have sampled has been pretty good.

621) Il Sogno

I decided to head over to 2nd Avenue and passed this Italian restaurant with a large outdoor eating area. It is located at 222 39th Street on the corner of a short street heading into the Midtown Tunnel. It is located on the main floor of the Eastgate Tower hotel. I figured I would just pop in for a glass of wine. It had a nice wooden bar with a bar rail and wooden bar chairs that had orange fabric seats. Behind the bar is interesting cabinetry that features a mirror with glass shelves in front holding some of their fancier liquors and a gold statue of a half man, half horse spear bearing warrior. Bar Man is a Sagittarius so he identified. He was also born in the Year of the Monkey, but we won’t form any associations about that. Next to those shelves is a set of cabinets with glass doors that hold even more exotic liquors. Very nice gun-metal gray and blue glass lights hang over the bar.

There were only two people in the place and they were intermittently joined by either the manager. There seemed to be a concerted effort by the two men to get the attractive Russian woman drunk. Nothing like downing shots of tequila to get the afternoon off to a good start. Based upon my personal experience drinking with Russians, both male and female, the woman will be the only one walking out on her own.

I had a glass of Chianti.

622) Bravest

This is a small bar at 700 2nd Avenue on the corner of 38th Street that obviously caters to a clientele made up mostly of firefighters. Most, if not all, of the decorations have do with firefighters. The one exception might be the little bulb-like Chinese lantern lights that ring the rectangular bar with the serving station in the middle. Two ornate copper beer stations, in bad need of polishing, offer up their beer selections. They do have a Bravest Amber Ale, but Bar Man is getting a bit suspicious of small bars that have draft beers named after them. There are all kinds of tributes to firefighters who lost their lives on 9/11 and in other fires. There are also patches on the walls from firefighters from around the world.

The bartender, Leah, was most friendly.

Leah, The Friendly And Charming Bartender

We talked a bit about bars in the neighborhood. It turns out that her family owns Bravest and she lives upstairs. It is nice to run into a family owned and operated bar once in awhile. You don’t see them that often anymore. On a bit of a sadder note, this place used to be Wanda’s Full Moon Saloon. Wanda’s husband was a firefighter who died on September 11th and she renamed the bar in his memory. Leah told me I should try Hook And Ladder down the street and that she knew the bartender on duty. Well, that didn’t turn out quite as I had hoped.

I had a Dewar’s and soda.

623) Hook And Ladder

This bar, that also caters to firefighters, is located down 2nd Avenue between 33rd and 34th Streets. Things started out a bit bizarrely when I told the bartender that I had been sent by Leah from Bravest. At first she said she didn’t know her, then when I said it was the bar just up the street her memory got a bit better. Then, when I asked if I could take a picture she started going on about how she had been in public relations, that her pictures were all over the internet, that I just couldn’t come in and start taking pictures of her, whew. When I said that I wasn’t just taking pictures and had only asked her if I could she said I couldn’t just come in and demand that I take her pictures. One of the customers who seemed to know her calmed her down a bit and explained that I had only politely asked if I could take her picture. Then the bartender told me she had only had two hours of sleep and needed to freshen up a bit first. Well, she did duck into the bathroom a couple of times but came out looking pretty much the same as when she went in, just a bit more hyper each time. I think she was high on something other than life. Maybe she just has some really strong coffee. When she got into an argument with a customer about the price of drinks I decided to just dump down my own drink, cut my losses, and head on out the door.

I had a Dewar’s and soda.

624) Park Avenue Hotel

I popped in here on the way back to Grand Central Terminal where I catch my subway home. Bar Man needed the cool, dark, calmness of a classy hotel bar, and I got I found it here. The bartender had no problem with me taking her picture and was most helpful in pointing out some bars that I should include in my quest. Man, what a difference a bartender can make in terms of the comfort level of a bar. I shall now go home a happy man.

Viviana, The Right Bartender At The Right Time

This place was nice and cool on a warm and humid day. It has a small cracked glass top above lavender plastic that was lit from below. Plush padded armrests in the front and a square metal foot rail. Wood bar chairs with silvery gray fabric seats and backs. Light pinkish purple shaded lamps dangling clear beads hang on each side of the dark shelves holding the liquor selection. There was a plasma television showing ESPN news. Plush green banquettes line the wall opposite the bar. Interestingly patterned overhead lights made me think I was drinking under some kind of camouflage netting in a tropical jungle.

They Won't Find Me Under Here

I had a glass of Lois, a refreshing white Austrian wine made from Gruner Veltliner selected from various vineyards in the Kamp valley, it is light and scented. Fermented solely in stainless steel, it has a lovely perfume with good balance and raciness on the palate. It is produced by Loimer Langenlois. I copied that description from the internet, but it seems accurate enough.

Another good day, except for one glitch, hit six bars making 624 for the year and leaving 376 more to go.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

A Bitter, But In A Good Way, Day

I had made up my mind to get to the Flatiron Lounge today and, as you will see, I was indeed successful. However, as you might expect, I took the long way around.

613) Blue Water Grill

This is a large seafood restaurant with a fairly small bar with a copper-clad top and a wood paneled front and a narrow bar rail. Dark wood bar chairs have plush red seats and backs with ornamental brass tack heads. A large and somewhat scary looking plant with enormous green leaves and tentacles coming out the top sat at one end of the bar. I kept inching away. Two large copper lighting fixtures hang above the bar. They look a bit like inverted twenty-legged spiders with little red shaded lamps on each foot. Similar, but much smaller fixtures hang on the walls. There are tiered glass shelves behind the bar that hold their decent liquor selection. The bar sits in the middle of the room but is only open on one side. Large dining areas upstairs and downstairs and the place was packed with a late lunch crowd. This is a very well known seafood restaurant that consistently gets great reviews. I have eaten here in the past and the reviews are, indeed, accurate.

It is located across from Union Square Park at 31 Union Square and the space is a converted bank that used to be the Metropolitan Jazz Club. They still have jazz downstairs. It is amazing how much this area has changed over the years. There are all kinds of great restaurants in the area and even one in the park itself (see my review of Luna Park). When you consider that Union Square Park was once so dangerous you wouldn’t even walk through it in the daytime, the turnaround is dramatic. There was a period of about two years when the park was totally fenced in and patrolled by mounted police. When Zeckendorf Towers opened in 1987 the whole neighborhood changed and, unless you were a drug dealer, hooker, or customer, it changed for the better.

I had a Tanqueray and tonic.

614) Union Square Café

Right around the corner at 21 East 16th Street is this well-known and excellent restaurant with a decent sized wooden bar with a foot rail. The bar chairs are wooden with dark green seats. Most of the people at the bar were eating lunch and drinking iced tea. How pathetic. On the bright side though it made Bar Man feel even more decadent than usual. Ah, how I miss the days of three martini lunches. The bartender admired my Fiji Bitters (the Sportsman’s Beer) hat and asked me what the beer tasted like. Alas, one of the Mysterious Chinese Woman’s sisters bought if for me but failed to bring me a beer. Well, I couldn’t get a beer all the way back from Fiji without drinking it either, so I forgive her.

Michael and Matty, The Friendly Bartenders

There were interesting flying saucer like lights hovering over the bar. The wooden cabinets behind the bar frame mirrors and have glass shelves for liquor, wine, and glasses. Tiered shelves in front of the mirrors hold more liquor and chalkboards announce their beer, wine, and daily specials. I am not sure if I would spend six dollars for potato chips, even if they are hot and garlicky. Heck, for that kind of money I can get a beer, much more nutritious and much better for you. A large fern, much more benign looking than the thing at the last place, sits on one end of the bar. One wall is pretty much covered with various awards from Zagats, the James Beard Society, and other institutions.

Michael, or was it Matty, promised to look me up and take me on a pub crawl one evening. I am looking forward to it.

I had a Tanqueray and tonic.

615) Wai?Café

Not far away at 583 6th Avenue (does anyone ever call it Avenue of the Americas anymore) is this combination of a café and a bar. The front is set up like a café with the bar in the back. The top of the bar is a mottled blue plastic lit from underneath. It is rimmed with a wide distressed copper looking plastic armrest that matches the front. It is kind of neat, wouldn’t mind having one of my own. No bar rail but the wooden bar stools have plenty of places to hook your heels. The floor is a more interesting than usual tan patterned tile. The walls are bright orange and display the very unusual, and quite bizarre work of Mark Z-Man. It would be worth stopping by here just to take a look. Most of it is for sale.

The back of the bar has shelves in a vaguely religious looking design and it displays the wine and beer selection. No liquor license. There is also a display of miniature corkscrews or, perhaps, corkscrews for very small bottles of wine. Had a most interesting discussion with the bartender about Tom Cruise, Scientology, science fiction, and life in general. I would have liked to stick around but had places to go.

I had a bottle of Sapporo, a decent Japanese beer.

616) Trailer Park

Everybody loves this place at 271 West 23rd between 7th Avenue and 8th Avenue, and whats not to love, plastic pink flamingos, Elvis on black velvet pictures, National Enquirer covers, a bowling alley bowling ball return that serves as a table, an actual trailer against one wall and very good margaritas made by the friendly bartender, Amy.

Amy, The Friendly Margarita Maker

We had a very nice talk and she recommended some bars for me in the Williamsburg area. One, Moe’s, has been called to my attention before so maybe I will head that way this week-end. I also need to check out Duff's where I will be celebrating number 750. A couple came in a bit later and we all sat around chatting like old friends.

There is just too much stuff in here to even begin to describe so I will pop in a few pictures and you will get the idea.

I had a delicious margarita and then, because I was having such a good time, a second one. This is another place that I regret I will not be able to get back to until after my quest is complete. Well, maybe I will sneak back again.

617) El Quijote

I headed towards the Flatiron Lounge and passed by this Spanish restaurant across the street from Trailer Par at 226 West 23rd between 7th and 8th Avenues and that I used to go to quite frequently when I lived in the area many years ago. The food and drinks were always great and I was pleased to see that it hasn’t changed, at least as far as the décor and the drinks, I didn't have anything to eat. This is one of the classiest Spanish restaurants in the city and is the real deal, not a new place trying to look old.

The Door To The Men's Room

The bar is old and wooden, has cigarette burns (gosh, seems like so long ago that you could actually smoke a cigarette at a bar) and the varnish was a bit sticky due to the humidity. Glasses being iced in a metal box on top of the bar (always a good sign) and flowers in a vase. There was a black foot rest. The bar chairs have red vinyl tops in various states of disrepair. There is a large antique cash register behind the bar and more Spanish knick knacks than you may ever see again. Ornate stained glass lamps hang over the bar and equally ornate chandeliers hang elsewhere. Orangish pink tinted carriage lights hang behind the bar. There is a mural on the back wall and Don Quixote themed wall paper on the wall opposite the bar. Go here for the food and drinks and plan to spend some time. It is a bit like visiting a Spanish museum

I had another excellently made margarita.

618) Flatiron Lounge

Well, I finally got to where I was headed and it was well worth it. It is located at 37 West 19th Street, right next door to Sala where I went yesterday. It is between 5th and 6th Avenues. There is a lot of dark wood and wrought iron along with banquettes for lounging. The bar is art deco style and is supposed to have come from the Manhattan Ballroom. You walk through a yellow lit tunnel lined with barstools to get to the bar proper, kind of a futuristic Blade Runner approach to a classic old bar.

The Tunnel

The overhead lights are a bit futuristic looking too and the bar stools have black cushions. The red leather banquettes are along the sparkly blue and silver opposite the bar. Classic cabinetry behind the bar that is lit up in yellowish lights. If you love classic cocktails, this is the place to go. Have I ever mentioned bitters? This place has at least four kinds.

The Bitters Selection

Another place where I will return, just for the flights of cocktails that they serve.

John Blue, The Friendly And Uberly Competent Bartender

I had a wonderful time, had a flight of cocktails that included a Ward Eight, an Apple Manhattan, and a Mint Jules (a variation on a mint julep).

My Flight Was Woderful And It Arrived On Time

They were all delicious. Then, because Bar Man has no sense, I topped it off with a sidecar.

My Final Drink For The Day

Oof. Toddle off home I did after this. But it was another good and very fun day with 6 bars hit bringing my total for the year to 618 and leaving me 382 to go.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Back On Track

Back in the city after a bucolic extended weekend in the burbs. I had a great time out there but was worried I was losing my finely honed drinking skills. I figured I better just jump right back on that horse, even if it ended up just being a rocking horse.

607) Mesa Grill

I didn’t really have any specific bars in mind but figured I would just wander around a neighborhood to see what popped up. I headed west on 15th Street after popping out of the subway at Union Square. I didn’t have to go far, just to 102 5th Avenue, before I spotted Mesa Grill. Now this place is quite famous because its owner and chef is the famous and, somewhat infamous, Bobby Flay. He is famous because of his cooking show and somewhat infamous for jumping on a cutting board during an Iron Chef competition. But hey, he worked his way up from being a dish washer in a restaurant so he is okay in my book.

The bar itself is fairly large and has a green slate top with a dark wood front and a brass rail. The bar chairs are dark wood and fairly well worn, I suspect they get a lot of use. Behind the bar are dark cabinets and/or coolers with dark metal doors. On top of that is a tiered shelf that looks like gray slate. Above that are two more shelves of the same material supported by narrow and bright multi-colored narrow triangles. The top shelf holds a somewhat limited selection of bottled beers but there is nothing limited about the liquor selection. That is extensive and top notch. Lots of good tequilas. Even their well tequila is Herradura, not too shabby. The shelving is backed by an arched mirror flanked by pairs of columns. Between each pair of columns are glass shelves holding stemware. On the top of the arched mirror is an oval framed picture of the moon that looks like it could have been taken from a satellite. Punched out narrow pyramid shaped tin shaded lights hang over the bar. Large, industrial strength fans hang from the ceiling and keep the air moving. The walls are pale yellow and pale green and there are large windows looking out over 5th Avenue. The banquettes and cushioned seats up front have an interesting pattern of cowboys riding broncos. Kind of reminded me of a pair of pajamas I had when I was just a little Bar Boy. A row of red columns with alternating bright yellow and green ornate tops march down the center of the place. There are two levels of dining areas and it is a very cheerful looking place.

It wasn’t very busy, first day after a long weekend at lunch time, so I had a chance to talk to the very knowledgeable and similarly minded, at least regarding cocktails, bartender.

Michelle, The Friendly and Knowledgeable Bartender

To Mesa Grill’s credit, they don’t have a martini menu holding to the belief that a martini is a martini and everything else is just some kind of drink served in a martini glass. We also discussed the need for bitters in a Manhattan and how freshly squeezed lime juice is an absolute necessity for a properly made margarita. She said she was from San Francisco and you wouldn’t think about trying to use a mix in a margarita in that city. She said when she came to New York she was surprised at how many bars just use a mix instead. Wow, my kind of bartender. She also made me samples of a couple of the bar's specialty margaritas (shades of La Palapa Rockola) so I tried a frozen cactus pear margarita, very good, sweet and very pink, and a peach margarita on the rocks, not nearly as sweet but very peachy. Might be really good in the frozen version. I had an excellent time and if you can get there when Michelle is on duty try to talk to her about cocktails, it should prove to be very educational and entertaining as well.

I had an excellent margarita, up with a salted rim.

608) BLT Fish

Not too far away at 21 West 17th is this seafood restaurant and bar. The bar itself is L shaped and has a laminated wood grained top and front of black slats. Dark wood captain’s chairs with their own silver foot rests provide comfortable seating. The floor is old looking wood planking. Interesting old looking square glass lamps hang over the bar. Fairly plain metal coolers are behind the bar with what looks to be a fairly small liquor selection sitting on top of a couple of them and wine bottles sitting on a couple more. Two buckets display the bottled beer selection. A large, train station like display shows the wine, beer, cocktail, and raw bar selections instead of arrival and departure times. On each side of that display are shelves holding a fairly large collection of wines, in numbers if not in variety.

Stephanie Pouring My Whale's Tale

As you might expect this is a very nautically themed place with a couple of large swordfish mounted on the walls and all kinds of black and white photos of fishermen with their catches mounted on the brick wall opposite the bar. This is the place to go if you feel like having a Mermaid Martini (Bar Man shudders at the very concept), a Shark Bite, Squid Ink, or a Yellow Submarine.

I had a draft Whale’s Tale beer that I was told is brewed in Nantucket.

609) Cajun

This was a neat place indeed. It is right next to the A, C, E, and ever more popular L line subway at the corner of 16th Street and 8th Avenue. The L line connects Manhattan and the increasingly popular Williamsburg in Brooklyn. Albert Collins, aka “the Ice Man, aka “Master of the Telecaster” was on the sound system and the place really did have a New Orleans flavor to it. This was a great find. I can grab a subway a couple of blocks from where I live and pop up at a reasonable facsimile of a Bourbon Street bar. Only the large windows looking out on 8th Avenue get in the way of the illusion. You got to love this city.

There is a nice wooden bar with a black foot rest and old wooden bar chairs. Lots, and I mean lots, of little red shaded lamps over the bar supported by an ivy covered black pipe. The back of the bar reminded me of a 1950’s style jukebox with pale green lights on each end and an ornate stained glass arch that is lit from behind. All kinds of Mardi Gras style masks hang on the wall behind the bar along with an interesting composition that includes a shrunken head, a small silver saxophone, and a New Orleans style street lamp. Opposite the bar and separated from it by a wood partition are little tables and chairs and a wooden bench. Bead festooned lights hang over them and there are wrought iron trellises draped with little white lights and flowers give the area a garden look. A mirror with shutters on the wall kind of makes it look like you could look out on a back alley somewhere.

There is a nice dining area in the back and the camera shy bartender told me they have a very nice Sunday brunch with live jazz.

It turned out that the music I was listening too was from Jazz 88, a radio station that was playing music from the Montreal Jazz Festival. Dr. John was playing when I left after having a Tanqueray and tonic. I was going to have the Cajun Black Gold draft beer but was told that it was just Michelob with a different name. I give credit to the bartender for honesty.

610) Chelsea Grill

I headed down 8th Avenue a bit to 135 8th Avenue and popped into this place with a black linoleum leather textured topped bar with a light wood armrest and footrest. The brick wall behind the bar had a mirror mounted on it that was draped with a fall-like looking wreath of gold leaves and red flowers. Large chests of ice hold a very ample supply of beer. Tiered shelves hold a large supply of liquor. The wall opposite the bar is covered with pictures of old New York. A Silver Streak bowling machine right behind me did indeed convey a credible feeling of having a drink in a bowling alley. My hat is off to Silver Streak for their great, and loud, sound effects. There is a good sized dining area in the back and a nice looking and large dining area behind that. Track lighting illuminates the place and there are little round tables with chairs in the bar area. A skeleton with a large hollow head to hold tips sits next to the cash register behind the bar. The two television at the ends of the bar were showing lacrosse, something a bit different.

Edita The Friendly Bartender Who Prefers Bottled Beer To Draft

I had a bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale.

611) Rocking Horse

At 182 8th Avenue between 19th and 20th Streets is this extremely popular Mexican bar and restaurant. It has a pale green plastic topped bar with a dark stone-like tile front. The bar stool has big black seats to accommodate even those suffering from steatopygia and footrests for your feet. Lots of parchment-like tube shaped lights hang over the bar. I kind of felt like I was in some kind of an incubator and large moths or something would emerge from them. Modern looking light wood shelves divided into cubes hold the liquor and wine. Slate colored tile floors and mostly vibrant orange walls. One half wall semi-separates the dining area from the bar area and it is a brilliant mosaic of blues and greens. It has a narrow rectangular opening and a plant with small green leaves sits in a dark vase and is lit from above.

Interesting abstract pictures hang on the wall opposite the bar and lining the wall are metal topped tables with red plywood and gray metal chairs. The pictures are lit by small track spot lights. There is a dining area in the back

Slow moving overhead fans can’t quite compete with the windows that open onto 8th Avenue on this humid day. There were a lot of people sitting at the tables on the sidewalk and nobody out there seemed to mind the heat.

I had a Maker’s Mark Manhattan. Very well made by the Duane, the friendly bartender.

Duane The Friendly And Competent Bartender

Bar Man Toddling Off

612) Sala

I was heading kind of home and also wanted to stop at the Flatiron Lounge that was recommended to me by Michelle at the Mesa Grill. She told me the place specializes in classic cocktails and the owners are somewhat fanatical about them Unfortunately it was closed for the day but right next door on 19th Street between 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue was this very nice tapa bar. The marble topped bar was covered with small candles. A large wooden arch behind the bar surrounds the mirrored wall. Tiered shelves hold the liquor and there are a few bottles of wine and some glasses as well. Below that are coolers with ominous looking black doors and silver locks. These are flanked by wooden wine racks. The walls are kind of a strategically chipped red plaster over brick. A very ornate silver tin ceiling. Really neat beaded lamps hang over the bar and elsewhere. Lots of candles on small round tables. The food smelled great and the mint being crushed for the drinks was somehow rejuvenating. This is another place I will have to make a point of visiting again. I even got a small bowl of olives to eat with my drinks.

I ordered a Caipirinha and got an almost full one but the bar ran out of cachaca, a key ingredient. Cachaca is a liquor made out of distilled unrefined sugar cane juice. It is not, as many people think, a type of rum. Rum is distilled from molasses. In Brazil there are over 4000 brands of cachaca (they really like it). Anyway, I got my drink for free and then felt guilty so I ordered a Mojita, which is made from rum.

Lesley Making and Shaking My Caipirinha

A very good day, hitting six bars and having a lot of interesting conversations. I even have a few more bars in the area to go back and visit tomorrow, the Flatiron Lounge chief among them. Anyway, that makes 612 bars for the year and leaves me with but 388 to go