Friday, July 29, 2005

Day Of Penance

I had such a good time yesterday I felt compelled to somehow pay for it today. To do this I headed to Times Square and made a point of visiting places I would normally avoid at all costs. Things went according to plan until I got to B.B. King’s and ended up having a good time in spite of myself.

692) Times Square Brewery

A modernistic looking place in the heart of Times Square on 42nd between 7th and 8th Avenues. There is a large curved bar with a black marble top and a wood front. Even the foot rest is marble. Two gold beer stations sit on the bar with 5 spigots each serve their five house brews. Tubular frosted lights hang above the bar. Shiny metal and mirror backed glass shelves above black coolers behind the bar. There were two decent televisions above the bar but they were both turned off. The walls are rose colored and there is a huge round light set at a tilt in the back that looks like the underside of a flying saucer coming in for a landing. Orange lights under cone shaped shades hang from the rest of the ceiling.

A large white marble staircase leads to an upstairs dining area. There is a curved narrow ledge with stools opposite the bar and it had menus sitting on it. A couple of tourists came in with a little girl and sat down there but left after a few minutes grumbling because no one asked if they wanted anything. I guess they discovered no-man’s land, out of the bartender’s range and not within the hostess’s area of responsibility, although she was only a step away.

I had stopped in this place long ago in its previous location (they had to move when a new subway entrance was constructed) and didn’t care for their beer then. I tried a Dunkel that was supposed to have soft round chocolate and caramel-like notes and subtly accented by select European hops. I thought it had more of a burnt coffee flavor and was quite hoppy. At least, to the best of my knowledge, they still make their own beers.

693) Red Lobster

This Red Lobster is located on the corner of 7th Avenue and 41st. Don’t worry, you can’t miss it. Now, Bar Man has a confession to make. I kind of like eating at Red Lobsters, and Olive Gardens too (they are both subsidiaries of Darden Restaurants, Inc.). Drinking there is another story. Let’s start with waiting ten minutes for a drink because the one bartender was busy with two women trying to decide what they wanted to eat. Then I was offered that old airport special of one buck for a double. What they really mean is that if you pay an extra dollar you get a halfway decent drink. A double is two carefully measured ounces of liquor so a single would be just one. Not too many bars in New York pour a one ounce drink. After getting my drink the bartender announced that she was going upstairs for awhile. It turns out that she has to run up to the kitchen and retrieve the food for the customers. Then, when two customers had a complaint about what they got, she had to run upstairs and correct the situation. Poor bartender, poor customers who might want service. I am surprised she managed to stay so cheerful.

They did have a nice, highly polished bar though. It was a fairly standard bar back with three televisions that were turned on. A fish mobile hung from the ceiling and there were a couple of large fish tanks up front. Also a kind of undersea scene sculpture hangs from the walls up front by the windows.

Nothing to see here folks, just move along.

I had a Tanqueray in tonic, a “double” for only $7.50 plus tax. Do not drink, or eat, in large Times Square restaurants unless you are a highly experienced professional.

694) Pinnacle Bar

I decided to just walk around the block and came to a Hilton Hotel. I took the elevator up to the lobby, bar, and restaurant.

There is an oval shaped bar with truncated ends. It sits next to two large windows that look out on, well, buildings.

The bar has a marble top that looks like coffee after you first drop a dollop of cream into it. A silver bar rail and plush black bar stools with little, totally non-functional, backs. On each of the truncated ends of the bar is a small setup for bottles with silver coolers and more bottles below bar level inside the oval.

The bar is right next to the check-in counter and lobby so it is quite loud and kind of carries forward the airport lounge ambience from Red Lobster. It is a decent enough place to have a drink if you are staying here, but I wouldn’t step in off the street for one. They did have nice little bowls of bar snacks though and I managed to polish mine off leaving only the peanuts.

I had a draft Above Whitefoam Ale that had no foam and almost no taste. I guess most people are smart enough not to order one of these so who knows how long the keg has been sitting around. The beer was $6 plus tax but I just wrote down a room number on the bill and left. Bar Man is a highly experienced professional.

695) Applebee’s

Why stop the humiliation now, might as well push it to the limit and actually go to an Applebee’s just for a drink. At least it was easy to get to. The first floor of the Hilton is a block wide so when I walked out the door on the opposite side of where I walked in this place is right next door. Again, don’t worry, you can’t miss it. If you are the Bar Man the fun just never stops. Or maybe it does and I just never remember. I bypassed the dowstairs eating area and took the stairs up to the bar.

Well, it doesn’t get much better than this, and the place, except for the bar, was absolutely packed. When you consider that they have two large floors of seating, that is a lot of people. They do have a nice enough light wood bar with marble footrests and comfortable black cushioned bar chairs. The air-conditioning in here was almost numbingly cold. Too much junk on the walls and hanging from the ceiling to describe, but it is all just ordered from a warehouse so there is no real character to this place. But hey, if you are a fan of Applebee’s and don’t mind paying high, even for New York, prices for your hamburger, or whatever, by all means drop in. One thing, with all of the tourists chowing down I blended right in with my somewhat gaudy shirt and camera slung over my shoulder.

I had a Beefeater and tonic. They didn’t have any Tanqueray. They managed to up the price at Red Lobster by 25 cents charging $7.75 and then adding tax, that is another 85 cents. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not adverse to paying $8.60 for a nice drink in a nice place, but this is a bit high for an Applebee’s, even if it is in Times Square.

696) B.B. Kings

I headed right across the street to B.B. Kings and expected to continue my streak and complete my day of atoning for yesterday’s pleasures. Unfortunately I ended up having a good time. Damn! I blame this all on Merav the cheerfully friendly bartender and a couple of other customers who definitely were not tourists.

Merav, Who Made This Place Fun

Merav With A Better View Of The Bar Back

In fact, the place was blessedly deserted except for the few of us at the bar. Merav said it gets crowded with tourists later in the evening but the other side, where they have a large a theater-like area for really good musicians, attracts mostly locals. This side was pretty big too and had a large stage area where I guess the equivalent of Las Vegas lounge acts perform. And those can be very good.

I had a Tanqueray and tonic and then got into chatting and ordered what the guy next to me was having, an Appletini (I guess I was still trying to atone). I got my first drink paid for however because Merav thinks posting her picture here is going to make her famous. Best of luck, Merav.

I pretty much accomplished my objective although not completely. I can’t discourage anyone from dropping into B.B. Kings but you can pretty much skip the other four places unless you feel compelled to walk a mile, or at least a few blocks, in Bar Man’s shoes. I hit five bars for the day and still made it home in time to do a radio interview at 3:30 P.M. I am not sure how I sounded though. I have now hit 696 bars for the year leaving 304 to go.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Hell's Kitchen Revisited

I decided to wander up the West side a bit from Madison Square Garden. I headed over to 9th Avenue so this put me into the neighborhood affectionately known as Hell’s Kitchen. I have hit a few bars there before, most notably Siberia, Bellevue, and Holland.

688) Uncle Jacks’s

I didn’t have to wander too far to get to Uncle Jack’s at 440 9th Avenue between 34th and 35th Streets. Kind of an opera house meets bordello look about it, but I mean that in a good way. There is a long wooden bar with a brass rail. Nice wooden bar chairs with plush burgundy leather seats and brass tack studded backs. About eight places by the window were set up nicely for lunch. Fringed patterned cloth shaded lights hanging over the bar contributed to the bordello look. A very elaborate bar back with amber lit arches atop ornately carved wooden columns. One oval gold framed mirror with “Jack’s” written in gold sits under the center arch. There are glass shelves holding liquor mounted on the brick wall under the other two arches. Tiered shelves under those hold more liquor. Coolers with wooden doors and more shelving for liquor and glasses down below. Tall candles in pewter holders and a couple of silver ice buckets holding champagne bottles also sit behind the bar.

A large chalkboard above the arches lists the restaurants offerings. Now $70 for a lobster at Docks seems a bit high but $85 for a porterhouse steak for two here seems quite reasonable. There is an upstairs dining area with curved balconies that are decorated with red drapes and these reminded me of opera boxes. There are also gold fringed red velvet drapes gracing the windows and entryway up front. The high ceiling is pressed tin or copper. There is a little model of a steer showing the cuts of meat hangs on the wall up front.

This is a very elegant place and a good start to the day. A stiff drink and a friendly bartender. A lot of good sports talk (the Yankees/Twins game was just starting). The bartender and I agreed that we both dislike Dolan and Isaiah Thomas, have mixed feelings about Marbury, and hope Larry lasts.

I had a Tanqueray and tonic.

689) HK

Ah, Hell’s Kitchen, what has become of you? On the corner of 39th and 9th Avenue sits this new, not sure what it is supposed to be, a diner or bar. The subtlety of it, the small HK on the awning and door (HK, Hell’s Kitchen, get it?) with the HK made to look like a little picket fence.

It was so very cute I almost wet myself. Then design the place to look like an ultra-modern version of a roadside diner and the picture is complete. Decent looking cocktails though, if you like peach or chocolate martini thingies. Here is a review of HK that I lifted off the internet and I guess everything that this person liked about the place turned me off:

“Yes! That is what I thought when I saw HK being built. I knew it would be the trendy hot spot that Hell's Kitchen needed... 9th Ave is a dump and can get to you when you live there but HK is so good. The Portabella Mushroom Sandwich is to die for and if you're trying to be healthy you can get it with salad and no cheese… My favorite. Oh and the Espresso Martini's are so yummy!”

Eeew, a yummy espresso martini. And 9th Avenue is not a dump. It has character as you will see from the next two places that I visited. Ah, but then these are just my feelings on the subject.

The bar had a pale green glass top with a wide brushed aluminum edging and a grey metal front. Square metal bar stools with gray vinyl seats. Two levels of white shelves behind the bar held a decent selection of clear liquors for those precious drinks served in martini glasses. They do have a nice selection of tequilas though and a fair selection of bourbons and scotch. Yellow orchid blossoms in small metal vases embedded in the bar top and large arrangements of flowers that included something the Mysterious Chinese Woman calls “lobster claws.” There are three nice televisions behind the bar but no sports, even though the Yankees/Twins game was in progress. I guess this is more of a VH1 crowd because that was what was playing.

A very large mirror at the back made the place look much larger than it was. It has pretty much of a stark, white interior with large garage door type windows that can roll up. These separate the interior from the tables on the sidewalk. The place was packed with new neighborhood arrivals and a couple of old-timers who happened to be transvestites. Maybe there is still hope for the Hell’s Kitchen yet.

I got swept up in the cocktail atmosphere of the place and ordered a margarita. It wasn’t too bad considering it was made from a mix. Not too sweet, a bit of lime tartness, and a subtle taste of tequila. I wonder if I am developing a fondness for these things. I must fight the dark side.

690) Why Not

Now we are getting to my kind of place. It is located on 9th between 39th and 40th and is nestled (if nestled is appropriate in this context) between the Bellevue Bar and Holland. In fact, this bar used to be Bellevue Bar. Tracy sold it and moved next door. Probably easier to just open up a new bar then to fix up this place, given what it used to look like. I think the place got sold about the same time Tracy and Jimmy Duff (who is hosting my 750th bar celebration) parted ways.

The bar has the same boxcar dimensions as the other bars in this neighborhood (except for Siberia, which is big). It is fairly new and for some reason I originally thought it was a gay bar. When I entered there weren’t enough people to tell but the bartender was a babe.

Cathy, The Babe

When I asked her if it was a gay bar she laughed and said no. Then she called over the owner, Joe, and we talked a bit about Bellevue, Tracy, the scene in general, and Jimmy Duff. He knows both the guys and the bars here have kind of a clubby feeling to them because everybody seems to know everybody. He said Tracy probably was spreading the rumor that this was a gay bar to discourage his customers from defecting. He said this in a joking way, however.

This isn’t a bad place at all, although it doesn’t yet have the well broken-in ambience of the other places in the area. Bellevue must somehow have brought their ambience with them when they moved. The bar top here is kind of black linoleum with a decent wooden arm rest and a wood paneled front. There was a black linoleum foot rest. The tubular metal bar stools have very soft black vinyl seats. Small green glass shaded lights hang over the bar. Brick walls behind the bar and in back and dark green walls above light paneling opposite the bar. A nice pool table in the back along with a dart board. A fairly clean set-up behind the bar with low mirrors and three tiers of liquor on illuminated Lucite shelves. Quite a nice little place, if I do say so myself.

I had a Pilsner Urquell and then Joe bought me another along with a shot of Blackhaus Blackberry Schnapps. I think that this was because during our earlier conversation I had mentioned that Tracy was drinking blackberry brandy when I first met him.

691) Café Andalucia

Right across the street is this place that, quite frankly, I would probably have missed if Joe didn’t suggest that I go there. It kind of looks like it should be just a café if you walk past it but it turns out to be a very neat bar. On top of that they have octopus on the menu and pitchers of sangria. I will have to get the Mysterious Chinese Woman to this neighborhood one day, a something a bit out of the ordinary for her. Hell, we can hit all four bars in this small area and make a night of it. Woot Woot, I am getting excited already. Probably won’t be until next year though, sigh.

The bar in here is also black linoleum or Formica (must be the local style). Also a black linoleum topped foot rest. The wooden barstools have swiveling wooden seats, so much fun. There is all kinds of great original artwork on the bar that I believe is by the owner, Guillermo. Much of the artwork has, shall we say, an erotic content. Nothing vulgar though. Old white painted coolers behind the bar, a couple of televisions, and a bit of the standard old dive bar clutter on the old-fashioned cupboard like affair behind the bar. There is a chalkboard with food specials listed and the prices look good, Cod with a green sauce for $9 for example.

The bartender, Irit, was very friendly and when she found out about my quest gave me a list of bars to try in her neck of the woods, Bayside.

Irit, The Helpful Bartender

I will have to catch the train one day and head out there. Sounds like it could be a lot of fun. She said there are about 30 bars along one strectch.

I had a Tanqueray and tonic and then some guy came in and we started talking and the bartender joined in and then somehow shots of tequila started to show up and, well, one thing lead to another until it was time for Bar Man to head home, strangely content and wonderfully fulfilled. It is days like today that Bar Man loves his work (and there seem to be a lot of days like today). I hit four bars today making 691 for the year and leaving 309 to go with 58 to complete before August 20th.

Tomorrow I am scheduled to do a radio interview at 3:30 P.M., prime drinking time for me. I am going to head out early and try to get a couple bars in before. Maybe I can just do it by cellphone. For anyone in the Florida area it is WKRX.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

One Heck Of A Day

I headed back up to the West side again, but a bit further uptown. Man, it was one hot day too. Hit a couple of somewhat mundane bars and a couple of real classics that should be on everyone’s short list of places to go.

684) Carmines

As I mentioned, it was a real scorcher so walking into this wonderfully air-conditioned bar and dumping down a cold one was heavenly. It is an Italian restaurant located at 2450 Broadway between 90th and 91st Streets. It had a nice dark-wood bar with a black foot rest. Tubular metal bar stools with red spinning vinyl seats. Lots of antique lighting fixtures hanging from the ceiling. Unfortunately the ones at each end of the bar were missing several pieces of glass. Lots of framed black and white pictures of guests and parties from years gone by. There is a large, loud and fancy dining area up a short staircase and in the back. There was a tour bus parked out front so I guess the majority of the diners were from that. There are also tables under an awning on the sidewalk but you would have to be a mad dog or an Englishman to be sitting outside. Did I mention that it was hot out?

The bar back has a lot of narrow shelves in front of mirrors displaying stemware, two bottles each of Stolichnaya Vodka and Sapphire Bombay Gin, the bottled beer selection, a wide array of wines, and about a hundred small bottles of Lurisia mineral water. This water comes from a spring, Fonte Santa Barbara Di Lurisia, located at the base of the Northwestern Alps in the Italian region of Piemonte. Now you know. Why they have a hundred bottles on display is a question I cannot answer.

There is more liquor on tiered shelves above coolers with wooden doors and brass fittings. They have some interesting liquors, Michter’s Straight Rye, for example. I have never seen that before. Not quite ready for a variation on a Delaware Club Cocktail yet. This is a nice looking place with a friendly bartender. Not friendly enough for me to ask to take his picture though.

I had a draft Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and it hit the spot.

685 Docks Oyster Bar and Seafood Grill

Not far away at 89th and Broadway is this seafood restaurant and bar where I found another air-conditioned sanctuary. It is a seafood restaurant with a bit of a French touch. At least there is a large poster for what I take to be a French fish monger, “La Compagnie Francaix Pecheurs Reunis.” The wood bar is fairly new with a brass rail and there are dark wood chairs. Crushed ice with oysters sit at one end. One beer station with four spigots sits on the bar. The bar back is light wood shelving with mirrors in kind of a Swedish modern design. Lots of black tile on the walls and small, mostly white tiles, on the floor. The walls above the tiles are painted white. Pictures of fish and a mounted sailfish on the wall up front convey the flavor of the place without overdoing it. A blackboard in the back above a window into the kitchen lists the available fish, the daily specials, and the lobster prices. Not a cheap place, $70 for a three pound lobster. I probably won’t be coming here for dinner anytime soon. There was a nice lunch crowd though. They did have a good lunch special, $11 for half a dozen clams or oysters with either a glass of wine or a beer. Seeing as how my drink cost $8 that wasn’t bad at all.

I had a Tanqueray and tonic.

686) Crossroads

Well, the day started to get really fun here. This is the former uptown branch of the downtown Raccoon Lodge. It is on Amsterdam Avenue, on the corner of 83rd. As you can see, the Raccoon Lodge sign hasn’t been replaced yet and the Crossroads sign is still temporary. I was assured that nothing would change due to the change of hands, but that isn’t quite true. Not all of the possessions were sold along with the bar so some of the decorations that were on the wall are missing. I am pretty sure there was a moose head hanging somewhere. If the bartenders remain the same this place should have no problems. Did I say the day started to get fun here?

Crossroads is a great old (kind of) place with a nice old long wood bar with a wooden footrest. Tubular metal barstools with green vinyl seats that do not spin. Well, you can’t have everything. They have a small selection of draft beers but a real nice selection of bottled beers. There was a pool table, a foosball table, and a Silver Streak Bowling machine to provide those all important sound effects. Customer’s ties hung behind the bar back that was primarily brick walls with mirrors. The rest of the place was either brick walls or wood paneling and there is a nice arched window. I loved the Periodic Table of Brewing Styles, chemistry could have been so much more fun.

I was perusing the bottled beers when the bartender, Melissa, suggested Dogfish Raison D’Etre. It was an interesting beer that is brewed with Belgian beer sugars and green raisins. You did taste the raisins and it had kind of a funky taste. Not one of my favorites. Without asking I got a Dogfish Head Shelter Pale Ale and this was more to my liking on a hot summer day. A beer distributor was sitting at the end of the bar and he and I got into a conversation along with the bartender and another customer. Naturally the conversation got around to my tour of the bars (facilitated by my passing out my cards left and right). The bartender wanted to use my expertise to check out a few of her specialty drinks (this is what Bar Man lives for). First I tried one of her specialty and unnamed cocktails that was quite refreshing, reddish pink with foam on top. Of course we then set about trying to name it, names like Bloody Sea Froth, Shark Attack, and, I am sure, a hundred others. The bartender settled on Ruby Mel so now the cocktail has a name. Be sure to ask for it if you ever go there. Then we got to try her specialty shot, the Raven Haired Slut. Kahlua and Butterscotch Schnapps. Well, Bar Man has gotten into trouble with Butterscotch Schnapps before, but that is a different story. Just had the one here and then made the mistake of saying how I liked well made margaritas but didn’t like the ones made with a mix. As you might imagine, Melissa had to demonstrate her prowess and making them and so, to be polite, I drank up. It was a very well made margarita too.

Melissa saw me taking notes about the place and the beers so she carefully removed the labels from the bottles and gave them to me. I thought that was sweet.

Melissa, The Considerate Creator Of Great Drinks

Her shift was ending and an equally friendly Heather showed up.

Heather; And The Party Continued

Whew, I could have stayed here all day, and almost did. However I wanted to get one more bar under my belt so I bid a tearful goodbye and promised to return.

I had, well, a lot.

687) Hi-Life

Luckily I didn’t have to stumble too far to hit my next bar, it was just kitty corner on the Southeast corner of 83rd and Amsterdam. And then the fun started again. A customer from Crossroads, William, who was chatting with us decided he wanted to go to Hi-Life too, so in a way the party just relocated.


If Crossroads was a bit barren with a lot of the wall decorations having been removed, this place was jammed with stuff. A lot of 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s pinups on the walls, some kind of a statue of an Indian elephant god, a large aquarium. On top of that the place has a semi-diner type of interior, that polished aluminum look. There is also an upstairs and a downstairs area too, but I never managed to see them. Ah well, this is another place I would gladly go back to again so one day I will, indeed, check it out.

Another set of good bartenders that were really friendly so we engaged in a conversation that meandered from inside to out to the tables in front on the sidewalk whenever someone needed a cigarette.



Again, I had a few more draft beers than I should have. I think I was drinking mostly Pilsner Urquell, but a Samuel Adams Summer Ale might have snuck in there too.

I got William to write down a few thoughts about the places we had visited and I swear, I could read what he wrote yesterday. Today, however, I can’t decipher it. I am sorry William, next time I see you we will have to try it again. We did have an interesting conversation though and he recommended some other bars in the neighborhood that I will be checking out soon.

I had a couple of draft beers at least one of which was a Pilsner Urquell.

A fruitful day with four bars visited and a couple of classics to go into my list of places to return. That makes 687 for the year leaving 313 to go.

A Great Website

Man, I do not know why it took me so long to discover this website. You really should check it out, it is fascinating.

  • Tuesday, July 26, 2005

    Go West, Not So Young Man

    I decided on the spur of the moment to head over to the West side today instead of going back East again. Just thought it would be a bit of a change of pace and it turned out to be a pleasant day, a couple of real finds and the revisiting of a place that I hadn’t been to for awhile.

    679) Kevin St. James

    One of the old West side bars in the Times Square Area that retains most of its seediness (but a good seediness) despite the introduction of a couple of plasma televisions to go along with several older models. It is located at 741 8th Avenue at 46th Street. It has a good sized old wood bar with a brass rail and plain wood bar chairs. An extremely cluttered bar back as you so often find in places like this. I particularly liked the Taxi Driver clock with Robert De Niro in his Mohawk. Kind of a profusion of shelves with liquor, statues, signed softballs, candles, and who knows what else. One large gold framed mirror with fire-station badges stuck along the edges. Two nice lights, winged ladies holding orangish glove lights aloft in their outstretched arms, hang on the yellow walls. Towards the front are a flock of flying toucans with glasses of Guinness balanced on their beaks.

    Colleen, The Irish Lass Who Graciously Served Me

    A couple of brass beer stations sit on the bar and they dispense a decent selection of beers. Lights with red shades shaped like Asian coolie hats hang over the bar and five fairly elaborate looking stained glass lights hang from the brown tin ceiling up front. The wall opposite the bar is brick and is lined with brown banquettes with tables and chairs in front. A large Guinness mirror and an illuminated, round mostly green but with a heart shaped Gaelic crest in the center, piece of art hangs above them. Tables and stools up front. There is a Reefer Madness poster hanging on the back wall.

    I had a Boddingtons.

    680) Scruffy Duffy’s

    Right next door is another of the survivors. They seem to be a bit more common on the West side than on the East, but it might be a bit premature to draw conclusions. Another old beat up wooden bar with a high wood footrest. They have a nice selection of draft beers served from 24 spigots mounted on three silver box-like stations that sit on the bar. The bar back is kind of a mixture of what looks like homemade wood shelving, an industrial looking metal rack for glasses, and an array of audio and video equipment sitting on top of old wooden coolers, cupboards, and drawers with silver colored handles and hinges and in front of mirrors and a brick wall. They have 9 televisions that I could see including one large screen one in the back.

    There is a wide assortment of knick knacks that include a rooster carrying a Guinness on a tray, guitars, a conga drum, a bass drum, beer steins, and a Negro jazz band (not a real one, just ceramic figurines). The prize piece was a genuine Big Mouth Billy Bass. A couple of chalkboards list Scruffy Snacks and their beer selection. Neon beer signs sit atop a narrow overhang above the bar back.

    The wall opposite the bar is a combination of brick, green stucco, and wood paneling. There are Irish flags, a surfboard, and beer and traffic signs hanging on the wall. A nice pool table getting some action sits up front with a moose head mounted on the wall keeping an eye on things.

    Wood benches with tables and chairs in front of them line the wall in back and a narrow ledge with stools in front runs around the rest of the place. There is a dartboard in the back. Small green lights ring the walls near the ceiling.

    The bartender was a bit shy at first and didn't want me to take her picture. After chatting with her for a while she finally surrendered to my charms. Well, at least she let me take her picture.

    Triona, The Bashful Bartender

    I had a Newcastle Brown Ale.

    681) Blarney Stone

    Somewhat of a typical Blarney Stone, but a bit lighter than most due to the good sized light wood bar with a bar rail. It was right around the corner on 47th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues. The walls are a combination of dark green paint and light wood paneling. Mirrors and light wood paneling behind the bar and a thick wooden counter sitting atop black metal coolers. Five televisions sit in recessed shelves above the mirrors behind the bar. There is a steam table serving up sandwiches; roast beef, corned beef, pastrami, the usual. This is something you see less and less frequently these days and it is a pity because they usually serve up pretty good food. Little green glass shaded lights hang over the bar. It was a pretty generic place but with a decent and quite vociferous crowd.

    I had a Tanqueray and tonic.

    682) Bennigan’s

    I know, I know, it’s a Bennigan’s. But hey, it was right there, almost right next to the Blarney Stone on the corner of 47th Street and 8th Avenue. And the bartender was attentive and friendly so it was fine by me. A decent sized bar with a brown patterned Formica top and a wide wooden edge. The front was paneled and there was a brass rail. Wood bar chairs with swirling seats were comfortable enough. Inverted cone shaped lights alternating in color between pale green and light orange hung above the bar. Three plasma televisions were mounted behind the bar above a couple of coolers with glass doors. These held the bottled beer selection, or at least most of it. There was also a small metal bin of ice that had a few beers icing down. A couple of small tierred shelves held what looked to be a fairly meager liquor supply and there was a beer station with twelve spigots. Above the spigots was a brass rack for glasses.

    There was a couple of tourists from Indiana at the bar having margaritas. I am not sure why you would go here when there are so many neat authentic New York bars so close by. But, if you are a tourist I guess this is a familiar looking place where you might feel more comfortable.

    I had a Magner’s Irish Cider

    683) The Collins Bar

    This place wasn’t open when I passed by earlier but it is right by Kevin St. James and Scruffy Duffy’s at 735 8th Avenue. Ah, another old classic that, to be repetitive, really makes you wonder why you would come all the way from Indiana and then go to a place just like one that you have at home. It isn’t like you couldn’t see this place.

    They have a really great selection of bottled beers and a very decent selection of draft beers as well. They also had a major whiskey selection that included Tennessee whiskeys, Bourbons and Scotch. They also had about 20 kinds of tequilas. As you might expect, there was an old wood bar with a wooden footrest and plain wooden chairs. The music ranged from The Who to Dean Martin. Great clutter behind the bar including chalkboards displaying their beer and whiskey selections, their tequila selection, their specialty liquors (ooh, Pernod) ports and sherries, cognacs, and a limited wine selection.

    Neat old cabinets, shelves and mirrors behind the bar. The wall opposite the bar was kind of peeling red paint above black wood paneling with a narrow ledge for drinks. A church-like pew in the back had tables with candles sitting in front of it. There were candles sitting on the bar as well. Another little ledge with stools in front was in the back next to the dartboard lane. Maps and pictures of baseball players, pin-up girls, a gold framed mirror, and much more hung on the red wall. The back wall was a somewhat pale green.

    There were two guys and a girl in there and I couldn’t quite tell if they were from out of town or not. They were half in the bag (and this is coming from me after having five drinks) and were half discussing and half arguing about where to go for dinner. One of the guys was drinking Long Island ice teas with cranberry juice instead of Coca Cola.

    Anyway, if you are in the Times Square area and want to do something other than hit places like Bennigan’s you could do a lot worse than just popping into the three in a row on 8th Avenue between 46th and 47th Streets.

    I had a draft Rogue Brutal Bitter and a wee sample of Brooklyn Scorcher provided by Tara.

    Tara, The Generous Bartender

    They were both quite hoppy but the Brooklyn Scorcher had a nice pear-like back taste to it. I withstood the temptation to toss down a shot of Pernod.

    Well, there may be more of the old bars hanging on in this neck of the woods, but there are, alas, still a few that didn't make it.

    The Former Monte-Tecla

    A pretty decent day, five bars in all making 683 for the year and leaving 317 to go.

    Monday, July 25, 2005

    The Good Old Days

    I headed back to the Yorkville area and met with mixed success. I got there a bit too early and ran into a bunch of bars that don’t open until somewhat later in the day. I will be going back tomorrow to see if I can hit a few of them. Then I began to notice a number of bars that were in the process of being remodeled or just up for sale. These were mostly the smaller bars, the one that were once staples in most New York neighborhoods. They are not just to small to remain profitable given the escalating rents. Makes me wish I had embarked on this venture years ago when these were still around. They tend to be more colorful and, in my opinion, much more interesting places to drink in. Aces and Eights, on 1st Avenue between 86th and 87th Streets, is an example of a bar that is no more.

    It will either be gone entirely or remodeled beyond recognition. At any rate, it is closed now.

    676) Reif’s

    Now this bar, at 302 East 92nd Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues, is the real deal, opening in 1942 and looking as though it hasn’t changed much since. There was an old wooden bar with a foot rest. The chairs looked fairly new, dark wood with black vinyl seats and somewhat fancy backs. The back bar is fairly simple, several large plain mirrors with tiered shelves above old wooden coolers and drawers and metal ice chests holding bottled beer and vodka. A couple of chalkboards had beers and beer specials written on them. Dusty rose walls above the mirrors. The brick wall opposite the bar had narrow mirrors above a narrow ledge with stools in front. Pictures of old baseball players and customers hung on the wall above the mirrors. There is a decent sized back room that had a nice pool table and a Black Buck Hunter game.

    A couple of old regulars were in there talking about their health, the heat, and the cost of funerals. Somehow this led to a discussion of Ocean’s 11, Monty Python, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Elvis imitators (they knew one) and Frank Sinatra. One of those conversations you generally only get into over a drink or two. I enjoyed myself.

    I had a bottle of Heineken.

    677) Fiona’s

    Fiona's, at 1664 1st Avenue between 86th and 87th Streets just thinks it is old. It is a nice enough place but another one that is relatively new and newly remodeled. It probably once was one of those old neighborhood bars but, despite the bartender thinking it is old, it has only been around for eight years. Now, in my mind, that is not an old bar. It does have a nice long wood bar with an ornate front and a brass rail. The bar chairs have patterned cloth seats. A very elaborate bar back in the same color wood as the bar, kind of a cherry wood color. It has columns, arches, cabinets with glass doors, wine racks, mirrors, and down below coolers and cabinets with wood doors and brass hinges and handles. Inverted dome shaped lights over the bar rimed with ornamental metal work.

    Half a dozen televisions featured either sports or a spelling bee. There is a fireplace in the back and high-backed booths along part of the wall opposite the bar towards the back. Globe lights sat atop the columns at the end of each booth. The wall behind the bar, at least the part not covered by the woodwork, is brick and the rest of the place is a combination of wood paneling and mustard colored paint. Pictures of gentlemen in 1800’s formal attire and a few mirrors decorate the wall opposite the bar while more serious paintings of landscapes and picnics adorn the back wall that also has a fireplace.

    I had a Guinness.

    678) Cilantro

    This was a neat looking Mexican restaurant at 1712 2nd Avenue that I was fully prepared to like, until it came time to get a drink. They had a nice selection of tequilas so I felt fairly confident in ordering a margarita, up, with a salted rim. Well, before I could blink I had a very large margarita glass filled with a sweet, yellowish-green liquid that had no discernable taste of tequila. This was a pity, because the place had a nice enough authentic look to it. The curved wood topped bar was edged with a metal strip held in place with more rivets than were necessary. The front of the bar was copper sheets. There was a rough wood footrest and wood bar chairs. The bar back is kind of cool, an adobe look to it painted with a pastel landscape. There is an arch in the middle with two frozen margarita machines, so maybe I should have been a bit suspicious, but these are fairly common in Mexican bars and restaurants. Tiered shelves on each side of the arch held the liquor. There were small metal and glass candleholders with lit candles sitting on the bar.

    There were neat inverted cone shaded lights hanging over the bar and blue and orange spots lighting up the wall behind the bar. Up front by the windows is a sculpted smiling sun lit from below. The wall opposite the bar also looks like adobe and has the same type of pastel landscape painted on it. Some interesting larger lights that consisted of electric candle like bulbs in a glass and metal construction hang from the ceiling. Banquettes with wood backs and cloth cushions line the wall opposite the bar and there are tables and chairs in front of them. More table and chairs sit in the front and there is a back room with more seating.

    There was a guy in a postal worker uniform sitting at one end of the bar asking the bartender to turn up the volume of the music because it was playing Lou Bega’s Mambo No. 5 (A little bit of…). He was pretty much in the bag and as he came back after having stepped outside for a cigarette he asked me, somewhat conspiratorially, whether I thought anyone would turn him in for drinking instead of doing whatever it was he was supposed to be doing. Delivering the mail, I suppose. I told him no, I thought his secret was safe.

    I would have liked this place a lot more if I didn’t get so sticky from my drink that I had to go wash up after I finished it. It must have had a fair amount of some kind of alcohol in it though, because I did get a bit of a buzz. And it was a large drink. There was a place where a bunch of us used to go called The Iguana that used to lace their frozen margaritas with Everclear, a 190 proof pure grain alcohol, so maybe that is what they used here.

    I slurped down my margarita and headed on home.

    Not too bad a day, three for the day bringing me up to 678 for the year and leaving 332 to go. I have to step up the pace a bit though because I have things to do this weekend and a party to celebrate the wedding of the daughter of a friend of mine next weekend. That will take a few days away from my quest and I still need to make 749 before August 20th. The pressure is almost unbearable, I may have to have a drink.

    An Interesting Website To Visit

    I just discovered this website this morning. You might enjoy visiting it.