Saturday, August 06, 2005

Training Day

Kind of a quick and dirty day. I wasn’t sure I would be able to hit any bars today because I was heading out to Long Island for a backyard barbecue in honor of a friend of mine’s daughter’s recent marriage. I guess backyard barbecue is a bit of an understatement, there was a D.J., open bar, major smoker and grill action (ribs, chicken, cheeseburgers, hotdogs, fish), giant hero sandwiches, backed ziti, a porta-potty, what more could you want. And Bernie’s special juice (made with passion-fruit nectar this time around in honor of his daughter’s wedded bliss).

The Blissfully Wedded Yvette & Keith

At any rate, I had to take a train out to Long Island but was lucky enough to find:

712) Houlihan’s

The last time I was at the Atlantic Avenue Terminal this place wasn’t here. I got to the train station about 40 minutes early and actually thought I might have to go to a Chuck E. Cheese to see if they had a beer, although I was pretty sure they didn’t really have a bar. When I got off the subway and saw this place I was happy indeed.

As far as a chain type of bar, this one wasn’t bad at all. A nice rectangular stone bar with a large-screen television mounted in the middle playing music videos with the sound turned on. You would be surprised how many bars have televisions playing music videos with the volume turned down and the jukebox playing. Very disconcerting.

The dining area was nice enough looking with booths and old advertising posters hanging on the wall. It actually looked pretty classy. I didn’t have much time here and the Mysterious Chinese Woman had made off with my notecards and pen so I wasn’t able to do much here except quaff a brew and head to my train.

I had a Guinness Stout and told the bartender what a wonderful community service Houlihan’s was providing by opening this place. She said they do get a lot of commuter business. I would think so. It is the only bar close to the train station.

713) Dublin Pub

I was kind of hoping that there would be a bar by the train station in West Islip where I was headed, and I wasn’t disappointed. Right across the street from the train station was this small town dive bar.

Whew, it has been a long time since I walked into a place that was smoke filled, it was kind of like stepping back in time. Well, at least stepping back to before smoking was banned in bars in New York.

There was a beat-up wood topped bar with a wood-grained Formica front and a linoleum covered foot rest. The overhang above the bar was covered with strings of white Christmas lights, but I can’t say it made the place really cheerful. The bar back was kind of strange, looked a bit like a stone wall with rectangular and round openings where various knick knacks were tucked (the porcelain Madonna was a nice touch. The two inches of pink Taylor wine in the bottom of a gallon jug discouraged me from asking to see a wine list. There were two pool tables and, aside from the nice lights hanging over them, the only other decoration seemed to be a bunch of Budweiser pennants. Looked like the gathering place for the locals though.

I had a bottle of Budweiser and headed to the barbecue.

Two bars today, but two more than I had counted on. That makes 713 for the year and leaves 287 more to go. I have to hoof it to hit my 750 by August 20th. I hadn't counted on the Jets preseason so that will take two days out of my endeavor. Even though the games don't start until the evening, my friend Bernie (father of the bride) likes to tailgate. Really likes to tailgate. I am sure he will be picking me up in the very early afternoon to head out and set up. Too bad there aren't any bars (or at least none that I can get into) at the stadium.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Can't Stand The Heat? Stay Out Of Hell's Kitchen

I decided to head back to Hell’s Kitchen again and it was somehow appropriate given how hot it was. By the time I headed home the thermometer at the gas station across the street from my last stop said 103.

Now, that is hot.

708) Mr. Biggs

Can you say “televisions”? I counted at least 36 of them in this relatively small place. There were 14 of them above the bar back and another 18 flanking a large screen for a projection TV. A few more were scattered about just for good measure. I felt like the alien played by David Bowie in the movie The Man Who Fell To Earth. There is a nice dark wood bar but no bar rail. The wooden chairs that matched the bar had rungs enough though. The wall behind the bar consisted of large bolted on grey metal plates, or something that was meant to look that way. Kind of interesting in an industrial kind of way. No mirrors back there though, too many televisions. Just a plain brown wood shelf that looked like it was a wrap-around of the bar itself. There were tiered shelves on top of it that held the liquor. The glasses and more liquor was stored underneath. Neat old domed style lights hang over the bar.

The wall opposite the bar is brick and there is a long burgundy banquette with small round tables and chairs sitting against it. Between the top of the banquette and the televisions is a narrow band of mirrors. A smaller banquette sits against the back wall and a double row of round tables and chairs runs down the middle of the wooden floor.

They had frozen strawberry daiquiri, pina colada, and margarita machines and a large sign that advertised karaoke three nights a week. Woot, frozen drinks and karaoke, can’t get much better than that. There are a lot of Mr. Biggs tee-shirts on display and you can get gift certificates for frozen drinks. Kind of an interesting touch. Give your loved ones a gift certificate for a frozen drink and send them off to karaoke night.

The bartender, Melanie, was very pleasant.

Melanie, The Pleasant Bartender

She had worked at the WWF restaurant and bar in Time’s Square and she said that place had a lot more televisions than here. Hoo Boy, I will have to truck on over there one day and check it out. Can’t imagine the ambience of having a drink surrounded by the images of sweaty pretty-boy wrestlers wearing skimpy briefs. Not wrestlers like back when I was a mere Bar Boy. Then we had real men like George, The Animal, Steele and the Vachone brothers, Butcher and Mad Dog, and my hometown hero, Vern Gagne.

They have a nice little outdoor seating area and because it is on the corner of 10th Avenue and 43rd Street at 596 10th Avenue it wraps around so you have seating on two sides.

I had a Magners Irish Cider, hit the spot as the day was warming up.

709) Druids

This was the destination that I had in mind when I headed out today. It is at 736 10th Avenue between 50th and 51st Streets. It was a bit of a hike up there in the heat but I took it slow and noted a couple of places to stop in on my way back to the subway. Druids is an older place with a nice wooden bar and a brass rail. The bar back is largely mirrors with glass and metal shelves holding liquor and glasses. Little upturned glass shaded lights are mounted between the mirrors. Green glass cone shaped shaded lights hang over the bar. On the shelf above the mirror are old books, a real old accordion, storm lamps, old Celtic style paintings, candlesticks, and weird statuary. There is, of course, a picture of Stonehenge above a shelf of old books. Two very old golf clubs were mounted above the bottles behind the bar.

A bunch of puppets hang in front of one of the windows and there is an article about the guy who makes them.

I guess he must be a regular there. A lot of original artwork hangs on the brick wall opposite the bar and on the bluish-grey back wall as well. Druids hosts shows of the works of local artists. In fact one came in while I was there looking for the owner, who was at his other place (Landmark Tavern, a stop I will soon be making), to see about arranging a show. Candle-like electric lights hang on the brick wall. There are about ten tables nicely decked out with white tablecloths and linen.

This was a very pleasant place and I enjoyed myself a lot chatting with Marisela and then with a friend of hers that popped in. A most enjoyable stay.

Marisela, A Very Friendly Bartender

While I was there someone came in who just wanted to see the back “garden” area. I went back to take a peak and found a nice little outdoor seating area with more artwork on display.

I wouldn’t call it a garden though. Looks like it would be a fun place when the weather cools down a bit.

I had a draft Bass Ale.

710) 1050 Lounge

Heading back to the subway I stopped in this lounge affiliated with the Skyline Hotel at 725 10th Avenue.

It is a much more interesting place than you normally find in a hotel. In fact the lounge alone would be reason enough to stay here, that and the fact that it is so close to Druids and the colorful Hell’s Kitchen location.

Marisela said that they have a big European clientele so that probably explained the soccer on the televisions, including one large screen projection television on the side wall. There was also a colorful 1922 poster advertising Maccheroni Pianigiani, a pasta.

The bar is curvy and has a pink and grey marble top. The front is light wood and there is a brass rail. Pale blue, yellow, and green swollen tubular glass lights hang above the bar. The bar back is light wood and frames mirrors, the center one with an arch. Tiered shelves holding the liquor sit above black coolers.

There are large windows on the 10th Avenue side but the bar is set so far back that you aren’t flooded with light. Plush well-worn red and blue sofas, chairs, and stools surrounding low tables line the walls and there are heavy deep red drapes on the windows. Brass and wood overhead fans, each with a single red or blue bare bulb hang from the ceiling in front of the windows. The walls are dark green with a slightly lighter green ceiling. The place had a definite old European flavor to it and might be worth dropping into again.

A Jamie Lee Curtis looking working girl came in and ordered a Coke which she then proceeded to drink through a straw without ever picking the glass up off the bar. I figured she either had the shakes or was just staying in practice. Sorry, no picture.

I had a Tanqueray and tonic.

711) Clinton Grill

Just down 10th Avenue at 637, and across the street from the gas station, is this corner bar and restaurant. It had a lively lunchtime crowd at its sidewalk tables, despite the heat, when I walked by it on my way to Druids. It was empty now though. Bar Man takes a certain perverse pleasure in drinking while most people are at work.

The bar has a rough grey and tan tile top and a wooden front. No bar rail but the black tubular chairs with oxblood vinyl seats gave you enough places to park your feet. The floor was a pink and grey tile with a texture similar to the top of the bar. There are recessed panels of mirrors behind the bar with tiered shelves of liquor and glasses. Two levels of glass shelves are mounted on the mirrors themselves and these hold the stemware. A large American flag was mounted on the pale green expanse of wall above the mirrors. A couple of small hula dolls sat atop the cash register. Cone shaped green shaded lights hang above the bar from the brown patterned tile ceiling. There were two televisions, but they weren’t turned on.

Just opposite the bar were two maroon benches separated by a round table with a green tablecloth. Behind the benches are more tables and chairs. One row of tables sit in front of similar maroon benches set against a brick wall with two good-sized windows. One window has three glass shelves with empty Chianti bottles, a few cut glass decanters, some frosted bottles, and a small cluster of American flags.

There are four overhead brass and wood fans and a single tannish inverted umbrella like light hanging from the ceiling in the dining area. Neat rattan furniture on the outdoor sidewalk dining area.

I had a draft Red Hook Blond (wonder if it was because of a sub-conscious memory of the woman in 1050).

Another enjoyable day with four bars hit making a lucky 711 for the year and leaving 289 to go.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Putting the "I" Back In Irish

I decided to concentrate my efforts on Irish bars today, specifically Irish bars listed in Jimmy’s “Fairly Reliable” Best New York Irish Pub Guide. I have come to the conclusion that the mistake on the map with Doc Watson's was that because it was number 57 on the guide it somehow got placed on 57th Street on the map. Oh well, it is still a good reference. There were four listed in there that were grouped conveniently close together so I took the subway up to 59th and made my way to:

704) Kennedy’s

Located at 327 West 57th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues is this New York institution. Ask people to name an Irish pub in New York and probably four out of five will mention Kennedy’s. It seems to be known by everyone and loved by all. Well, no complaints from me. You have the classic wooden bar with a brass rail and your conversational Irish bartender. In fact he was so conversational that I had a hard time taking notes about the place. We got to talking, somehow, about New Orleans and spent a good half an hour reminiscing about the good times we had had there. I am sure if I had ordered another beer we could have talked for another hour. It wasn’t too busy at the bar but a lot of people seemed to be headed to the back dining area.

There is a large copper Kennedy coat of arms behind the bar that is flanked by white branches festooned with little white Christmas lights. An old wooden bar back, not overly fancy, but with nice wooden shelves and oval mirrors. Yellowish orange helmet shaped lights are affixed to the columns flanking the mirrors. Brass racks for glasses hang above the bar. Two silver beer stations with eight spigots each sit on the bar. Little national flags hang from the wooden overhang above the bar.

A round table with four chairs sits by the window up front that has drapes featuring English fox hunting scenes. Plush red banquettes are against the wall opposite the bar with tables with green tablecloths in front of them. Little glass vases with red and white roses sit on the tables. Above the banquettes are shelves with mostly ceramic jugs sitting on them. Three stained glass skylight-like lights adorn the dark green ceiling. There are lots of photographs of politicians on the walls as well as a framed painting of J.F.K. at his desk. A collage of pictures of entertainers and a framed map of Ireland sits up front.

I had a draft Pilsner Urquell.

705) Jake’s Saloon

I first swung by D.J. Reynold’s because it is on the same block as Kennedy’s but it was so packed there was no place to sit at the bar, or anywhere else, for that matter. There is a construction site not far from here and it looked like it might be lunch hour for them because everyone seemed to be of that ilk. In fact a lot of them were wearing union tee-shirts of one kind or another. Hopefully these aren’t the heavy equipment operators. But, I digress; as I said, I skipped by this place temporarily and headed to Jake’s Saloon at 875 10th Avenue, right on the corner of 57th Street.

This place was certainly noisy enough even if not quite as packed as D.J. Reynolds. I did manage to find a place at the crowded wooden bar, with a brass rail, where a lot of people were eating lunch. The barstools were wrought iron with well-worn vinyl seats. The back bar was nice looking with fairly ornate molding at the top. There were five panels of mirrors with glass shelves in front of the mirrors at each end. Small, 7 bottle by 4 bottle, wood wine racks sat in front of the two mirrors next to the ones on the end and an old, wooden-looking cash register under a wooden shelf sat in front of the middle mirror. Below the mirrors were a set of wooden cabinets and drawers with brass handles. To the far left were what looked like mounted kitchen cabinets, but of the same color wood as the rest of the setup. Under those was a more functional looking cash register but there was another antique one sitting at the far right end of the bar. The portions of the wall that were exposed were brick. There was also a large framed mirror with “Jake’s Saloon” etched on it on the wall to the far right.

The ceiling was brown tile up front over the bar area. A wooden bench sat under the window up front with tables and chairs in front of it. This little nook was under a lowered ceiling of red tiles from which hung miniature versions of the lights that hung over the bar, kind of opaque glass helmet looking things. A dining area opposite the bar was separated from it by a wood partition with a ledge and a brass railing on top. There was another small dining area in the back. Because this is a corner place there were windows all around so it was nice and light, especially in the dining area.

I had a Tanqueray and tonic.

706) D.J.. Reynolds

Well, I wandered back to this place at 351 West 57th Street and the crowd had thinned out quite a bit. There is a nice long mahogany bar with a brass rail and an ornately carved overhang with embedded spotlighting. Set back from it over the area where the bartender, Katie, plies her trade were lights with stained glass shades in varying colors and patterns.

Katie, Posing, Not Plying

The wooden bar back is very ornate with wooden shelves and mirrors. Coolers with wooden doors and silver handles and hinges are down below and flank a large open set of tiered shelves that hold most of the liquor. There was also some liquor up on top of the shelves too, of course. The wooden bar chairs had oxblood colored vinyl seats. There were more stained glass lights hanging from the ceiling throughout the rest of the place which is mostly devoted to dining.

The walls are nicely paneled and decorated with large framed black and white photos of New York, Joe Dimagio, and, my favorite, Bogart lighting a cigarette. I had that same Bogart poster in my apartment when I lived in downtown Minneapolis many a year ago. Ah, the memories. There was also a more colorful poster for the movie “The Quiet Man,” which starred John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. Although the movie is set in Ireland, only two weeks were actually spent on location. For those of you interested in trivia, at the beginning of the horse racing scene there are a bunch of people playing bagpipes. However, they are playing Scottish bagpipes, not Irish bagpipes. How can you tell the difference? Scottish pipes are blown into while Irish pipes are pumped up with a bellows under the right elbow. Hey, who says you can’t learn anything by reading this blog.

I talked with Dennis, the current owner of D.J. Reynolds. He is the son of the original Dennis Reynolds that opened the place in 1989. Very pleasant chap, and Katie was pleasant as well. Dennis recogized me from my picture in the paper long ago and I had already given my card to Katie. We talked about my endeavor for a bit, always a fun subject for me. Dennis offered to buy me a drink but I had to take a rain check because I had one more bar to visit before heading home.

I had a Tanqueray and tonic.

707) P.J. Carney’s Pub

A bit of a walk away, but not too far, at 906 7th Avenue between 57th and 58th Streets. It is right by Carnegie Hall. It is a surprisingly small place, but very convenient to public transportation.

There is a rectangular bar with the serving station in the center that has protruding shelves displaying their better liquors, including a nice selection of single malt Scotches and Bourbons. They had Old Whiskey River, and I have never, to my recollection, seen that before. The wall that faces the street is floor to ceiling windows so, at least during the day, it is fairly light. Neat yellowish marble-like saucer-shaped lights hung over the bar.

The two side walls had green cushioned and cushioned back benches with small wooden tables and chairs sitting in front of them. Above these was about three feet of wainscoting and above that a panel of plum-colored paint. Quite attractive. The wainscoting had shallow rectangular recesses that held pictures, alternating between charcoal and pen cartoon-like sketches and more colorful, jazzy looking ones. On the ledge that separated the wainscoting from the painted area sat a variety of other pictures ranging from serene Irish landscapes to cluttered pictures of people. A large painted collage of people, customers I guess, hangs on the wall between the restrooms. Neil Diamond was playing on the sound system so the Mysterious Chinese Woman would probably have melted if I brought her here. Particularly if I slipped her one of what I was drinking.

And what was I drinking? Shoot me. They had a sign advertising their daily special “martini,” a Zentini. Arrgh, it was made with Absolute Citron, Green Tea Liquor, and a splash of sour mix. What the hell was I thinking? It looked like piss and the back taste of tea was, to me at least, most unpleasant. I should have had a shot of the Old Whiskey River bourbon and chased it with a beer. Bar Man learns a lesson he should have learned long ago, do not drink daily “martini” specials, no matter what. I would like to blame the bartender, Katie, for talking me into this concoction, but she was, in fact, blameless.

Katie, The Blameless Bartender

A thoughly pleasant day nonetheless, and I managed to hit 4 bars bringing my total for the year to 707 leaving 293 to go.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Twenty-Five Flavors, Step Right Up

Another day, another block. I hit three bars on a single stretch of 54th Street between 8th Avenue and Broadway. I had a fairly decent day, right up until the end.

701) Ye Olde Tripple Inn

Walking up 8th Avenue from the subway I passed by a number of restaurants that had bars to find a bar bar, and I did. At 263 West 54th between 8th Avenue and Broadway is this little bar, and it is little bars like this that gets Bar Man out of bed in the afternoon. Just a friendly neighborhood bar tucked away on a busy cross-street. A beat-up, somewhat irregularly shaped dark wooden bar with a brass rail. Two ornate brass beer stations sit on the bar and they have six spigots each. Not a real inspiring selection, and not much better in bottles. They did have Pilsner Urquell and Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat though. There is an old bar back with bottles stacked on four tiers of shelves below mirrors. More bottles and coolers are down below. Evergreen garlands with Christmas balls decorate the rafters and green shamrock lights hang above the bar back. There are little unlit lanterns hanging above the bar but most of the light seems to come from neon beer signs There is a Christmas tree mounted high in the corner in the back as well as a large snowman next to a large-screen television. There is a smaller television up front.

A dartboard is set into what looks like the remains of a telephone booth. Good idea, cuts down on the number of eyes put out by ricochets. Two little tables with red and white tablecloths sit in a nook by the windows up front. More of the same in the back and in a small side room. There are also a few tables up on a balcony in the back. The walls are pretty much plastered with old black and white photos of entertainers, many of them signed. I understand they have entertainment in here in the evening but I am not sure where they perform.

I had a bottle of Pilsner Urquell.

702) Iguana

Well, not too far down and across the street but miles away in every other respect is this cavernous place, complete with a waterfall against one stone wall. Where to begin? The shape of the bar wouldn’t have been inappropriate for a swimming pool, although somewhat smaller. Nice dark wood top with green tile sides. The floor is an interesting combination of tiles and wood. Cylindrical lights made up of rectangles of stained glass hang above the bar. Over the frozen margarita machines in the middle of the bar hangs a cluster of large metal star shaped lights. More of these hang elsewhere in the dining area. These lights are reflected, to nice effect, in the large mirror behind the bar. The bar back is dark wood and flanking the large mirror are two mirror backed shelves. As you might imagine, they have a large selection of tequilas.

Festive pictures of Mexican street life adorn the walls as well as some of those chubby people by Fernando Botero. There are small round marble topped tables with stools by the front windows and a couple of square tables with chairs against the red brick wall opposite the longer portion of the bar (behind where I was sitting). A large metal candleholder sits by the door.

There is a very large and festive looking dining area in the back with a combination of chandelier-like lighting and green, yellow, and red carriage-style lights. They also have sidewalk seating but, again, on a day like this it was way too hot to sit out there.

Bar Man is predisposed to be suspicious of any bar that offers 25 flavors of any kind of drink, particularly margaritas and mojitos or, God forbid, martinis.

But I liked this place, I really liked it. The bartender was friendly and I got a bowl of chips with two kinds of salsa, one green and one red. They were both very good. He tried to convince me to try a passion fruit mojito but I was resolute and just took mine plain. He was very persuasive though and if this were my last bar he might have convinced me. Maybe next time.

I had a plain Mojito and it was excellent. Minty and tart with lime, in a tall glass, most refreshing on a day like this. Or any day, for that matter.

703) Dillon’s

Dillon’s is just down the street from Ye Olde Tripple Inn, at 254 West 54th Street, and across the street from Iguana. It is much smaller than it looks from outside. That is because it is totally separate from the dining area next door, or at least as far as I could tell, and has a separate doorway. It has an old wooden bar and looked like it could have been a decent enough place but it had a messy look to it. A bottle of bleach and some spray cleaner in a yellow bottle sat on the bar and a half eaten meal sat next to me on the bar the entire time I was there. When I sat down there was an empty glass, a crumpled napkin, and a dollar bill on the bar in front of the one of the only open stools. Now don’t get the impression that this place was busy, they were apparently taking applications for jobs so there were a lot of people filling out applications.

There was an interesting bar back with shelves and little wooden wine racks above. It looked like something you might find in a very old pharmacy. Opposite the bar was a nice cut glass mirror above wood paneling and the rest of the walls were painted kind of a sky-blue. There were a couple of televisions showing the Mets game.

Despite the messy look about the place the bartender spent all of her time, after serving me my rather expensive drink, talking to a couple of guys at the end of the bar. Now that wouldn’t have been so bad if she had actually cleared away the dirty dishes first, or at least stashed the cleaning products, but that would have been too much trouble. In fact she said, rather loudly (as she said everything else) that the only reason she came back to work here was because she didn’t have to do anything. I can kind of see why, I doubt if they got much repeat business. Then she, and one of the customers, proceeded to trash the night shift, who were considered to be worthless, other bartenders, owners of other bars, and on and on and on it went. As you can imagine the language was a bit on the vulgar side as well. I always say the bartender makes all the difference in the world, and this one sure did. I downed my drink and headed out and will certainly never return.

I had a Tanqueray and tonic, $7.50 for the dubious pleasure.

Three bars for the day and 703 for the year leaving 297 to go. Feels like the home stretch somehow.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Make New Friends, But Keep The Old

I headed back to the same general Times Square area that I visited on Friday, but this time stayed away from the in-your-face touristy places. Instead I hit a couple of older bars in the neighborhood and a couple of newer ones as well.

697) The Rum House

Located at 228 West 47th between 8th and Broadway is this piano bar that is affiliated with the Edison Hotel, right next door. The separate entrance and somewhat funky interior keeps it miles apart from the standard hotel bar, especially ones like the one I was in Friday at the Hilton. The place was empty when I got in there a bit before noon but it probably kicks it up a notch or two at night. The main, non-piano, bar is L shaped and has a hammered coppered top with a wood paneled front and a brass rail. Black wooden bar chairs have padded black vinyl seats and backs. Two large round ceiling fixtures have what look like electric versions of kerosene lanterns hanging from them. The bar back is fairly plain wooden shelving. Not much in the way of decoration back there, mostly framed licenses, special tax stamps, and, most colorful of all, the poster that shows you what to do if you encounter a choking victim. There were 5 very old and browning $2 bills in a picture frame and a Cheerios box that also added a bit of color. Four televisions were tuned to either FOX or ESPN and the big story seemed to be Rafael Palmeiro’s steroid use. One does have to wonder how you can take steroids inadvertently. I mean, do these guys just slurp down anything someone hands them? Oh, and by the way, my forearms just happened to grow two inches.

The V shaped piano bar in the back is smaller and plain wood. Pictures of performers and happy customers grace that corner of the room.

I had a bottle of Bass Ale.

698) Hurley’s

Not far away at 232 West 48th Street is this bar that has been around since 1892, but not in this location. Interestingly, in the 1930’s when John D. Rockefeller decided to construct the Rockefeller Center (sounds a bit like Donald Trump) Hurley’s refused to sell their property (no eminent domain back then, I guess) and so the 6th Avenue fa├žade of the 70 story RCA building had to be redesigned with a recess to accommodate the four story bar.

Even if it is in a new location, there is the real ambience of a classic, and classy, Irish bar with the requisite gregarious Irish bartender, as classic as the bar itself. There are good sized dining areas both upstairs and in the back. Opposite the bar are a couple of high round tables with chairs and one comfortable looking booth with a fringed shaded light hanging over the table and a large gold-framed mirror on the red wall.

The bar has a dark patterned marble top with a wood front and a brass rail. Cherry-wood looking bar chairs with padded burgundy leather seats offered a comfortable place to park one’s butt. A fairly ornately carved bar back with arches over mirrors behind tiered shelves for the liquor. Two good sized brass beer stations on the bar each had 10 spigots for a decent selection of beers. Lots of baseball caps were mounted above the mirrors, mostly with a nautical theme to them. There were three good sized plasma TVs and lots of pictures of old New York and framed memorabilia on the walls, including a somewhat obligatory, for an Irish bar, picture of J.F.K. There were more nautically themed pictures up front. The walls were covered in a combination of dark paneling and golden-tan wallpaper with a subtle leaf design.

I chatted with the bartender about bars in the neighborhood, how they were changing, and the few classics that remained. He gave me a couple of good selections that I will be following up on in the not too distant future.

I had a Tanqueray and tonic.

699) Social

Moving up 8th Avenue to 795, between 48th and 49th Streets is this newer looking bar that doesn’t quite smell broken in yet. Nicely done though. This place has three levels to it as well as a rooftop area. There is another full-service bar on the second floor as well as a VIP-like lounge area. The bar itself, at least the downstairs one, is old looking with hooks under an overhang for garments, purses, and whatever. The bar has a darker wood front and a tile foot rest. Wooden bar chairs have black leather-like seats held in place with large, silver-headed tacks. Two silver beer stations were mounted on the bar with 10 spigots each. Must be a new standard set-up. The same ten beers were poured out of both stations though so there wasn’t a real large selection, nothing too esoteric. Blue Moon Belgian Ale was probably the best bet, if you like that type of beer. There was a decent enough bar back but not overly ornate, more manufactured looking than carved. There were three built in plasma televisions above five rectangular mirrors. The mirrors on each end and in the middle were longer than they were high and had, respectively, “Beer,” “Wine,” and “Spirits” etched on them. The mirrors between them were higher than they were wide and had “Social” etched on them. Tiered shelves held the liquor.

The wall opposite the bar had high banquettes with brown high backs and narrow seats and a foot rests below them. Below the seats were multi-colored tiles that matched the narrow band immediately in front of the bar. Above the banquettes were tiny, shiny square mosaics. Towards the back, next to the seating, the wall was brick and there were small tables, a ledge for drinks, and more stools. A couple of light fixtures hung from small recessed squares of tin ceiling and red lights above grained plastic provided the rest of the light. There was also a raised dining area in the back. I will have to drop back later in the evening one day to see how this place fills up.

I had a stiff Tanqueray and tonic, no complaints about it at all.

700) Latitude

Heading back down 8th Avenue towards the subway I passed this place at 783 8th Avenue between 47th and 48th. This place was also three stories and had a roof-top area. Not that surprising because I found out it had the same owners as Social and opened at about the same time, somewhere around St. Patrick ’s Day. My nose knew that other place wasn’t broken in yet. Well, as I have mentioned earlier, this area, still in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, is undergoing a massive change and someone is betting big money that it is going to pay-off. You have to have confidence that there is a customer base to open two big places within a block of each other. I wonder if these guys have anything to do with HK.

I liked this place a lot better than Social, but that might just have been because the bartender was friendlier, at least to me. Now don't get me wrong, the bartender at Social was in no way unfriendly, she just had more customers to deal with and couldn't give me as much of her undivided attention (pout). I didn't even get the chance to warm her up enough to ask if I could take her picture. Oh well, Michelle more than made up for it.

Michelle, The Mixologist

For some reason this place had a vaguely Asian look to it. I think it was the lights; they had a Japanese lantern look to them. The setup behind the bar also had clean lines and reinforced the Asian look. Nothing over the top though, not like they had pictures of dragons or Samurai or anything. They did have a lot of televisions. There is even a television above a fireplace in the back. Instead of the standard 10 spigot station they had three pairs of stations with 5 spigots each. Probably the same under-the-bar setup though. The walls were interesting, gray, looking somehow like pressed stone. The floor looked kind of like solidified lava. Lot’s of money went into these places and, again, I would like to come back and see how they are doing at night. They seem to have a primarily Mexican menu.

I chatted with the bartender and she seemed interested in my journey. She was relatively new to New York and really hadn’t had a chance to check out too many bars in the area. She had friends coming in to town and said she would use my blog as a guide as to where to take them (she also seemed to share an affinity for dive bars). I, of course, graciously offered my services as a guide and she said she might take me up on it. I will probably end up with the Mysterious Chinese Woman chaperoning the tour.

I had a Tanqueray and tonic and then, being in a conversational mood, asked Michelle to make me her favorite cocktail. She whipped me up a most tasty concoction that she called a Mojito. Well, it was very good, but it wasn’t really a Mojito, which calls for rum. She used Cachaca instead, but with the same recipe as a Mojito. It was quite good though. I tend to like Cachaca, at least the good stuff, as an interesting alternative to rum. She used a brand called Ypioca that seems to be gaining in popularity. I recommend that you try it, either as a substitute for rum in a Mojito or in the more traditional, for Cachaca, Caipirinha. Or, branch out a bit and try some other Cachaca based drinks, the Batida for example, which basically substitutes pineapple for the lime.

A most pleasant day. Quite a change from Friday (except for B.B. Kings). I hit four bars and made the 700 Club. Just 300 to go for the year.

Monday, August 01, 2005


I headed out to my sister-in-law's house in New Jersey for the week-end to celebrate another sister-in-law's birthday. Great fun, good eats (I again pulled duty as the master smoker), noisy children, and ice-cream cake. The only down side is that I had no time to hit bars and probably won't get to my next one until tomorrow. I thought I would take the opportunity to again post a reminder to clear your calendar for August 20th when there will be a party at Duffs in Williamsburg, bar number 750 on my march toward 1000.

Duff's is on North 3rd and Kent about one block from the East River. It has an outdoor area where, I believe, there may be a BBQ of some sort. At the very least it provides a place to have a smoke. Jimmy Duff, the owner, has agreed to an early, for him, 4:00 P.M. opening and has assured me that everyone will have a great time.

Williamsburg is easily reached by subway, either the L from Manhattan or the G from Brooklyn. The bar is a scenic walk away once you arrive. Just don't get so distracted by the numerous bars you might pass that you fail to show.

This should be a real hoot because I understand Jimmy can throw one hell of a party.