Thursday, September 22, 2005

Hello New York

I took a day off yesterday to recuperate from my travels but headed out today to get back at it again. New York is always such an experience after you have been away for awhile. You have to readjust to the crowds, for one thing but one ride on the subway pretty much takes care of that.

802) Mexico Lido

A Mexican bar and restaurant at the corner of 2nd Avenue and 26th Street that has a touch of elegance to it. The relatively small bar is at the very back and is big enough to accommodate seven dark wooden chairs with dark brown leather-like plastic seats. The bar has a nice new-looking wooden top that sits on top of mottled turquoise blocks with a multi-hued turquoise mosaic trim at the top. A wooden overhang above the bar has racks for glasses of various sizes and shapes. Small blue lights in a plastic tube ring the inside of the overhang. Mirror backed wooden shelves behind the bar hold the liquor and there is a decent selection of tequilas. Above the bottles is a narrow wine rack holding two rows of wine bottles.

There is a large colorful painting on the brick wall to the left of the bar that depicts some kind of a festival, complete with a mariachi band, singers, and fireworks, that is taking place on the beach of a small bay. A row of tables runs down the center of the room and a mirror placed at the end of the row by the door makes the place look much larger than it really is. Salmon-colored padded benches line each wall and one is tucked into a nook by a window up front. There are tables in front of the benches and all the tables have white tablecloths and nice place settings. That, coupled with the chandelier hanging from the ceiling creates an almost formal atmosphere.

To the right of the bar on the 26th Street side is a narrow dining area that is separated from the larger room by a wall with two arched windows that flank the arched doorway. The tables there take full advantage of the wall to wall windows. There are large plants sitting on the ledges of the two arched windows and a picture and a mirror hang on the pale beige wall. This little area has a separate door that you can enter from 26th Street. Up front by the door on 2nd Avenue is a large section of wall covered by photos of customers and what I take to be the owner’s family.

The chips and salsa were very good and the margarita prices looked reasonable. I was tempted but it was a bit early in the day so I stuck to a bottle of Pacifico Clara.

803) Failte

This Irish bar is just down the street a bit at 531 2nd Avenue. Failte means welcome in Gaelic and the crowd of regulars seemed to be welcome indeed. As a bit of an interloper I was pretty much ignored but the bartender did provide quick service so I have no complaints. The bar is quite interesting. It looks as though it was just hewn out of a large log. It is well polished and varnished on top but the edge is rough and irregularly shaped. The front is rough wood planking and there is a silver foot rail. The seating is a bit of a mixed collection of wooden stools and chairs. The wall behind the bar is rough brick with rough hewn cupboards and shelves holding the liquor. There are a couple of decent sized flat-screen televisions hanging back there and little white Christmas lights are draped above. Bare yellow light bulbs hang over the bar from a timbered tan cement ceiling. The floor is rough wooden planking.

The opposite wall is a combination of brick and mottled dark beige plaster. Upfront the lower half of the plaster wall is rough wood paneling with a ledge on top. This pattern is repeated on the next section of brick wall. The section furthest back has a large fireplace...There is back room with a pool table and an upstairs that I didn’t get a chance to visit.

There was an almost Monty Python like discussion on grammar taking place between a middle aged man and woman at one end of the bar. It seemed to revolve around the proper use of “he” and “I” versus “him” and “me” in a variety of situations. I mean this conversation just would not stop. Somehow “I came,” I went,” “I saw” also entered into it as well as the word “hopefully.” What made it more surreal was the fact that both of the people were well into their cups. It really got good when they began to attempt to quote Shakespeare to back up their opinions. I left when they began to discuss algebra and why, in their opinions, it made no sense to substitute letters for numbers.

I had a Dewars and soda.

804) L’Annam

A Vietnamese restaurant on the corner of 3rd Avenue and 28th Street. Just a small bar with only 2 stools. The bar has a redwood top and light wood front. What looks like a bamboo bridge hangs overhead. The bar back is light wood and glass shelves. There is a large clear glass cylindrical vase with tall curly green bamboo shoots sitting at the hostess station to the right of the bar. A very friendly hostess, Peggy, who was most attentive and kept my little glass filled with Sake.

Peggy, The Attentive And Chatty Hostess

The walls look like large, light wood-grained siding and the floors are highly polished wood. The walls up front are more of a large light and dark beige checkerboard pattern. There are a lot of curved booths and wrap-around windows on two sides.

I had a chilled bottle Hakushika sake and it was quite tasty. They also offered a domestic sake that sold for the same price but was only a 2/3 the size. Kind of a no brainer to choose the Japanese one. Of course this led to a discussion with Peggy about which was better and whether you would buy a tequila made in the United States that cost more than one made in Mexico (we agreed we would by the Mexican one).

805) Vertigo

Located on the corner of 3rd Avenue and 26th Street this has almost an open air feel to it. Of course it was a beautiful day so it was only appropriate that the wraparound glass doors were wide open. This is another one of the new places that are gradually replacing the more dive-like Irish bars that used to line this avenue. Of course I consider anything less than twenty years old to be new. It has a nice long bar complete with an old-looking gray painted foot rail. The chairs have brown leather-like seats and backs. Modern looking black shelves and cabinets with long three tier shelves of liquor behind the bar. There is an ochre plastered wall behind the bar. Above them are five nice flat-screened televisions. The other wall is a combination of flat gray and brick. The tables are rough wood and have chairs of the same design as the ones at the bar. A nice, noisy place with a lively crowd and a friendly bartender.

Liz, The Friendly Bartender

I had a Dewars and Soda

806) Grand Saloon

This would be an easy to dismiss bar on a busy street, 23rd between 3rd and Lexington, but they claim to have been around since 1880. In the late nineteenth century the building was known as the St. Blaize Hotel & Restaurant and was reputed to be one of the best and busiest brothels in New York. Supposedly “Diamond” Jim Brady made this his home away from home. There is a good sized wooden bar. The shellac is almost black from age. Just a black, almost rubber stair-tread foot rest. The chairs are kind of cute though with kind of huggy armrests and back with maroon and gray patterned fabric seats. The bar back is old wooden cabinetry with shelves, arches, mirrors, and cabinets. Lots of liquor piled up on shelves and underneath the cabinets. Kind of bagel shaped lights hang over the bar and some elegant looking helmet shaped crenulated glass lights hang from the ceiling elsewhere.

The walls are dark rose and there is a lot of dark wood paneling, ledges, booths, and more chairs elsewhere. Several small televisions are strewn about the place. The ceiling is tan painted patterned tin. There is a nicely patterned tan and black tile floor. There is a back dining area. I am not sure what the menu is like but the onion rings and chicken wings that they were serving at the bar looked and smelled great. I would have been tempted if I didn’t have dinner waiting at home. The back room has another smaller bar and a fireplace. I liked the selections being played on the jukebox too, ranged from the Eurythmics to New Riders of the Purple Sage.

I had a Dewars and soda and headed home.

Not a bad "first" day back. Five bars bringing my total to 806 for the year and leaving 194 to go. I will probably be taking a few days off. I am doing a guest bartending gig at Bellevue tomorrow night and Sunday I am going to a Jets game. Saturday will probably be spent getting stuff ready for the game. Even though it is a 1:00 P.M. game my buddy Bernie will be picking me up at 8:00 A.M. Did I mention that he likes to tailgate. I will need Saturday for advance preparations. I am responsible for bringing a large quantity of my special homemade Sangria as well as chicken wings. A new place did open up in my neighborhood though so there is a slight chance that I might hit one bar on Saturday.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Bye Bye Minneapolis

Today it was back to New York. I thought I would be able to hit a few bars at the airport before I left but that was not to be. The Minneapolis airport is, to put it politely, a work in progress. It has two terminals, the main one is the Lindbergh Terminal and that is the one with all of the bars. The one that I was flying out of is the Humphrey Terminal, and that one has only one bar. These terminals are not very close to each other. A light rail system that runs all the way to downtown Minneapolis connects the two terminals but it is a long, long walk from that to the Humphrey Terminal so once we got there we just parked ourselves and I could only hit the one bar.

801) Grandaddy’s Bar

This is a nice looking airport bar with a nautical theme to it. There is an old, wooden-hulled Chris Craft speedboat on display behind the bar. A small wooden skiff hangs above the entrance. The bar itself is good-sized and has a light wood-grained Formica top with a darker wood armrest and front. The shape of the bar suggests the prow of a boat. The footrest is blue-shaded tiles that, I guess, are meant to suggest water. The bar chairs have metal legs with nautical blue seats and backs. The overhang above the bar is pretty much a mirror image of the bar but with multi-colored flared cone-shaped glass shaded lights hanging from it.

Bar Man Having His Last Beer In Minneapolis

Curved wooden booths are against the wall to the right of the bar and pictures of old speedboats and advertisements for boat-works hang on the yellow walls. The bar is separated from the security check only by a low railing so it has a bit more of an open feel to it than I really like. They are starting to remodel the place so I don’t know what it will look like a couple of weeks from now. The bartender said it is just going to affect the area behind the bar where you can look out the windows at the airplanes.

I had a Samuel Adams Octoberfest.

Just one bar today bringing my total for the year to 801 and leaving 199 to go. I am going to try to hit 825 bars before I leave for Spain next Sunday. Anything can happen in Spain, but I do have high hopes for significant progress while I am there. I hope that I will be able to post from there but that will depend upon the availability of internet cafes.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Downtown Minneapolis

I decided today would be a nice day to take a bit of a nostalgic trip to downtown Minneapolis where Bar Man once lived and worked. My buddy Jerry (he was at Maxwell’s) still works down here so I figured I could meet him for a drink as well. Sandy, my hostess with the mostess, decided to take half a day off and head out with me and The Mysterious Chinese Woman.

797) Brass Rail

I know, What happened to Augie’s? Well, it is a strip club and I was with two women, but that alone would not dissuade Bar Man. However, the fact that it didn’t open until 5:00 P.M. did. Ah well, one can’t hit them all. There is a nice old wood-grained Formica-topped bar with a brown padded arm rest. The foot rest is a dark linoleum and there are padded burgundy bar chairs. Glass shelves behind the bar hold the liquor and the shelves are decorated with pink Christmas lights. There are mirrors behind the shelves and they are flanked with small green, red, and orange lights. A small nebbish looking naked guy with a small erect penis and wearing a green light shade on his head also sits on the bar. The general ambience is quite cheerful.

Co-Managers Tim And Greg

Old style light fixtures hang from the dark ceiling and opposite the bar the wall is lined with mirrors, some of them quite fancy. A ledge for setting down your drinks runs the length of the wall just opposite the bar and there are tables in the back.

Bar Man, Sandy, and The Mysterious Chinese Woman In The Back

There is also a small bar in the back that is open at night when the place gets more crowded. There were pull tabs available but Sandy let us down. No winners. Maybe she is only lucky in American Legion clubs.

I had a bottle of Budweiser.

798) Happy Hour Bar in the Gay 90’s

The Gay 90’s is a large place that has two separate bars that are quite distinct in their décor. Unfortunately the much more elaborately appointed, and larger, side was closed. The Happy Hour Bar was doing a good business though and this is where I met Jerry. The bar had scalloped edges and was dark wood with what looked to be inlaid marble decorations. Plain wooden bar stool. Despite the no smoking laws in Minneapolis (even stranger than in New York, it isn’t state wide so you can still smoke in some counties) you can still buy cigarettes in bars. Camels and Kools were being offered for $4.25 a pack from a display behind the bar. There was also a vase of yellow and red flowers next to the cash register and that was about it for color in this nicely dark retreat from the harsh reality of a beautiful sunny day. I love to sit in dark bars and listen to the patrons sit for hours discussing how unusually nice the weather is.

The walls in here are either brick or wood paneled with mirrors and the ceiling is painted black with exposed ventilation ducts. There is a Silver Streak Bowling machine. A television above the bar was showing some kind of a sit-com but underneath was a jukebox that playing away. In the back is a crawl sign displaying information such as the Happy Hour hours (just about all day) and reminders that smoking is not allowed.

I had a rum and Coke.

799) Murray’s

This place has been around forever (as have the Brass Rail and Gay 90’s). It was considered one of the very best restaurants in Minneapolis back in the 50’s and well beyond that. In fact when I was up at Rainy Lake Donna took a book out of the library that was a photo essay of classic restaurants in Minneapolis. Murray’s was featured and is one of the few still standing. It doesn’t look like it has changed that much since it opened, but I hear it is about to be remodeled in the near future. Bar Man laments this but, although it has been lovingly maintained, nothing lasts forever, except some of the wait staff. You have to go at night to see them though, the fairly small day staff are relatively new.

The bar in the front is a good sized classic bar, dark wood, etched glass, brown bucket bar chairs, bottles and glasses behind the bar. Very nice.

Martine With Bar Man And The Mysterious Chinese Woman

After having a drink at the bar we went in for a leisurely late lunch and had the famous Golden Butter Knife Steak. This is a large porterhouse steak for three people and it is delicious, as you might imagine. You really can cut it with a butter knife. There is a reason this place has been around so long. Interestingly, Martine, our very friendly bartender and waiter, once lived in Brooklyn not too far from Peter Lugers, possibly the only restaurant that could rival Murray's porterhouse (and has been around just about as long, if not longer).

The dining room is all drapery, hanging chandeliers, plush dining booths with little marble dining tables, and mirrors.

Sandy And Bar Man In The Pink

The Elegant Dining Room

If you are ever in Minneapolis be sure to drop in here and visit this classic.

I had a Bombay Martini at the bar before lunch.

800) Ike’s

Right next door is a newer place designed to capture the same general era as Murray’s, but in more of a Rat Pack kind of way.

They do a good job of it too. I thought the name was intended to be evocative of Eisenhower but it turns out to be the name of the owner’s uncle or something. I got the story the last time I was here but that was a year ago and I forgot. Last year I had lunch here and they were featuring turkey. It was great and the portions were huge.

But that was last year. The top of the U shaped bar is marble and it is edged with brown wood. The open end towards the door is wear the carving station is located. Overhead cabinets hold glasses and bottles of wine and four televisions. They do have 12 beers on draft and a decent selection. There is a large sign announcing that Ike’s is open for breakfast every day at 7:00 A.M. Ah, eggs and a bloody Mary, great way to start the day. There are large tiered wire baskets holding oranges and limes and lemons with bottles of wine in the top basket. Large bowl shaped lights hang from the ceiling. Large urns of flowers flank the doorway in front of the carving station.

Bar Man Enjoying His Beer At The Bar

Large painted floral scenes, mirrors, and various pictures that reinforce the early 60’s them of the place decorate the walls. Also a number of signs with such witty sayings as “Before you give someone a piece of your mind, make sure you can get along with what is left.” Bar Man nearly fell of his bar stool he laughed so hard (not).

I had a Rush River beer.

A very pleasant day. I hit four bars today and, as you probably already guessed I would, made number 800 for the year here in Minnesota leaving me with 200 to go. I will probably hit at least one more at the airport before I head back to New York.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Bash At Bob's

After a pretty strenuous Saturday the plan was to just lay low today and take in the Vikings game with a few friends. Hah, let’s simply say laying low wasn’t exactly in the cards.

796) Bob’s Bar (AKA Bob’s Birdhouse Bar)

My friend Rico owns a little bar in his basement in Eden Prairie where he will graciously provide drinks at a reasonable price. He will even pick up special guests and personally chauffeur them to his place.

Service can’t get much better then this, even though in our case it amounted to being chauffeured from the garage to the front door. He took the scenic route though so it was worth it.

This is a great little bar with a friendly bartender and a lively crowd. It has a small light blond wood bar with a brass rail. Wooden chairs match the bar and the backs of the chairs have an ornate carved pattern to them. The chairs swivel too. This is always a source of great amusement to Bar Man as he gets into his cups. The beer and liquor is stored under the bar with a few more bottles sitting on top of a light wooden cupboard behind and to the right of the bar. Glasses are also stored here. A “Bob’s Bar” sign behind the bar was made by the proprietor’s wife, Sandy and it is draped bit little Christmas lights.

It was Sandy's first attempt at doing wood-burning and I thought she did a stellar job.

The price list hangs under the sign and the drinks are only a dollar no matter what you have, except for that damn first margarita. It will get you every time.

Squint And You Will See The First One Is $10

Even if you don’t order one a small one will appear in front of you in a shot glass and if you are foolish enough to drink it you may end up paying the price.

A Lite light is behind the bar and a Mixer’s sign hangs on the wall to the left.

Bar Man Sharing A Drink With Sandy And Rico (AKA Bob)

You may remember that Mixer’s was where Maxwell’s is now and was a favorite hangout back in the day. Opposite the bar is a heavy round wooden table and four matching heavy stools. In fact, they were all custom made out of the same large piece of wood. Bob’s spares no expense in his décor.

The decorations have a decidedly outdoor flair; carved wooden fish, an old fishing pole, and a couple of creels. The walls are papered to make the place look like a log cabin and the effect is pretty solid. Mardi Gras style beads hang from a mirror where thare are deer antlers (although they must have come from a very small deer, probably one that Bob shot).

There is an old red gumball machine next to it. A scrawny Christmas tree sits in a corner next to the narrow windows high on one wall.

Friends showed up, Gus and his wife Linda, and a great time was had by all except for the fact that we had to watch the Vikings go down in flames for the second week in a row.

Everyone Having A Great Time

You may remember my telling you how terrible the game was that we watched at the Elk’s club. Well this one was far worse.

At some point I think the owner was contemplating converting his place from a sports bar to a topless bar.

Oh a brighter note, the Jets won, but then I think they always beat Miami.

I had a wide variety of drinks and although I hit only one bar for the day, it couldn’t have been a better one. Of course this bar hits back a bit. This made 796 for the year leaving but 204 to go.