Saturday, October 01, 2005

Prequel To Spain

The Mysterious Chinese Woman’s brother and sister stopped by last night. Her sister is going to Spain with us and she is spending the night so we can all leave for the airport from here. We decided to condition our taste buds by going to a Spanish Restaurant (and bar) in the neighborhood.

824) La Mancha

There has been a Spanish restaurant in this vicinity ever since I moved into the neighborhood over 20 years ago. Originally there was one on the corner a couple of doors down. When the owner decided to retire he sold the place and a number of the waiters and the chef opened a place of their own a few doors down. They are now gone as well and the location has been taken over by new owners.

Somewhat sadly it has been remodeled and no longer has quite the air of authenticity that it once did. The old wooden bar where you could often find a few older Spanish gentlemen drinking wine and playing dominoes has been replaced by a grey and red veined marble top with a light wooden front and brass rail. The authentic blood stained bullfighter’s cape and flags that the banderilleros stick in the bulls back have been replaced by posters of bullfighters. Not exactly the same. The old dark wood stools look like they be about the only thing left of the old place.

The bar back is also a new looking light wood affair with mirror backed wooden tiered shelves of liquor and wine. Two racks of glasses hang from the ceiling just behind the bar. Above the bar small rippled glass shaded lights hang from chains. Behind the bar a statue of a black bull sits on the silver cash register and a statue of Don Quixote stands behind it. The bar is L shaped and the small end of it is immediately in front of floor to ceiling windows open to the cool night air which was pleasant. The floor is an interesting tile, alternating light and dark tan with somewhat of a wood grained look to it.

While I was talking to the bartender while having my drink at the bar we discussed the history of the place. She told me not to just compare it to the old place. My guess is that a lot of people do this and the new place doesn’t fare too well. I will say I liked the food in the old place a lot better. I ordered octopus Galician style as an appetizer and it was nothing like I expected or ever had before. It was more like warmed up octopus out of a can with paprika sprinkled on top. But, my job is not to write restaurant reviews. The service was good and everyone was more than pleasant.

I had a Sapphire Bombay Martini, up with a twist.

Just the one for the day bringing my total to 824 for the year and leaving 176 more to go. I will probably hit one or two bars at the airport tomorrow before I head off to Spain, but won't be posting for at least a few days. I am hoping I will find internet cafes while I am there so I can keep everyone up to date with my travels. I am really looking forward to this leg of the journey.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Stardom Looms

Well, not really. I did sit for a filmed interview with Jim Miller of IKO Productions. He is doing an independent film about bars and just got back from Ireland. He had already done a segment on bars in New York, specifically bars on 3rd Avenue. He was back in town to do some follow-up shots and wanted to talk to me in a 3rd Avenue Bar. Well, can’t get much more 3rd Avenue than Third And Long. By the way, Jim and his crew visited 73 bars on 3rd Avenue during their initial shooting. It is people like this that bring tears of joy to Bar Man’s eyes.

822) Jackson Hole

Not the Jackson Hole that I visited earlier this year but one that looks a bit older and more authentic. I wasn’t planning on stopping anywhere else but Third And Long, but this place was right next door at 521 3rd Avenue and I got to my interview a bit early. I saw Curtis, the manager or owner of Third And Long outside and he said that Jim had called and set everything up and should be there shortly. I decided to take advantage of the situation by popping into Jackson Hole for a quick one.

This place has the same general set-up as the other one. There is a small bar up front next to the short-order station where hamburgers were sizzling away. There is much more of a western feel to this place with more wood. The stairwell leading down stairs is lined with cowboy pictures and the entryway also has western style photos. There is a fireman’s helmet and a set of steer horns on the narrow passageway to the dining area in back.

The bar is fairly small and made of wood. It is L shaped and does have room for nine wooden chairs with patterned burgundy cloth seats. There is a breakfront behind the bar that is fairly fancy with mirrors and shelves for liquor. A television is mounted high on the wall to the left of the bar but within sight of the patrons. A large wooden rack for glasses hangs over the bar. Behind me is just the cashier/hostess at her station.

I didn’t stay long, just dumped down a Sam Adams and headed next door.

823 Third And Long

Right on the corner of 3rd Avenue and 35th Street is this Irish sports bar. It is a good-sized place with a long wooden bar sporting three classic brass beer stations with six spigots each. Just a cement-block like foot rest and wooden bar chairs with green seats. Amber shaded lights hang over the bar. Behind the bar are shelves of liquor and lots of fireman insignias. Apparently this place attracts a lot of firemen. Unfortunately, because I was busy with my interview, I didn’t take a lot of notes in here. When I got done with the interview I also got into a long discussion with Gene, the bartender. He writes a sports column for a neighborhood newspaper and was interested in setting up a blog.

Gene The Bartender

Except for the area immediately around the bar that is slate tile the rest of the floor is wood. There are windows on two sides and the walls are brick up front There are several televisions including three nice ones behind the bar. In the front are two high, but small, metal topped tables with stools next to the windows and there are low benches with metal tables and wooden stools in the paneled back area.

Jim bought me a Guinness, then I bought Jim a Guinness, then Gene bought me a Guinness. No wonder I didn’t take many notes. Do stop in though, the place is very nice and everyone was most friendly and they pour an excellent Guinness.

Curtis has a website called The Diary of Third & Long where he chronicles his days at and around the bar. In today’s entry he does mention my visit and even includes a picture. You can get there by clicking below.

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  • A bit better day than I anticipated with two, not one, bars hit making it 823 for the year and leaving 177 more to go.

    Thursday, September 29, 2005

    The Real End Of Spring

    Fall has definitely arrived with freezing temperature upstate New York and cool and damp down here in the city. Even worse, it is now dark when I wake up in the morning. I am not ready for this.

    818) Schiller’s Liquor Bar

    I headed back to the general area where I finished up yesterday and found Schiller’s at 131 Rivington. Actually it is hard to miss and Bar Man does appreciate the large and unambiguous signage.

    It is a large place and has a bit of an unusual décor for a “Liquor Bar.” It looks like it could have been a soda fountain, the kind of place where Mickey Rooney would jump up and say “Let’s put on a play.” The curved bar has a silver metallic top with a dark wood front and a silver foot rail. The bar stools are standard, dark wood with dark leather seats fastened with large-headed brass tacks. Two silver bar stations that match the top of the bar sit on top of it and have the mysterious unmarked handles so you have to consult the menu to see what they have. Not a very inspirational either. Also sitting on the bar were trays of donuts and rolls and bowls of fruit and yogurt. What kind of bar food is that? Behind the bar is a ceiling high mirror back set of shelves that hold an impressive selection of liquor. There is a dark wooden cabinet with drawers with white knobs along with metal coolers down below. I am not sure how you would retrieve the bottles from the top though, I didn’t see any ladders. Maybe they are just for display and the working stock is stored in a more accessible location.

    The walls are white ceramic tiles that, unfortunately, remind me of a public restroom. Don’t get me wrong though, the place is clean and has no smell. The windows on two sides also have that public restroom look, kind of opaque with embedded chicken wire. I wonder what this place was before the area began to become gentrified and restaurants and bars took over the space. A cool, in fact chilly, breeze was blowing through the place on this overcast and rainy day. The floor in here is made up of large black and white tiles. The ceiling is cream colored patterned tin with old-fashioned ceiling fans and industrial looking fluorescent lights with exposed tubes. Rows of numbered wine bottles line the top of the walls but they look like they are just there for show. Antique looking mirrors line the walls without windows and they are separated by subway station looking lights with what appears to be random letters and number on them. The manager said the only one that he knew of that meant something was the one by the door (SLB131). There are booths along the walls and tables in assorted shapes and sizes throughout the rest of the place. There are also thee or four square white ceramic columns with mirrors on all four sides.

    I had a Tanqueray and tonic.

    819) Juanita

    It was beginning to turn into a really nasty day when I ducked into this little Mexican restaurant and bar just down the street at 153 Rivington. It looked like the place might serve a decent margarita but the day didn’t seem to call for one. Just too cold outside and I was a bit damp. There is a nice dark wood bar with chrome bar stools that had spinning round black seats. A wooden frame mounted on the bar was festooned with red and green pepper lights. Not much of interest behind the bar, a bright rose colored wall and a couple of shelves of liquor, a sink, a cooler, and a frozen margarita machine. A nice back-lit panel with a decoupage of bright Mexican doilies and some cutouts of masks and a skull sits high up on the wall.

    The wall to the right of the bar, up by the windows and door, is pea-soup green and has a great display of small versions of weird movie posters.

    Hanging above the little dining area are a number of lights with shades decorated with doilies like the ones behind the bar. The wall opposite the bar matches, in color, the wall behind the bar and has dark booths with green seats. A large bright poncho is mounted up front and little lamps hang above the tables. They are broken though. The bartender says that customers keep swatting them. I suggested that maybe he should mount them a bit higher up because they do look like they would be in the way.

    In the back is a round, outdoor type, picnic table with an umbrella decorated with little white lights. Next to that the green and white striped wall is covered with a number of brightly colored sombreros and right next to them are some wooden mariachi players. Across from the table is a dark wood trellis decorated with flowers and an interesting looking light.

    There weren’t any other people at the bar or eating in here but there was a brisk business with people, most of whom seemed to know each other, coming in for takeout. I got the impression that they all worked or went to school nearby.

    I had a Dewars and soda to take of the chll.

    820) Apolo

    I walked around quite a bit but didn’t see any more bars in the neighborhood that were open, too early in the day. I made a bit of a tactical error and headed to Delancey Street and it is pretty commercial along that stretch. I was really getting chilly and damp when, right across the street from the entrance to the Williamsburg Bridge, I found this kind of a hole-in-the-wall. It is one of those combination Chinese/Mexican restaurants and take-out places that seem to be unique to New York. Not much of a bar at all, more of a bright red counter with a couple of stools. A very small selection of liquor, but enough for the Bar Man. The decorations in here consisted primarily of photos of family members and friends of the owners (I presume) and a couple of large red ball shaped Asian style lamps.

    I didn’t stick around here long. I ordered a Dewars and soda but they didn’t have any Dewars so I ended up getting a Johnny Walker Red Label on the rocks and then added a splash of water. It served to warm me up enough to get me to the next place.

    821) Bread

    This place was right next door to Room 18 back on Spring Street. When I went by it yesterday I couldn’t tell whether or not it was a bar, but it was crowded. It was crowded when I walked by it the first time today. It had cleared out enough so that I could get a seat at the bar/counter this time around. It would be pretty much a noisy lunch counter except for the fact that they had a pretty decent wine list. The bar has a white ceramic top and everyone but me seemed to be drinking either soft drinks or tea. The white painted brick walls did have some interesting original art hanging on them done by someone named Parantonkis.

    One end of the bar is taken up by a glass cabinet with loaves of bread and plastic containers of small tomatoes. Most of the area behind the bar is taken up by the very small “kitchen,” a couple of microwave ovens and a small shelf with bottles and glasses. There are more bottles stuck by their necks into holes in a white plywood rack on the wall behind and to the right of the bar. There is a nice silver painted patterned tin ceiling with a couple of overhead fans. A bit of a raised area in the back has a couple of booths and there are lots of small cafeteria type tables up front. Not exactly my cup of tea, but it was on the way back to the subway, it was cold and wet, and, well, of course, it did have a bit of a bar.

    I had a glass of Chianti and, best of all, the sun had come out and it had warmed up by the time I left.

    A bit of a miserable day but I did hit 4 bars to make 821 for the year with 179 to go. I doubt if I will make my 825 before heading to Spain though. Probably just one tomorrow when I do an interview at Third And Long. Saturday will be for packing but I might go out for dinner and sneak one in, and there is always the airport on Sunday. We shall see.

    Wednesday, September 28, 2005

    The End Of Spring

    Well, maybe not the end of the bars on Spring Street, but I did walk to the end of Spring Street where it hits the Bowery. The Bowery is booming. I remember the good old days with the derelicts and missions. Now there is nothing but construction equipment as condominiums, co-ops, and apartment buildings are being constructed. Many of them on top of existing structures that primarily house restaurant equipment supply houses.

    814) Lombardi’s Pizzeria

    A bustling pizza place on the corner of Mott and Spring that has a good sized wooden bar that wasn’t seeing any action. In fact, the waitress seemed to be a bit surprised to see me sitting at the end when she came back to pour a pitcher of beer for one of her tables. The tables along one side of the bar are uncomfortably close to it so although this is a large bar I suspect it isn’t primarily a drinking crowd that hangs out in here. The bar stools are wrought iron with oxblood padded seats. A beer station on the bar has four spigots. The back bar is plain dark wood with just a small area for liquor. Most of the space is taken up by a large espresso machine. There is a decent sized wine rack on the right side of the bar. Coolers, some with glass doors, sit down below. There are windows on two sides. A large rack of glasses hangs over the bar and a small colorful cartoon-like statue of Al Capone sits at one end.

    One small section of a wall is brick while the other one is dark plum. Most of the wall space on two sides are windows though. Pictures of celebrities and family members are on the walls and the narrow partitions between the windows on one side. The two largest pictures are of a pizzas, one with what I presume to be a couple of the owners standing behind it. A large mirror on the back wall has “Welcome to America’s First Pizzeria – Enjoy our slice of history” written in large red script upon it, Pretty much just a bunch of tables with red and white checked tablecloths. A couple of small benches by the windows on one side provide a place to sit while waiting for a table. Overhead fans and small metal shaded lights hang from the ceiling and the floor is orange tiles. The thin crust pizzas looked and smelled great. From the size of the crowd and the happy looks on the their faces my guess is that the pizzas taste good as well.

    I had a bottle of Peroni

    815) Room 18

    Just down a bit to 18 Spring Street is this nice little bar with no discernable sign outside. It is a cozy place that looks like a drawing room or parlor. The bar is curved with kind of a light wood top and it has a narrow foot rest. The wooden bar chairs have pale gray seats. Just a small back bar with tiered shelves of liquor above a black Beverage-Air cooler system. A large mirror with an ornate gilded frame hangs on the pea-soup green wall and it is flanked by two old style lamps mounted on the wall. A vase on one end of the bar holds a dried floral arrangement that seems to be mostly sticks. Two benches by the windows up front have a table and hassocks in front of them. The wall opposite the bar is brick and immediately opposite the bar are several round tables with square hassocks. Nice candle holders are mounted on the wall and I would imagine that at night, when they are lit, this is a very romantic place. There were also a number of unlit candles piled up at one end of the bar.

    The back area has tables with comfortable looking padded chairs. Against one wall is a padded bench with a narrow mirror immediately above it and light draped with crystals. On the opposite wall, that is brick, are cute little lights with small parchment-like shades and teardrop crystals. A fancy mirror hangs on the back wall.

    I had a bottle of Hoegaarden White.

    816) Barmarche

    On the corner at 14 Spring Street is this interesting restaurant and bar that looks a bit like a place to pop into for a pot of tea and some finger sandwiches. Bar Man has no shame. It is a full liquor bar though with a nice selection of single malt Scotches and an impressive selection of ports. The adequately sized bar has a bit of a soda fountain look to it with a very light marble top and a cream colored front with carved “columns” and patterned pieces fastened to it. No place to put your feet though except on the rungs of the wooden bar stools. The cream colored shelves behind the bar look like something you might find in the pantry of an English manor house, except they have mirrored backs. Over the bar hang two old looking chandeliers with lights that look like candles. It looks like it did hold candles at one time. They are probably pretty old a valuable because they are protected by cube shaped Plexiglas enclosures. An elaborate floral arrangement sits at one end of the bar. The beauty of the floral arrangement was overshadowed only by the good looks of Alysia, the bartender (shameless flattery in the hopes of getting a free drink the next time I stop in, but she was prettier).

    Alysia The Friendly And Pretty Bartender
    (compare her to the floral arrangement)

    A Better Look

    The walls are pale green with darker green curtains in the windows. A large photo of the head of a woman wearing a 1940’s style hat dominates the back wall. The ceiling looks to be patterned tin painted to match the walls. The floor is dark wood planking. Lots of little tables with chairs with green seats line the walls that are decorated with mirrors, small photos of women, and assorted light fixtures.

    After writing this I chatted with the owner a bit and found out that he and his partner did come over from England and opened this place. I guess my observations about the nature of the décor were well-founded.

    I had a glass of Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa.

    As I got off Spring Street and headed towards my next stop I passed this place. I was hoping there would be a bar behind that door but, alas, if there was one it was closed.

    What Is Behind The Door

    817) Loreley

    At 7 Rivington Street, between Bowery and Chrystie is this German beer hall type of place with a good-sized outdoor area that had heavy benches where you can sit and pound down beers. Overall the place is pretty Spartan designed for just drinking beer. The bar up front is a no frills with a flat light-wood top with a darker front and a wooden foot rest. The wooden encased beer station has a dozen German beers and, except for the Guinness, they are all German. If you are a Bud guy this is not your place. But then you could always order a Jever, Germany’s answer to Budweiser and, predictably as the menu states, “One of our most popular beers.” The German bartender said “Americans like it.”

    Gunter, The Bartender From Germany

    There are dark wooden shelves behind the bar with lots of bottles of wine, a large selection of beer glasses and mugs, and a fairly small selection of liquor. More Beverage Air coolers down below. I don’t know why that name caught my eye today. I will not mention them again.

    The walls that aren’t brick are a deep rose or vanilla with wood paneling on the lower half. Three lights with rippled glass shades hang above the bar. The front is solid windows. A cityscape of Köln hands on the wall opposite the bar and a map of Germany hangs on the wall to the left. There is also a large downstairs area with a good-sized television that opens up at night and when they have televised soccer games. They get GermanTV here. There are a lot of sofas and chairs down there and another smaller bar so it looks like a good place to take in a game. Just don’t root against Germany.

    They are having a combination two-year anniversary and Oktoberfest party this weekend and I would guess that it would be a lot of fun. If I wasn’t going to be heading off to Spain I would probably stop in.

    I had a draft Weihenstephan Hefe Weiss that supposedly comes from the world’s oldest brewery. It was very good but the next time I stop in I am having a bottle of Aventinus Weizen Eisbock, the strongest beer in the house and what the menu says is a very potent wheat beer.

    A fun day with four bars hit making 817 for the year and 183 left to go. My pace might slow down a bit on Friday because I am supposed to meet someone who has been traveling around the world doing a documentary on bars. He is going to be focusing on bars on Third Avenue here in Manhattan and wants to interview me. I guess the focus on Third Avenue might stem from the prominent role it played in the movie Lost Weekend. I will keep you posted on how it goes.

    Tuesday, September 27, 2005

    Spring Street Shuffle

    Not too far north from Little Italy is Spring Street and there are several bars along this little stretch. I don’t know whether I have hit them all but I will be back tomorrow to see what I missed. Spring Street doesn’t run the whole width of Manhattan and where it ends kind of marks the beginning of what is now know as the Lower East Side. I know there are bars over there, I have already been to some of them. Fertile area in this neck of the woods.

    810) The Spring Lounge

    This place on the corner of Spring and Mulberry is also known as The Shark Bar. You can get a hint of why from the picture on the exterior wall. This image also serves as the bar logo, at least on their tee-shirts. The bar is a somewhat small semi-circular and made out of dark wood. It has a metal edged foot rest. The beer station has 12 spigots and a reasonable selection of beers. The bar back is old wooden cabinets with shelves below for bottles and glasses and tiered shelves above for more bottles. Behind them are three plain mirrors plastered with photos of regular customers and one larger photo of Humphrey Bogart. There is also a rack of chips and pretzels. A large plastic shark with a hand hanging out of its mouth hangs above the bar along with a black tee-shirt featuring the bars shark logo. There are also some photos of sharks on the wall next to the windows on the Spring Street side. A nice red stained glass lamp hangs over the area behind the bar and a large American flag hangs in front of one of the windows to the right of the bar.

    There are large windows on both the Spring Street and Mulberry Street so even this is some what of a dark dive bar it does have a curiously open and airy feel to it. Wooden benches line the wall opposite the bar with wooden bench-like tables and stools in front of them. A row of smaller versions of the tables with stools runs down the center of the room. The ceiling is kind of a muddy oxblood painted patterned tin. There is lots of stuff strewn about, a collection of beer pull handles, some old beer cans from New York breweries, bar trivia reference books, an old broken guitar, a wide variety of pictures. It is kind of a cluttered place. There are also a few more large sharks mounted on the walls.

    811) Sui

    At 54 Spring Street is this modern Japanese restaurant, bar, and sushi bar. The top of the bar is a pale green Plexiglas lit from beneath by pale yellow lights. The front is also pale green with little fish patterns and there is a silver foot rail. The chairs are dark wood with a Japanese design and pale green fabric seats. The bar back is blond wood shelves broken up into small rectangular sections, each of which hold two or three bottles of liquor including a bottle of the fables Johnny Walker Blue Label in a satin lined box. For some strange reason a lot of the bottles that had pourers also had plastic cups covering the tops. Maybe this is to protect them from dust but it tends to detract a bit from the fancy set-up. Right over the entrance is a light fixture with narrow tubular lights that give off a soft yellow glow. The lights above the bar are blue and orange and shaped like large, inverted wine goblets. Opposite the bar the wall is painted with an underwater scene on top and seashells on a dark blue background below. The two halves are separated by a narrow light-wood ledge.

    To the right of the bar is a wide passage way to the dining area where the sushi bar is located. The passageway has a long black banquette along one wall. Round glass topped tables and black hassocks sit in front of it. Behind and above the banquette are two large fish tanks built into the wall. There are also fish tanks in the back along wit a more elegant setup for dining with tables with white linen tablecloths and fancy chairs. There is a sushi bar that has a waterfall behind it.

    The two bartenders were very pleasant and I chatted quite a bit with Christina who served me my flight of Sake.

    Christina, The Flight Attendant

    My flight of Sake consisted of a glass of Nigori, an unfiltered Sake that is milk colored and has a slight grainy texture to it (quite good though) and the more traditional Ginjo and Junmai Gingo.

    812) Gatsby’s

    Right across the street it this bar that is much larger than it looks from outside because it is quite deep. It has a good-sized light wood bar up front that has a narrow brick footrest. Just plain wooden bar chairs. An inverted U shaped beer station sports a dozen spigots. The wall behind the bar is brick with glass shelves for liquor. These are above a set of wooden cabinets and coolers with glass doors for beer and wine. Interesting metal shaded lights hang over the bar low enough and bright enough to blind you if you happen to glance up. Just your basic heads down drinking in here. The wall opposite the bar is salmon colored plaster on top and wood paneling below. Small tables and stools are up against the wall. There are several televisions in here including a couple of nice flat-screen behind the bar showing ESPN horse racing. There is a large projection television against the wall all the way in the back. Kind of fancy booths and another smaller bar are in the back as well.

    I had a Magic Hat #9.

    813) Spring Street Natural

    This is a large fancy looking restaurant and bar on the corner of Lafayette and Spring. In fact it is so elegant I thought the bartender should be wearing a jacket and tie instead of just a sweatshirt. The jazz playing on the sound system gives this a kind of 1920s feel and I expected an elegant cocktail in return. I was a bit disappointed because the bartender said they had no Maraschino cherries and so made me a dry Makers Mark Manhattan. I prefer mine perfect (half sweet and half dry Vermouth). He didn’t put in any bitters either. Oh well. He did make it big enough so that I could top it off after taking a few sips.

    There was a quite tipsy lady wearing oversized strands of pearls and drinking champagne at one end of the bar so that added a bit to the atmosphere. Another middle-aged woman at the other end of the bar seemed to be in direct competition with her for the bartender’s attention.

    The old wooden bar is kind of a crooked L shape with a brass rail. The bar chairs have woven coarse fabric seats. Old fashioned clear rippled glass shaded lights hang over the bar. The bar back is light wood with mirrors, glass shelves, and a black metal wine rack. Another set of shelves sit below along with a couple of coolers with wooden doors. A narrow panel of red stained glass lit from behind is above the wine bottles in the rack. There are large bouquets of flowers at each end of the bar...There is a good sized dining area and small tables and chairs line the walls in the bar area. Immediately opposite the long end of the bar and against the windows is a long wooden bench. A bartender in a jacket and tie with the ingredients and ability to make a good Manhattan would really improve this place.

    I had the aforementioned Makers Mark Manhattan.

    A good day, sunny, cool, pleasant part of town and four bars. Well, 813 down and just 187 to go. I am hoping to hit 825 bars for the year before leaving for Spain on Sunday. I will also need to take a Saturday off to get ready to go.

    Monday, September 26, 2005

    Little Italy Meets SoHo

    I met the Mysterious Chinese Woman and her even more mysterious mother in Chinatown for dim sum. After they both disappeared into a lavender poof of smoke I was left on my own. I had already hit many of the bars in Chinatown so I decided to head to nearby Little Italy. Unfortunately, most of the restaurants there only have small serving bars and the ones that had regular bars didn’t seem to be open yet. I did find one though.

    807) Taormina

    Towards the north end of the now very small Little Italy, at 147 Mulberry St., is this Sicilian restaurant that was one of John Gotti’s favorite places. Taormina is named after a Sicilian city that, legend has it, was founded by Teocle. He was on board a ship whose boatswain had not cooked a victim's liver well before offering it to Neptune, god of the sea, who was angered so much that "he made the waves of the sea rise and hit the fragile vessel"." All on board drowned except one, Teocle, who succeeded in clutching a piece of wreckage until he was carried by the waves towards the bay. Neptune saw the shipwrecked sailor but spared him. Ah yes, if you are caught reading this blog in school you can always claim that it is educational.

    There is just a small light wooden bar in here that accommodates five wooden chairs with worn green fabric seats. The bar has a silver arm rest and foot rail. The overhang above the bar has a good sized built in wine rack and additional racks for glasses in all shapes and sizes that hang overhead. Behind the bar are three tiers of wooden shelves that hold the liquor and above the top shelf the wall is mirrored. Below the shelves are coolers with old looking wooden doors with silver hinges and handles. The walls are largely brick with wood trim and there are a number of large floral arrangements. The small bar is separated from the rest of the dining area by a wooden divider with fancy etched glass panels on top. This is a very nice looking restaurant, quite fancy and very expensive, as most restaurants are in Little Italy.

    I had a bottle of Peroni.

    808) Onieal’s

    Although this bar has only occupied this location at the corner of Grand and Market Street for about ten years, the building has a long history. Just how long I am not sure, but it has been a brothel, a speakeasy, and of course, several bars over the years. It is built right across the street from the former police headquarters which has now been converted to an ultra up-scale condominium. Back in the days of Tamany Hall there was a tunnel that connected the police headquarters to Onieal’s so that police and government officials could surreptitiously pop over for a drink and perhaps a visit to the upstairs bordello. The tunnel has been partially filled in but the end connected to Onieal’s is still used as a wine cellar.

    There is a small front room that has a few banquettes with small tables that had white linen tablecloths and fancy place settings. There are large windows on two sides of this room and it has a nice cheerful look. Walk through this room and you will enter a much larger and darker room with a large, old-looking dark wooden bar with a dark metal bar rail. The nice looking wooden bar chairs have multicolored striped cloth seats. The bar back is kind of a 50’s style modern design, if that makes sense. There is a large mirror in the center and there are three shelves on each side that hold the liquor and glasses. Above the shelves and mirror are panels of orange lights. Maroon and gold banquettes line the walls with small tables and matching hassocks sitting in front of them There are narrow windows above the banquettes with old-fashioned looking drawing room style lamps in the sills.

    The ceiling is very elegant and Stuart, the bartender, told me that it was made in Vienna in 1873 and then shipped to New York where it was installed. It had been covered up for a long times but the current owners uncovered it and restored it. It is quite magnificent.

    I was in here for about half an hour or so and all of a sudden Stuart started to make Cosmopolitans, and I mean a lot of them.

    Stuart Building Cosmopolitans

    I asked him why and I said I really wasn't going to be here that long. It turns out that Onieal’s is featured on Sex And The City where it goes by the name The Scout. There is a Sex And The City tour and Onieal’s is one of the stops. Apparently about twenty minutes before it arrives Stuart gets a call and starts whipping up the Cosmos. I left just as the primarily female crowd began to flow in. I tried to convince a few of them that I was, in fact, Mr. Big but, alas, they weren’t buying it.

    I had a Lagunitas IPA, very good. Get there quickly though, I think they are going to replace it soon (the beer, not the bar).

    809) Mexican Radio

    Not far away at 19 Cleveland place is this neat little Mexican bar and restaurant that would not be a bit out of place tucked away on a side street in Puerto Vallarta. Kent, the bartender, told me that the owner personally traveled to Mexico and bought a lot of the furnishings. There is an old, well varnished dark wooden bar with a fat brass rail. Lots of red candles sit on top that is a bit cluttered with bottles of hot sauce, a display of their bottled beers, and clean glasses waiting to be filled. Ornate metal shaded lights hang above the bar.

    Wooden shelves behind the bar hold the liquor and they have a very large selection of tequilas. They also have a couple of machines churning out frozen margaritas, one of them has a pink sombrero sitting on top. One section behind the bar displays a typical Mexican painting of smiling skulls and a mystical looking hand. It would make a nice tattoo.

    Kent And Skulls

    The walls are mostly desert rose with some beige sections, some brick but mostly plaster. Various Mexican themed designs are painted on the walls as well as a number of ornately framed mirrors. Most of the lights on the ceiling are bare bulbs with a somewhat flame look to them but there are a few more elaborate fixtures and lots of colorful Mexican doilies hanging from it as well. A few shelves mounted high on the walls hold a variety of knick knacks.

    I had a bottle of Presidente and headed on home.

    Not a bad day, three bars making 809 for the year and leaving 191 to go.