Monday, January 14, 2008

A Sunday Stroll In SoHo

For those of you who may not know, SoHo is a neighborhood in Manhattan that is south of Houston Street. New Yorkers seem infatuated with naming neighborhoods. Presumably this is to give them a bit of class so that property values can be increased. But really, do we need SoHo, NoHo, Tribeca, Nolita, Dumbo, BoCoCa, and who knows how many more. It really does get to be a bit silly after awhile. And the good names, like Five Points and Alphabet City just kind of disappear. They have been trying to make Hell's Kitchen go away for years, but that is a name with legs.

Last Saturday the Mysterious Chinese Woman and I went to visit some friends who live about as far on the East Side of lower Manhattan as you can get. To get there we took the F Train and got off on East Broadway. We were early so I figured I would stop at a bar on the way to their place for a quick one. But, there were no bars. I kid you not. I must have covered about a square mile before I found one. This is a seriously dry part of town. The bar that I did find, on Broome Street and Ludlow Street looked a bit out of place too. I suspect that this area is going to change quite a bit in the near future and Casini's will be the first bar on the block.


It was a pleasantly sunny place with only one other couple sitting at a table. Not much business for prime weekend brunch time. The walls were light wood and the bar had a dull metallic finish. Not my favorite because in the summer when you are wearing a short sleeve shirt they feel uncomfortably cold when you lean on them. Another thing I didn't care for, they have those new modernistic taps where, for some reason, it is cool to not display the names of the beers.

Mystery Taps

Why don't I like them? Easy, I like to walk into a bar and see what they have available. Then, when the bartender asks me what I want I can tell him. I don't waste my time nor his. With these, unless there is a sign somewhere or, how pretentious, a menu, you have to ask the bartender. Now if you have over six taps I will also probably have to ask him to repeat a couple. Then I have to decide which one I want. What should be a quick and simple transaction turns into a major event. I have never met a bartender who likes them either.

Well, according to the bartender only two of the three taps had beer so I could have my choice of either a Stella or a Jeffe or Jefe or something. She didn't seem to know exactly what it was so that is what I ordered along with a Absente.

Bar Man, Beer, and Pernod

Well now I do have a few complaints. First, the beer was served in a glass more suitable for a scotch and soda or a gin and tonic. And the Absente was served in a shot glass. I prefer it in a glass like the beer was served in with an ice-cube or two and a splash of water. Oh well, who am I to make a fuss.

I had to laugh a bit though. I ordered a second beer and a different bartender had to ask me which of the taps it came out of. On the other hand, she demonstrated that all three taps did, in fact have beer and Bass Ale was another alternative. I don't think this is a bar I will be hanging out in once a second one in the neighborhood opens.

It did have a nice little dining area, although I didn't look at a menu so I don't know what they have to offer.

Kind Of Cosey

This view from inside looking out one of their windows gives you a bit of an idea of how this is a neighborhood in transition. You don't see laundry hanging out on the fire escapes in the more gentrified neighborhoods.

Letting It All Hang Out

We met our friends, Frank and Kathy, at their place and then walked to SoHo for an early dinner at the Fanelli Cafe which can be found on Prince Street between Mercer Street and Greene Street. Somehow Frank and I got separated from the ladies so we had time for a couple of beers before Kathy and The Mysterious Chinese Woman showed up. Unfortunately I didn't think to take any pictures. It is a nice old-style bar though with good and reasonably priced food so I shall return and do it justice.

After we ate we decided to hit another bar in the neighborhood. Someone suggested Milady's so off we headed.


Fanelli's was crowded, but this place was packed. We decided to pass it by and look for a bar with a bit more room. On the way we passed another group of Milady's and Kathy decided she would join them.

Kathy and Milady's

We ended up going to The Cupping Room, and that turned out to be a very nice choice indeed.

The Cupping Room

The Cupping Room is on West Broadway between Broome Street and Franklin Street. Once you get into SoHo there is no shortage of bars. It is just that barren patch east of SoHo that is the problem.

I liked this place right off the bat. Warm wood, a nice glow, and a place to stand at the end of the bar. Actually, after a couple of beers, a glass of wine (maybe two) and a steak at Fanelli's I also has a nice glow. I thought a Maker's Mark Manhattan would be a nice way to end an enjoyable day and Christian, the bartender, turned out an excellent one.

Christian And My Excellent Manhattan

And we all enjoyed our drinks at the bar.

Kathy, Bar Man, and Frank At The Bar

Bar Man has noticed that he is developing a bit of a paunch. I am sure the steak and beers I had just eaten added to the effect, but nonetheless I have decided to start a bit of an exercise routine. Next month I will be heading to Mexico and I want to look good in my bathing suit.

I also plan on heading back to SoHo one of these days. I like that neighborhood and there are still plenty of old time bars. They may have gone upscale in terms of what they now serve and the prices they charge, but they still retain a lot of their original charm.

I decided to play around with a photo-paint program that I have, Corel. It has more features than I could ever possibly use, but it is kind of cool. I thought I would try to use it to create a more artistic image of the picture I shot out of the window at Casinis. It turned out kind of 60's pschedelia, I thought.


Don't worry though, I will try not to get too carried away with my new toy.


springsandra said...

Wasn't the Cupping Room the place in that old Derek Jeter AmEx commercial? Maybe I'm thinking of something else. Glad you had fun over there! I worked for a boutique entertainment law firm around there one semester in law school but never really got into the neighborhood. Maybe it's time to give it a try again.

michapoake said...

I think Jeter was at the Broome Street Bar in that commercial, over on the far west side, but I could be wrong.
You are right that there are few bars to the southeast of Casanis, but there are quite a few very nearby in other directions. You were close to Barrio Chino, Cafe Katja, East Side Co., King Size, Lolita, 169 Bar, Good World, etc. - that's excluding the many just north of Delancey. Gentrification is in full force under some surface grittiness.

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