Monday, April 17, 2006

Day Off in New York City

A black cloud has descended over Manhattan. My worst fears have come true…

Ye Olde Tripple Inn is no more.

The "Trip" has been my favorite bar in the Big Apple for almost 10 years now. My friend CJ first took me there back in the day. Here's a little history on the best bar in NYC:

"Ye Olde Tripple Inn in New York City. Less than a block away from The Late Show with David Letterman, it’s a venerable old family-run bar/restaurant with oodles of history. Liza Minelli had her first legal drink here, the Beatles hung here to escape the mayhem before their first Ed Sullivan appearance, and scores of performers like Freddie Prinze got their first shot appearing in the Tripple’s showcases.

The regulars, and the wanderers - are a really diverse group. Somehow the Trip manages to attract the young and beautiful, the old and gnarled, and everyone in-between. But mainly, the place has heart. Even if you’re just drinking diet coke, you’ll feel better after one tall cold one there."

Damn, I'm gonna miss it.

I really need to call a couple of my friends here today and try to hook up. You know who you are – Sarah and Jimmy. Sorry, y'all.

After fiddlin' about in my room for most of the morning, I jump online and start Googling for some bars to hit today, in hopes of finding a replacement for the Trip.

About a quarter to three, I head out; I'm a man on a mission…

First Stop, Jimmy's Corner, 140 W. 40th St.

What they say:

"Cheap beer, multiple TV sets, an awesome collection of boxing memorabilia, a fierce jukebox and an adorable Eurotrash waitstaff are all key attractions."

Defiinitely an old man bar. A liitle too old man for me, even. No sign of any "Eurotrash" waitstaff. Maybe I'd have lasted for more than one beer there if there'd been any cuties like that. Just a grumpy old bartender dude behind the bar.

My rating: One and done.

Second Stop, Smith's, 701 8th Ave.

What they say:

"As long as Smith's Bar is in business, the Disneyfication of the neighborhood will never be complete. The atmosphere and characters in this loud, smoky bar are 100 percent old-school Times Square at its best. Working-class men and a few women jam the long bar and side booths, all swilling long necked bottles of Budweiser, smoking, yelling about sports and broads and cursing Hillary Clinton."

What a dump. Zero atmosphere. Zero vibe. The $3.00 Bud's rock, but who cares when the bar itself offers so little.

And anybody who's dissing Hillary can just go ahead and kiss my ass now…

My rating: One and done.

Third Stop, Bull Moose Tavern, 354 W. 44th St. (btwn. 8th & 9th Ave.)

What they say:

"The Scene:
There are plenty of pleasant, unpretentious bars that call themselves "dives" merely because it's more interesting than calling themselves "pleasant, unpretentious bars." Bull Moose Saloon, on the other hand, is actually a dive. It's for folks who want to save a few bucks and don't mind giant glowing beer logos, numerous massive TVs and bartenders who seem to want very badly not to be there.

The Draw:
There is a menu of burgers and sandwiches, and the beer is cheap, with a respectable set of tap handles ranging from Bud to Bass. Young Hell's Kitchen types take their libations by the pool table in the front room, alternately standing to shoot, sitting to sip and standing to shoot again. If you're low on bread and want to quench your thirst to the jangly guitar accompaniment of Lynyrd Skynyrd or the "Reservoir Dogs" soundtrack, this is your place."

I really liked this place. It is soooo NOT a dive, though, despite what the writer above says. I couldn't disagree more about that point – that person's obviously never been to a real dive bar. It's comfy place, not a dive. I'd definitely come back here and I'd bring friends. I was already getting a buzz from the beers at stops 1 and 2, so I ordered some jalapeno poppers, and even had a second beer here. Too bad I'm on a mission today, because I had only one old geezer with whom to share the bartender's attention. She was a drop-dead-beautiful brunette named Natasha, from the Ukraine. Friendly, funny, and nice. She works here only 2 days per week, Monday and Tuesday. She also works a couple of days per week at the owner's other bar.

My rating: See ya again soon, Bull Moose.

Fourth Stop, The Collins Bar, 735 8th Ave.

What they say:

"The Scene
If you don't want to sit at the bar, your only other alternative is one of the half-dozen wooden booths, which are as hard and unforgiving as church pews. The seating arrangements aren't exactly communal, either--since each booth can barely accommodate four non-waifish people. Expect to stand if you're coming with a large group.

The Draw
Formerly known as the Full Moon Saloon, it was once one of Eighth Avenue's sleaziest watering holes; it's under a facelift, and the space is now decorated with chic, intimate minimalism--think votives, blond wood, exposed brick and even a fish tank--and a crowd of theatergoers, local office workers and post-collegiate types. With upscale tap beers and a first-rate jukebox filled with everything from ambient to Steely Dan, the Collins is perfect for a quick, after-work pint or for a post-theater nightcap."

"A groovy art-deco feel - comfy booths, free popcorn, live fish - a welcome new addition to Hell's Kitchen. Incredible jukebox, live music and mime's drink free. Look for your name on the 'Buy a Drink For a Friend' board."

I really, really like this place. A rock 'n roll dive bar. Amazing jukebox. Everything from Willie Nelson to Iggy Pop to Marvin Gaye, and all stops in between. I could stay here for days.

My rating: Can't wait to come back. Might be my new fave bar in the city.

Fifth stop, Scruffy Duffy's, 8th Ave. (btwn 46th and 47th St.)

What they say:

"The Scene
A huge after-work crowd piles into this handsome, friendly Hell's Kitchen bar to partake of the 20+ beers and the easygoing camaraderie. Despite the long mahogany bar and a good handful of small tables, you'll be hard-pressed to find a seat in the early evenings, so be prepared to stand. Late nights and weekends the mass thins out a bit, leaving the hard-core sports fans to duke it out over their favorite athletic franchises.

The Draw
A half-dozen TVs--including several flat-screens and one projection screen in the back--means that any way you turn, there's a good angle. And with a personal sound system at each table, you won't miss a single word. The bar is also renowned for its billiards; though there's only one pool table, it's visited by lots of regulars who take the game seriously. There are even lockers for holding all the cues."

Sorry. No fucking way I'm even gonna order a beer in this place. I walked maybe 10 or 12 paces into it, turned on my heels, and walked right back out.

Gag me with a yuppie spoon!

Actually, CJ had warned me about this place, but I'd already had it on my list when she did, so I decided to at least give it a shot.

My rating: Never again! No way! Not for money, even!

Sixth Stop, Rudy's Bar & Grill, 627 9th St. (btwn 44th & 45th St.)

What they say:

"The Scene
Rudy's is one of the last bars in Manhattan where suits, slackers and lifetime ne'er-do-wells commingle in a laid-back, beer-laden haze. It's always loud and crowded, even when the backyard "garden" is open. And when you're ready to date out of your comfy little social circle, slap on your sluttiest lipstick or your spiffiest blue jeans and head here. Chances are you'll cozy up in one of Rudy's little red banquettes with someone new before long.

The Draw
Heated on one of those fast-food rotisseries and served with a plain white bun and a little mustard, the full-sized hot dogs are always free and always available--so long as "the hot dog guy" is behind the bar. The blackboard lists about 12 brews on tap, from Bud to Checker Cab Blonde Ale; Rudy's Red, the house brew, is dirt cheap (under $3 a pint) but rather weak."

I immediately like this place. The first 20 minutes I was there, they were blasting old Queen songs VERY LOUDLY from the house system. Then they mixed it up with a bunch of old blues. Nice contrast.

Great patio out back – don't see too many of those in New York. Some 50's style vinyl-upholstered booths, which appear to have way more gray duct tape than red vinyl on them.

Great window at the front. You can (and I did) belly up to the little bar/shelf there and guzzle while watching all of the pedestrians strolling by.

$3.00 Buds again. Love it. And it's right next door to Burritoville, where Kenny and I ate last night.

My rating: A very close second to The Collins Bar. Maybe too close to call even.

While I'm here, CJ calls – we're having dinner tonight. I'm about trashed by now, but that's OK because she's been drinking, too!

She's about 30 minutes away from getting here, so we decide to meet over at Collins. I kill my beer and head back that way.

Looks like I won't make it to stop #7 today, which might have been the best of the bunch, based on a recommendation from CJ. It's a place called the Subway Inn, up on E. 60th St. Guess I'll have to check it out next time through.

Back to Collins. Bartender gives me a big smile and says "you're back!". Told her about my bar hunt. The couple next to me strike up a conversation and want to hear details. They also have a few suggestions, but I won't have time to persue them today.

CJ shows up, and of course she knows the bartender. We down another round, then wander off to Restaurant Row, which is 46th Street between 8th and 9th Ave. Lots of food to choose from there. We finally decide on Thai. I can't remember the name of the place. The food was good, I think.

After dinner, we wander around for a while. Times Square is a mess. Some movie's shooting there today and there are production assistants yelling at pedestrians to do this and that. What a joke. We skirt the whole thing as much as we can and wind up back by my hotel. Keep going and wind up at Radio City Music Hall, where the R. Kelly gig is tomorrow.

I put her in a cab and walk back to my hotel. Early call time tomorrow…

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