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  • Nick Skinner

4 Bars in New York

Or... me rambling on bar napkins in The Bowery


Below are bar napkin scribblings as I wandered The Bowery and East Village so take it this for what it is: just fun. I’m going to leave out the bar names in case any of them find what I have to say unfavorable.

BAR #1

The first bar is a dark, wood bar. It is early in the evening; only one other person at the bar. A solid classic rock soundtrack pumps as the bartender fucks around on his phone. The bartenders work hard to act like they don’t care about you or your opinion of them as evidence by their casual swagger and the way they unironically wear t-shirts with horrible paintings of wolfs howling at the moon or bears floating around the moon; think Dwight at Jim and Pam’s wedding. I wonder how much effort they make to not make an effort? How often do they have to ask themselves “Oh, shit! Am I not caring enough? I think I was caring a little too much just now.”

The first drink is a fantastic, perfect stiff drink. Habanero Tequila, Pink Peppercorns, lime, and homemade grenadine that was surprisingly refreshing. So… I guess they care enough about that… The petite hostess is quite cute and is probably one of the few people, beside mid-western farmers, who can pull of overalls.

The music turned from classic rock to indie jams. The first song is the single from the recent The National Album: “You Had Your Soul with You”. I find the album to be… not good. It has moments with pretty lyrics and they really expanded their sound; beautiful female vocals from a range of singers but… there is an overwhelming self-indulgence and boring quality that coats everything, which is shitty. Then again, it’s nowhere nearly as bad as Arcade Fires last album, speaking of which, “Creature Comfort” just came one. Probably one of the few tolerable songs off the album, “Everything Now”. But fuck all that negative shit…

As my burrata flatbread with romesco and squash (a “fun” dish I paired with Chenin Blanc from South Africa, or Steen) arrives, Interpol’s “If You Really Love Nothing” begins. I had never heard this song and had to Sound Hound it. First listen, Paul Banks’ vocals threw me for a loop; almost as if he is doing his best Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) impression. Then on headphones, I realized how much I was missing from the bar stereo. Traditional Interpol sounds and the like, really a fantastic song. I don’t know how I missed this album.

~Why did I think going from a tequila cocktail to a glass of South African Chenin Blanc was a good idea?~

Bar #2

After wandering for about 20 minutes, trying to find a location that wasn’t fucking closed on Labor Day, I found this small Italian restaurant. It’s packed and it smells amazing. I don’t know why those thoughts are connected, it’s not like the people are making it smell incredible; the food is.

I’m on the wine train now so a glass of Pinot Nero from Piedmont… I think… definitely Pinot Nero though. Tart, dry red fruits, good mid-pallet tannins, and a finish that really sticks the landing. Matching the homemade focaccia and arugula salad perfectly. Big fan of the huge sheets of Parmesan that shroud the leafy goodness below.

When I walked in, I am reminded that not everywhere is friendly. Obviously, I went straight to the bar; it’s where I am comfortable, and no sense in one person taking up a whole table, not that I could get here, anyway. Sitting at the bar was young woman reading a book and drinking a glass of wine. I asked her if someone was in the seat next to her. She didn’t speak or move but did shoot me a side glance and then went back to her book; I guess that is a no, no one is in that seat. And I’ve been thinking about it and I don’t’ think she was being rude. I think it’s that New York, and many other places are just dangerous, you have to be on guard, and shut out the outside at times. I think I forget that.

The playlist seems to consist only of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Thin Lizzy. I assume it’s the coked-out bartender’s choice. I’m also wondering what band he is a bass player of…

The Cacio e Pepe arrives at the right time. I’m starving. CUT TO: I’m sweating my ass off! I know “meat-sweats” are real but I think I also just discovered “carb-sweats” but the pasta is too good to not eat.

This is place is machine. What can seem like swirling, bubbling chaos is perfectly executed. Every dish coming out hot and landing exactly where it should. At this volume of business, I imagine you have to be this perfect; otherwise you succumb to the chaos. I also feel this would be the perfect breeding ground for a future great chef; kind of place that Bourdain would write about.

Across the street there is a store called “Food You Desire 3” and I have questions. Are there more than three, or is this the end of the trilogy? When you say “desire”, does that mean anything I can think of, or do you think that you have all the bases covered? Like earlier today, I wondered if I could take a gyro and swap the pita for a large slice of pizza. Do you have that? Is there a sister store called “Drinks you Desire 3”?

~I just watched a toddler cry while looking himself in the mirror and then got upset when he wasn’t allowed to sit at the bar… I’ve never related to a toddler more. think I need to leave before I meet a son, I didn’t know I had…~

Bar #3

I attempted to go to a bar next door that has a beautiful French art deco look, but the bar was full. So, this place will have to do. However, it is nothing remarkable: a super dark sports bar serving almost only Southern alcohol. It’ll be a fine stop while I hope the bar next door opens up. This bar is so dark that I am questioning why the even hung lights. The candles provide most of the light. Why do so many of these bars have candles on the bar top. I feel that they are asking for disaster. I would probably… definitely… set my arm on fire at least once.

~Does New York hate Chicago Pizza because of the existential reminder that really, New York exists upon itself in the same way deep dish pizza, is a pizza on a pizza?~

There is an annoying Englishman slurring his way through inane questions at two German tourists. He orders them 3 Jägermeister but he used the wrong hand signal for ‘3’- I’m getting to live the scene from Inglorious Basterds; I’m very excited about this for almost no reason.

Ten minutes later… Is one of the Germans asleep on the bar?

Bar #4

The French bar had an opening and I’m occupying it. I had planned on going back to the hotel but fuck it. A beautiful glass of 2016 Pommard “Tavannes”. Silky tannins, rich fruits, and a finish that goes on forever. It is un-fucking-believable. But… its in the wrong glass. I asked why. The answer was that just the glassware they’ve always used. I hate that answer. I hate when tradition is used as an excuse; it’s the worth version of apathy.

My enjoyment and focus on this wine is broken when I overhear the host and drunk talking about eugenics and the civil war. How or why is beyond me. I don’t think I’ve ever been “Lets talk about eugenics” drunk. Not a level I’ve been on. Continuing to dance after last call drunk, been there. Fuck it, “I want a glass of Sambuca,” drunk, sure. The “Can I pick up your 100 pound dog, drunk,” is more recent than it should be.

I wanted to write more but then the drunk, who turns out to be a regular, turned to me. We’ve been talking and honestly, I wanted to retain more of it but that wasn’t happening. I feel slightly bad but he was rambling about the neighborhood and other shit and I just tuned out.

… oh yeah, this slice was good idea.

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