Entries in Midtown (25)


December 14, 2011

Okay, it’s Tuesday and that means it’s that time of the week to venture out and see if we can find a bar that still utilizes a swizzle stick in their cocktails. There’s not too many decent bars around where I work, a lot of them are what I call, “cookie cutter” bars. Generic saloons without much personality to them. Well I just found a place nearby that doesn’t look too bad and it appears to be a little on the fancy side, so maybe we’ll score a swizzle tonight. The bar is called Stitch Bar & Lounge and it’s a New York magazine critics pick. So let’s go see if a Stitch in time produces a swizzle stick.

Okay, straight up 8th Avenue for seven blocks and we're there.

This reminds me of that joke: "A dyslexic man walks into a bra." (Rimshot.)

And here we are at Stitch Bar and Lounge. The word "Stitch" blinks on and off and I'm having trouble getting a shot where it's lit.


Fuck! This is really starting to piss me off!

Motherfucker, it's like the sign is mocking me!

Finally! Let's go in and get a drink, I need one after that!

Holy shitballs, it's packed in here. And it's louder than fuck. I have tinnitus in my left ear and if music is played at a certain level it makes it howl. This music is about two levels louder than that. Plus people are screaming at each other and it just adds to the noise in here. To quote the Animals, "We gotta get out of this place."

Luckily I passed a place on the corner that doesn't look too bad.

It's called the Houndstooth Pub and I think it won't be so ear-shattering inside.

Okay, not a bar I would normally hang out in, but not nearly as loud and it doesn't look too bad.

It's a round, circular marble-topped bar and it's fairly crowded.

I spy a seat at the left side of the bar, so let's snag it.

No swizzle sticks here, just two red straws. Oh well, maybe next week. Wah, wah, wah, waaaah.

Here's the view of the candle-lit bar from my perch.

The specials are written on a chalk board on the wall opposite the bar.

There's a festive Christmas tree in the front area of the bar.

Jeremiah Weed? Could this be the stoner cousin of Jeremiah Moss?

And in the end there's...fire! (It's been awhile!) Goodnight everybody and see you tomorrow after dark.

Houndstooth Pub
520 Eighth Ave. (at 37th St.)

Further Reading: Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, New York Magazine and facecrack.

He’s got to be,
Out in the street.

(Surprise link, click on it...I dare you!)


December 12, 2011

I don’t eat a lot of steak, but every once in a while I get a craving for it. And tonight that craving has kicked in big time. A while back, MAD commenter and 365 co-pilot, Al, suggested I go to Sparks, a classic New York steak house, which I’ve never been to. That was going to be tonight’s destination, but then I found out they’re not open Sunday’s. Now that’s old school! I’ll have to take a cheeseburger break one of these Saturday’s and try it out. In the meantime, I remembered another classic joint in midtown, Gallagher’s. So that’s where Sunday dinner is happening this week.

Here we are, Gallagher's Steak House.

The meat in the window makes me think of SCTV's 3-D House of Beef.

The main dining room is crowded...

So I decide to sit at the bar.

Will the bartender chats with some regulars at the bar.

Classic red checked tablecloth covered tables line the wall opposite the bar. And there's tons of pictures everywhere, let's check some of them out.

Here's a Gallagher's staff portrait from days gone by.

A signed photo of Paul Newman proclaiming Gallagher's as, "The best!"

Here's Mohammed Ali signing a table.

And here's another boxer, Max Baer who is also the father of Max Baer, Jr. a.k.a. Jethro Bodine.

This clown painting creeps me out a little.

And back at the bar, it looks like dinner is about to be served!

I got the jumbo lump crab meat salad to start it all off. It was really good and the sauce was super tangy. Will told me they use homemade horseradish in it.

And now the main course, I got the signature dish, the 14 ounce prime sirloin steak. They age the steaks for 21 days.

For a side dish I got the sauteed mushrooms.

Now that's a steak!

One of the best Sunday dinner's ever! I had a Budweiser for dessert. Goodnight everybody and see you tomorrow after dark.

Gallagher's Steak House
228 W. 52nd St. (Near Broadway)

Further Reading: Wikipedia, New York Times and The Intrepid Travelogue.

And after all,
You’re my wonderwall.

(Surprise link, click on it...I dare you!)


December 7, 2011

Last week I wrote about being concerned about Bill’s Gay Nineties bar in midtown. It seems they’re having a bit of a scuffle with their landlord and I thought I’d go and ask the bartender a question or two and of course have a few drinks in one of the few decent bars in that part of town. Well, I forgot it was the night that they were lighting the tree in Rockefeller Center and there was a ton of people in Bill’s. It was so crowded I couldn’t even get to the bar to get a drink, so I thought I’d try it tonight on swizzle stick night. Bars usually are a little less crazy on Tuesday nights, so let’s go see how we make out this week. Oh and there’s a few special guest stars that are going to be there as well, so let’s get going!

It's a drizzly, rainy night out tonight.

On nights like this I always hope that Eddie Rabbit's in town because he loves the rainy night.

Personally, I like looking at the tall buildings when there's rain and it's a little foggy out. Manhattan kind of looks like London on these nights.

And here we are, back at Bill's. Let's see if we can belly up to the bar tonight.

And look who it is, our friend Elliot Paul at the piano!

Elliot's a fun guy and a true piano man. He really adds a dimension of fun to the bar.

And tonight I'm able to get a drink, there's no swizzle, but I was able to talk to the bartender about the rumors of Bill's closing due to problems with the landlord. He told me that everyone there remains hopeful and they don't have plans of going anywhere. Time will tell, but for now, my advice is to stop in to Bill's, get a few drinks and help keep this classic midtown bar alive. Nobody wants a Monkey Bar II on this block.

And look, here's two of the aforementioned guest stars, Lindsay and Shawn!

And here's the Duncester, the party's complete!

The bar is well stocked and lit up for the holidays.

A festive wreath and lights intermingle with the vintage photos on the dark, wooden walls of Bill's.

The tables in the back are filled, nice to see on a Tuesday night.

These women were having a fun ladies night out at Bill's.

A couple dances to the musical styling of Elliot Paul.

And it's time to put the camera down and rejoin the party back at the bar. A great night out, thanks to Lindsay, Shawn, the Duncester and everyone at Bill's for a great night out. Goodnight everybody and see you tomorrow after dark.

Bill's Gay Nineties
57 E. 54th St. (Near Madison Ave.)

Further Reading: Lost City, Mitch Broder’s Vintage New York and Jeremiah's Vanishing New York.

Bill I love you so,
I always will.

(Surprise link, click on it...I dare you!)


December 1, 2011

The last couple of days I’ve been reading disturbing news about the classic midtown bar, Bill’s Gay Nineties. First I read a report on Lost City via Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York that Bill’s may be sold to some jerkoff who used to be a chef at the horrible Waverly Inn. Now today I read that they’re declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy to stay afloat and hopefully keep the sharks and yuppie owners at bay. This is a classic New York bar and I’d hate to see it get remodeled and Fedoradized. I thought we’d stop there tonight and see what’s going on.

It's colder out tonight, but at least it's not raining.

Sometimes I see things that freak me out and it's hard to walk away from them. This is one of those times. A weird plastic glove on a stained abandoned office chair on the sidewalk. Almost scarier than the Cardboard Box Man. Okay, time to move on.

And here we are at Bill's, let's go inside and see what's up.

There's classic wooden saloon style gates leading you into the bar.

And there's a familiar face behind the piano!

It's Bill's resident piano man, Elliot Paul. I met him last year on the bar crawl and was amazed that he remembered me. He really gets the crowd going and adds to the charm of Bill's.

The bar is packed tonight. I had forgotten they were lighting the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center and Midtown is loaded with people. I'm having trouble getting a drink, but glad Bill's has a good crowd.

I'm not having much luck at this end of the bar either. I can't squeeze my way up to the bar to get a drink and the bartender is really busy.

I decide to take a few photos and come back next week when it's less crowded and see whtat the bartender and the people working here have to say about the fate of this bar. Here's some vintage boxing photos hanging over the bar.

There's green checkered covered dining tables opposite the bar.

Broadway ads from days gone by line the walls.

Elliot's got the whole place singing along and dancing as I make my way to leave.

On my way out I spy a real relic from the past. a telephone booth.

The phones been ripped out, but people probably sit in here and text now. Stop by Bill's and enjoy a slice of a real New York bar while you can. It was crowded tonight, but one night's crowd won't pay for what they owe in back rent. Goodnight and see you tomorrow after dark.

Bill's Gay Nineties
57 E. 54th St. (Near Madison Ave.)

Further reading: New York Magazine, Crain’s and 365 Bars.

(Don't mess with Bill) ‘Cause he's mine all mine,
(Don't mess with Bill) I say it one more time,
(Don't mess with Bill) Hey yeah yeah yeah.

(Surprise link...click on it...I dare you!)


November 27, 2011

Live, from New York, it’s Saturday Night Cheeseburger. Tonight’s host is the Burger Joint in the Le Parker Meridien Hotel and featuring the Ready For Prime Beef Player, Marty Wombacher.

And we're off. It's a nice night out, kind of warm for this time of year.

Down into the subway we go.

And through the miracle of the internet you're spared a subway ride that included sitting across from a pudgy, older woman, with a blue birthmark on the side of her face the size of a swollen half dollar, here we are at the corner of 56th and 6th. It was hard not to stare at it that blue birthmark and I was tempted to go lick it and see if it tasted like blueberry, but l wisely chose to stay put. And now here we are, let's go get a cheeseburger.

I think it's just across the street.

And here it is...

Le Parker Meridien Hotel.

Supposedly the place is here in the lobby, somewhat hidden, kind of like a speakeasy.

I read that it's hidden behind the brown curtains and there's two people headed down a hallway, let's go check it out.

I see a burger sign, this must be it.

Holy shitballs, there's a line at this time of night and it's packed in here. I'd bail out, but I don't know of any other spots in this part of town, so we'll tough it out. Hopefully the burger will be worth it.

The walls are paneled and there's all kinds of posters and pictures hung on them. I like the Ramones poster!

Here's the menu, it's simple and to the point, I don't need it though, as I already know what I want.

She took my order and I spy a seat at a nearby communal table, so I rushed over before someone else got it.

Here's the view from my seat at the crowded table. The line is now out the door, kind of crazy.

Wooden booths line the walls of this tiny place.

It's dark in here with the only light coming from these oversized dangling bulbs.

Along with the pictures and posters, graffiti covers the walls in here. It kind of reminds me of the Mars Bar!

Finally my name is called, which is good, because my claustrophobia is starting to kick in.

Here's the burger, it looks okay, but I was expecting something a little more. The bun's not even toasted and the onions aren't fried.

The fries are a little limp and greasy.

The burger's okay, but a little bland. Not worth waiting in line for and then sitting squashed at a communal table of tourists. Oh well, you can't win them all. See you tomorrow after dark.

My Meal
I got the cheeseburger with onions, french fries and a whole pickle. I was anxious to try the pickle because I had seen a photo of one and it’s a huge pickle. So after waiting in line, squeezing in a seat at a communal table of tourists and then waiting another twenty minutes my name was called. There was my cheeseburger and fries, but no pickle. I told a woman behind the counter I ordered a pickle and she told me I didn’t. By this time, the crowd and the smell of grease in the place was kind of getting to me, so I didn’t argue and went to eat my burger and fries. I had read so many great things about their cheeseburger, I was anxious to try it. After a bite of the burger, I wasn’t too impressed. The bun was a little on the stale side and the burger itself was kind of bland. The mustard they have is a little generic and the fries were kind of greasy and limp. It was okay, but I’ve had better meals, and it’s not the most comfortable place to enjoy a Saturday night dinner.

Cheeseburger Rating
Two Wimpy’s. Maybe I went in with too high of expectations, but it was a little disappointing, not horrible, but nothing spectacular. Maybe I was just there on an off night, but it’s not a place I would recommend, especially if there’s a line there.

Burger Joint
Le Parker Meridien
119 W. 56th St. (Near 6th Ave.)

Further reading: Midtown Lunch, food smackdown and New York Journal.

It's just that demon life has got me in its sway.

(Surprise link...click on it...I dare you!)

Bonus Chillmaster Photo’s From Shawn Chittle!
Shawn sent in a couple of photos of The Chillmaster and I from Friday’s Chillmaster Dance Party. Great shots, Shawn! Thanks for sending them in.

Bonus Photo from Bobby Williams!
New York photographer and EV Grieve contibutor, Bobby Williams sent in this spectacular shot from Tompkins Square Park in the East Village. Great photo, Bobby, thanks so much!


November 23, 2011

Tonight instead of going out in search of a swizzle stick as I usually do on Tuesdays, I’m going out in search for cheese. Last week I read some disturbing news at Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, that the DOH made Sardi’s get rid of their legendary and traditional communal cheese pots and crackers. That’s right, the DOH in all it’s Nazi-like wisdom has forced Sardi’s to cut the cheese (sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

When I first moved here and discovered the cheese pots at Sardi’s I would go there a couple times a month and order a draft beer and make a meal out of the free cheese and crackers.
Reports are mixed on whether the DOH forced them to get rid of them or whether Sardi’s banished them for fear of future fines, but one thing is for sure, they’re gone. Well, not totally, from what I’ve read you can now buy your own pot for three bucks. I thought I’d go check out this cheesy situation at Sardi’s tonight.

It's a rotten, rainy and chilly-ass night out tonight. Sardi's is 14 blocks away, so I decided to walk there instead of hassling with the subway. It's one of those decisions that halfway there I may be sorry I didn't take the train.

I should've taken the fucking train, it's miserable out here.

And the only thing worse than slow-walkers is slow-walkers with umbrellas. Impossible to get around. Fuck.

Finally, here we are at Sardi's. Let's go in and escape the rain.

The bottom bar is open, but it's three deep at the bar...

And so it's upstairs we go.

There's plenty of room up here...

And there's bartender Joseph and Bill, a semi-regular here who's working on a book. Here's Bill's blog: Our Missing News, the book is scheduled to come out next year and from what he told me, it's something you'll want to read. Stay tuned for further word about Bill's book. And now, onto the cheese!

There's quite a void at the bar, but Joseph tells me I can have my own private cheese pot. But it costs three bucks.

This is the future at Sardi's thanks to the DOH. A little cheesepot that's fresh from the fridge and somewhat hard as a rock.

Before (taken one month ago...)

And after.

So what’s the big deal about the free cheese at Sardi’s? For me it’s a lot.

When I first moved here in 1993 I went to Sardi’s to look at all the caricatures on the wall and see a New York bar I had only read about in books and had seen in movies and TV shows. When I discovered the free cheese and Ritz crackers at the bar I was elated. I had cashed in a pension plan to move here and pursue a career as a writer back in those days. A lot of doors had been slammed in my face, but I was getting stuff published, but some weeks my sole income was a 35 dollar check from the Manhattan Spirit newspaper on a wise-ass story I had written about the Hard Rock Cafe. I had bigger paydays from New York Newsday and The NY Daily News, but those choice assignments were fewer and farther between. I mostly toiled at the free weeklies, which was an exercise in poverty.

I’m a nervous person to begin with, but when the outgoing money greatly surpasses your incoming cash, it can grate on your nerves and make you dream about sleeping over a heating grate in front of Penn Station.
Whenever I got something published back in those days it was a cause for celebration. I had a byline in New York and a staff writing job just had to be just around the corner. A lot of times I’d go celebrate at the P&G Bar in my neighborhood and buy bags of potato chips for the regulars slumped around the bar, but other times I’d take the express train to Times Square and go and eat some of the free cheese and Ritz crackers at Sardi’s and think about the day that writing would finally pay the bills and I wouldn’t be sweating rent and bills. I’d always take my latest article with me, because you never knew if you’d meet a tourist of the female persuasion that you could say, “Me? Oh I’m a writer here in New York, in fact here’s my latest piece that just came out.”

After a while I surrendered and got a night job and did my own thing as far as writing goes.
I still am. and if you’re reading this, I thank you. I always loved going into Sardi’s and savoring the free cheese and Ritz crackers and think about the days when a staff writing job appeared to be looming it’s happy head right around the corner. Happy memories of days gone by.

And now the cheese is gone, but at least for me, my dreams live on. There’s some things Mayor Bloomberg and the DOH goons can’t touch. Goodnight everybody and see you tomorrow after dark.

Further reading: NY Times, Eater and The Bovina Bloviator.

Big cheese, make me,
Mine says, go to the office.

(Surprise link...click on it...I dare you!)


November 11, 2011

Tomorrow Gene and Smoopy, two thirds of the BBC (Baltimore Bar Crawlers) are crawling back to town. Last time Gene was here (with the somewhat elusive BBCer, Terry) they went to Walter’s Bar on 8th Street only to discover it was closed. They heard conflicting reports that it was closed for good but they also heard that it was just closed for the ever-popular, “renovations,” and that it would re-open in October. I thought I’d do a little advance work for the BBC and check it out tonight and see if they've pulled a Subway Inn and have reopened in all their glory. I hope so, it's one of the few decent bars in the neighborhood where I work.

Goddamn, it turned cold outside and it's spitting rain, luckily it's only a couple blocks away.

Oh no! This doesn't look good at all. The gates are down and even their sign is gone.

This is all that's left. A sad turn of events for tonight. Do you remember Walter's?

When something dies you head towards the light. And when you get to the light...

You find Billymark's West. Let's go in and have a drink and get in a better mood.

There's a big crowd in here and people are dancing to the jukebox, which is one of the best in town. (See the essay about it below written by co-owner, Billy.)

I manage to wiggle in to the bar and I see a familiar face behind it at the end of the bar...

It's one half of the ownership of the bar, Billy with a bottle of Bud! Great to see him again and one of these days I hope to meet his brother, Mark.

I love all the Beatles photos and memorabilia behind the bar, cool stuff.

A ceiling fan buzzes overhead.

There's darts up front...

And a pool table in the back.

On the way out the door I ran into Sally, who was there with a group of students from the School of Visual Arts and they were having a party in the bar. She loved the Gumby bag and was more than happy to pose with him. I'll continue to check on Walter's Bar and see if it turns into a 7-11 anytime soon. Goodnight everybody and see you tomorrow after dark.

The Jukebox
Billy has a short essay on their website about the outstanding jukebox at Billymark’s. Check it out, below.

“Bartending for the last seven years, one thing Mark and I hear over and over again from our patrons is that we have the greatest jukebox. I can't take credit for this—I have to pass this one to my brother, The Wiz! After all no one knows music like he does; just try to stump him. Impossible!
Second of all, Mark refuses to get one of those computerized jukeboxes. Why, you ask? Because with those, people don't play the box, they play the album cover. And there is nothing worse then seeing your favorite album and finding out that someone didn’t think your favorite song was worth including. If classic Motown, Punk and Rock and Roll albums aren’t enough, we also make our own cuts— just look for the Peace Love & BillyMarks mixes. We got everything from Costello to The Jam; James Brown to Weezer;  Mary J. Blige to the English invasion;  even George Jones. It's damn good.You must check it out.”—Billy

BillyMark's West
332 Ninth Ave. (@ 29th St.)

Further reading: 365 Bars, New York Magazine and Shecky’s.

Time Is Tight.

(Surprise link...click on it...I dare you!)


November 3, 2011

I mentioned yesterday that MAD commenter, ragin’ rr (who’s missing in action, by the way), suggested I start going back to bars that I tried to go to on last year’s 365 bar crawl, but never made it to for one reason or another. That got me thinking to one place that I really wanted to document, but kind of got thrown out of after asking to take a picture inside. The bar is called, The Distinguished Wakamba Lounge and the atmosphere and some of the patrons are “sketchy” to say the least.  When I visited here on the bar crawl, I asked a bouncer if I could take a picture and was told to leave in pretty hostile tones. I was always pissed I didn’t get at least a couple of pictures in there, so tonight I’m going to go back and try to discreetly snap a few without the flash. Here’s hoping I don’t write this post from the hospital!

Alright, it's straight up here on 8th Avenue. I've kind of obsessed over this all night and I think the mistake I made was asking to take a picture. In a place like this you should have an air of confidence about you and not show any weakness. You don't want to be cocky, but you should walk in with your camera like it's no sweat to be taking pictures, it is a place open to the public, after all and I have every right to snap a few photos in there. I hope I don't get my legs broken!

Okay, moment of truth time. I took a shot outside and then said hi to these two guys as I went in and even shook their hands. So far, so good.

The bar is crowded and maybe it's my attitude, but the vibe isn't quite as scary as the time before. The bar is a combination of Spanish and tiki themes. If Tony Montana and Don Ho had a love child, it would be the Distinguished Wakamba Lounge.

The bartenders here are dressed in skimpy outfits and don't speak much English. After attempting to order a Budweiser for several minutes, she held up a bottle of rum with a questionable look on her face. I gave her a thumbs up and got some sort of rum concoction to drink, when in Rome...

And here she is ringing up the drink.

My point of view of the brown Formica-topped bar. Spanish disco music blares from the jukebox and every once in a while a bartender will do a little dance in your area and I think it's customary to tip a couple of bucks for the action, so I did.

This bartender was chatting with a woman who just got off duty. They were speaking in Spanish of course. The place doesn't feel like New York, it's got kind of a San Francisco vibe to it and you kind of feel like Dirty Harry is going to bust in at any moment.

There's tables up front, opposite the bar.

And there's more tables in the back area.

Here's a shot of the bar from the back end.

These two are having trouble getting the drinks they are trying to order. They should just take a glass of rum and be happy. In a place like this you should just go with the flow.

Your change in here is always delivered in ones, I think to encourage the tipping for drinks and coochie-coochie dances. This is my stack after about an hour in here. Okay, I think I pushed my luck as far as I should and it's time to get out of here. The Distinguished Wakamba Lounge has been documented on MAD!

One obligatory bathroom mirror shot for the road and it's adios, amigos! See you tomorrow after dark.

The Distinguished Wakamba Lounge
543 Eighth Ave. (Near 37th St.)
No phone (What a surprise!)

Further reading: New York On Tap, Midtown Lunch and NFT.

He's so honest that the dishonest dread,
Meeting the kid with the replaceable head.

(Surprise link...click on it...I dare you!)


Bonus Linkage To More Ruby's Photos At The Gog Log!

Goggla posted more photos from the closing day at Ruby's. Check them out here: The Gog Log.