New to 38th Street in 2014, and without much competition surrounding it on the side street, District appears to be off and running. With flat screens in the booths, a mile long list of beers, and an American menu that includes appetizers of lobster sliders, buffalo quail wings and truffled cheese croquettes, people in the area seem to be ecstatic that this tap house has arrived on 38th.
Perhaps the attitude of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, ” works well at Society Billiards. They seem to know that sometimes a classic pool hall is just what people need. Extremely spacious and stocked with countless pool tables, anyone looking to get lost in the game will be sure to love this dimly lit, relaxed, yet classy spot.
Amid a sea of skyscrapers, this old townhouse has been made into a bar in three parts. The bottom floor sits amid darkly polished wood, sporting large TVs with the night’s games turned on. Above, a room of unfinished reclaimed wood from Pennsylvania sets a more rustic, rugged tone. And upstairs on the third floor, voila! A long-tabled, compact biergarten nestles between towering edifices to either side, creates a chasm in which to drink beer and be merry all year round. Opened in 2012, this bar is now playing a part in the transformation of the midtown area towards a more "hospitable atmosphere. " As manager, Cara, told us, "With so many hotels in the district, we draw from a "super dynamic" crowd of people. " In addition to the vast selection of beer, there is an excellent cocktail menu that changes by the season to stay up-to-date and fresh, and the American-style eats follow suit. A tale of three different worlds in one, it is a great place to come for a drink and to mingle.
“Liquor-wise, whiskey is the greatest expression of America. ” So said Jessica, bar manager at American Whiskey at the time that I visited. Opened in September 2013, the bar immediately attracted a large industry following with its nearly two hundred varieties of bourbons and rye. The bar is more versatile than that, however, with a southern, French-inspired food menu and full bar to complement, because, as Jessica says, “even us cocktail nerds want a beer and a shot sometimes. ” Here, highbrow meets reality. Tans and grays line the space, with rough distressed wood showing through. Numerous flat screens are generously located throughout the bar, between giant busts of beasts. Following our conversation with Jessica, we spoke with Casey, an owner of American Whiskey. As simple as the story is, we found it fascinating and truly applaud the dedication that it took for a bunch of friends to follow their dream. Between the five managing partners, they have trained behind the bar, managed a restaurant, cooked and even washed dishes – “you name it, we have done it, ” Casey, told us. “We always knew that our end goal would be to open our own place. Once we graduated college and began to mature a bit, we got out of the beer mode and moved into the more refined and sophisticated world of alcohol. ” Their vision from the beginning was to find a space large enough to accommodate their sport-themed bar, as they are avid fans of multiple games. One of the partners is a University of Georgia graduate, and managed to bring in several hundred Georgia football enthusiasts on a recent weekend. Casey said the place was electric. Mimicking the theme of a vodka service, the guys came up with “barrel service. ” Served right at the table are buckets of ice, glasses and one or three liter barrels, which are whiskey-based with a variety of mixers, ready to drink. Duane, one of the several in-house whiskey experts, spent time with us sharing his passion for Bourbon. It was quite interesting to hear him speak of his experience in Kentucky, this past spring, when a few of the partners went on a trip to gain further knowledge. “What better place to go than right to the state that is famous for this, ” Duane said. However, he did go on to tell us that there are a number of states that manufacture their own whiskies – Iowa, Oregon and Montana were a few mentioned. Duane chatted about the surrounding landscape where the whiskey is produced, saying “it breathes into the barrels” and emphasized the importance of the water source – “all combined, it makes for an outstanding whiskey. ” The enthusiasm for the drink was contagious. Having only had tiny tastes over the years, I broke down and took a few sips of Duane’s signature “Strike Me Dead. ” Templeton Rye (dating from the Prohibition), black pepper, maple syrup and maple bitters were combined and finished off with some orange zest and cloves. The result was powerful and flavorful. Following that, I tried Duane's other favorite drink, “Floral Collins, ” consisting of Fords gin, cucumber juice, lavender syrup, fresh squeezed lime juice, maraschino liqueur and a slice of cucumber. Esteban, our photographer, was asked which concoction he preferred and answered that they had, “Equal goodness. ” Duane has spent the last three years living and breathing whiskey. Although incredibly conversant on the subject, he describes himself as being “humble” and said that he is simply dedicated to delivering the message of our country’s whiskey, “the voice of reason. ”
A self-described “Sports Nirvana in the East Village, ” this place certainly deserves points for accuracy. Up-to-date standings for professional sports and fantasy league teams are on the chalkboards adjacent to the bar. Though tiny, the relative lack of tables, the collection of sports paraphernalia, and high TV to square footage ratio make this a lively bar for watching the big game. And do not discount the great beer selection. Side Note: If a game runs into overtime, so will Standings.
“We are one of the oldest gay bars in the city, ” said Helen Burford. The owner of Julius’ considers it an honor to be a part of this history and to allow others to share in it. Many who stop by are keen to dip their toes into an earlier, more troublesome period. “We are a good reminder of the struggles people went through for those of us today. ”What better way for young men and women to learn about landmark events like the renowned “Sip-In, ” where gay activists challenged New York’s prohibitions on gay bars? The patrons who have been frequenting Julius’ for decades are happy to provide a history lesson. Every day around 4 p. m., they sit in a corner and share stories of what it was like back in the day. “This is their home. To them, Julius’ is not a bar — rain or shine, they need to be here. ” The old group, now in their seventies and eighties, enjoy having a drink and chatting with one another, but they also invite “guests” into the conversation — passing the baton, as this is their legacy. “They are always trying to bring young people into the fold, ” Helen commented.
“By 1958, it was a social club. My grandfather's friends from Ukraine — everyone who had survived WWII — were spending time here. ” Mike’s grandfather, Michael Roscishewsky Sr., was very strict. He had a set of rules by which he ran Blue & Gold, named for the colors of his country’s flag. He wore a three-piece suit and tie topped with an apron every day. He also would not allow in anyone wearing denim, and women could not come in unaccompanied. “When he ultimately let women come in on their own, as well as people wearing jeans, he thought it was the end of the world, ” Mike shared. Mike’s grandfather traveled through Germany in the 1940s, then to England, and eventually landed in the East Village. He owned a grocery store on 10th Street, saved up enough money, and opened Blue & Gold. He ran the bar until he retired in 1981, and his daughter, Julia, Mike’s mom, took over. On Christmas Eve of 1989, when Mike was only seventeen, the bartender took the evening off. “I covered her shift, and since then I have worked behind the bar, here and there, while running the whole place. My mom retired in full in 2002. ” Back in the day, Blue & Gold opened at 9 a. m. as they welcomed the retired firemen, police officers, and other members of the community. “We were a family. If I was five minutes late, there was always a line of retired guys waiting for me. ” In the 1970s, Mike’s grandfather was one of the first to have a color TV, allowing people to come in to watch the Yankees. He also had an air conditioner, making it the place that everyone wanted to spend time. The flow of clientele was slow and steady: they would come in from opening until noon, have two or three drinks, and leave, and then the next shift would arrive to occupy the barstools between noon and 6 p. m. “They had their quotas of what they could drink and afford. Nobody drinks like that anymore. ”As the scene in the East Village began to change, Mike witnessed Blue & Gold transform from a place for old Ukrainians, to a hangout for musicians, poets, and artists, to becoming a college bar. During the week, they would greet the older clientele and on the weekends the younger folk. More recently, Mike found there is a switch where the regulars change up every five years or so. “Most come to New York with a hope and a dream and it takes them about this amount of time to realize it isn't, necessarily, going to work. However, all roads continue to lead to Blue & Gold. If you come to New York, you find your way to us. ”
Billed as "New York's Premier Gay Gentleman's Club, " TownHouse is home to three attractive bars: The Club Room Sports Bar, the Main Bar, and the Piano Room Bar. When it opened more than twenty years ago, TownHouse was described as the "only truly elegant gay bar" in the city, and it continues to attract a steady New York and international crowd. With a dress code and more formal vibe, the bars cater to a clientele of gentlemen favoring a classier decor. The Piano Bar has talented pianists performing every night, and even offers the opportunity for singers to join and be accompanied on the piano during their open mike hours.
Opened in the summer of 2012, Beer Authority has more layers than an overdressed child in winter. At street level, neon signs advertise the presence of beer inside, which frankly was enough to catch our team's attention at the end of a long day. Walking in, we found ourselves in a small bar with a sweet bartender chatting languidly with a few customers, slowly digesting their food along with the daily news trickling down from the TV. This was the quintessential local watering hole. But wait! Stairs in the corner led to a second level, and this was where the real fun began. Over one hundred craft beers are offered, or perhaps instead are celebrated, as colorful flags bearing the crests of various breweries slouch down from the ceilings atop walls likewise bearing the brands. TVs aplenty stand at the ready to convert the potential energy of beer connoisseurship into the kinetic energy of sports fanaticism. And the story (or storey, perhaps), doesn't end there. A third rooftop level opens to the sky so that beer drinkers can commune with the heavens as they sip their cherished brew. In the winter, the space is covered and has heat lamps while in the warmer months, customers can feel the city breathing. Chatting with one of the managers and the new chef, Rob Steffen, I learned that the "very" Irish owners, Joe Donagher and Eamon Donnelley have a simple concept of offering plenty of space, a vast selection of beer, and good food to accompany it. The guys explained to me that each of the three floors offers a diversity of draught beers with sixteen on the ground floor, sixty-six on the main and twenty-eight on the rooftop. The enthusiastic staff is well-educated in the world of beer, and able to speak about any of them, including the different craft beers brought in each week. Customers are invited to try up to three tastings before selecting the pint they would like, and they can always opt for a flight of beer. And, just in case one needs another incentive to check out Beer Authority, happy hour begins at 11am and continues until 7pm! The brand new menu that Chef Rob recently rolled out emphasizes the excellent selection of craft beers by infusing it into some of his recipes. There is an ale-battered fish and chip dish, house made IPA honey mustard, Porter barbecue sauce for their pulled pork sandwich and a Porter cheddar dip for their hand-rolled pretzels. In addition, there is the Authority Burger.
We, literally, came in out of the rain to have a drink here late one Saturday afternoon. What a nice experience we had while sampling their "kick ass" bloody Mary and a refreshing pint of Guinness. John, the bartender could not have been kinder sharing the history and philosophy of this eight year old bar. There is an amusing story that explains how this pub got its unusual name. Essentially, a four-faced clock in Cork, Ireland fails to keep the same time on each of its faces, so the locals deem it "The Four-Faced Liar, " and the folks who run this bar appreciate the lesson the tale reveals about time. By extending open arms to their customers, they have enjoyed a constant repeat clientele all these years. We loved seeing a group of guys playing cards and having a drink at one of the corner tables, while others were watching the Yankees on the flat screen TV's, and a group of girls were catching up... but no one leaves without a quick, friendly conversation with John. As the rain let up, we finished up our drinks, said our good-byes and headed on our way. Perfect timing!