There are twenty-four taps in use every night of the week at Bondurants, and when the bar hooks up a cask to the final, larger tap, there are twenty-five beverages available. Bondurants has become known for its rotating draft list that features both local brews as well as lesser-known international brands. The bar also prides itself on its small batch of bourbons made at local distilleries and its quirky cocktails with names that include "Fizzy Lifting Drink" and "Fernet Me Not." There is also a full dinner menu, offering everything from traditional southern pulled pork to a fresh kale and collard salad, as well as a brunch menu that is beloved in the neighborhood. Specials rotate with the seasons and everything is sourced locally whenever possible. Caity Prunka, one of the owners of Bondurants, told me, "We make nearly every food item in-house, from grinding meat daily for burgers to smoking our own cheeses."
The bar is decorated to look like an upscale moonshiner's haven. Many customers link the name to the famous moonshiner family, though Jess, the bartender, smiled and suggested that the name comes from elsewhere. The walls are lined with shelves holding barrels, glasses and funnels with lettering that is reminiscent of Appalachia or the Wild West. It is a true urban saloon.
Many of the decorations have stories behind them. For example, when I pointed out the manatee statue on the central bar column guzzling whiskey, Jess told me that one of the owners is from Florida, where manatees are considered the state marine mammal. "It's his piece of home," she said with a smile.
I walked into Trinity Pub just a few moments after it opened at 5pm, and was soon followed by a stream of customers. "It's a neighborhood bar, " Barry, the bartender, told me. "The kind that's quickly disappearing in Manhattan. " He pointed out a man and a woman who had just taken a seat at the bar, explaining that they used to live in the area, but had recently moved to Westchester. Though they had a few other errands to run, they essentially decided to visit the city in order to have a drink in their old pub. "It's the best bar in NYC, or at least the friendliest, " the man exclaimed. The woman nodded, saying that she had met her husband in medical school, "And he remembers every exam we've taken, " she said, pointing to Barry. Barry is clearly a big reason why people become regulars. With his genuine nature, big smile, and quick wit, he is everything one might want in a bartender. But he was quick to heap praise on the owners of the bar (Gene, Billy, and Timmy) for their management. He told me that they used to work around the corner at a bar called Fitzpatrick's. After it closed in 1996, they opened Trinity Pub, and the entire Fitzpatrick's crowd showed up to help get it ready for opening night. I then learned that the space had been a bar since the 1930s, mostly run by German and Hungarian immigrants. In the 1940s and 1950s, the bar was known as "Schubert Hall" and then was a firefighter's bar called "Sidestreets" in the 1970s and 80s - much to the delight of those of us from Manhattan Sideways. Barry showed us an old photograph of the bar from the 1940s as well as an online list that named Trinity Pub as one of the oldest bars in the neighborhood. He also shared a story of how he had once met an eighty-year-old woman who remembered coming by and pulling her German father out of what was then Schubert Hall. In addition to Trinity Pub, the owners run two other bars in the neighborhood (Banshee and The Gael), and Barry was proud to tell me that they have been able to pay for their children's education thanks to the three bars. Barry pointed out some of the signature traits of Trinity. He pulled out the plaque that listed the pub as pouring one of the greatest pints according Guinness consumers in 2008. In addition to trivia every Monday and a well-attended happy hour from 5pm-8pm, Barry informed us that the bar offers the chance for charity guest bartending, where the proceeds from a group of thirty or more go towards a charity of the guest bartender's choice. On the back wall, there is a mural of three Irishmen sitting at a bar. Barry told me that they call it the "three wise men. " And how fortunate were we to actually witness a meeting of three modern day Irish men as they sat down next to each other. They all appeared to know Barry, an Irishmen himself, but did not know each other. They quickly began asking about their hometowns, inquiring how often they go back, and offering one another candy. What better way to be given a clear glimpse of the friendships that are born and grown in this welcoming pub.
With velvet curtains, old art, and gilded mirrors, the Auction House resembles a centuries-old salon. Although regal and classic, I found it to be very approachable. The exposed brick walls – now a common feature of New York City bars – and warm, low lighting makes the space seem more like someone’s living room than a museum. The cozy drape-enclosed rooms attract locals who enjoy huddling around the fireplaces in the cooler months. The bar calls itself a “diamond in the rough, ” a term with which I heartily agree. I spoke to Johnny B. Barounis, who explained that when he first opened the bar in 1993, it was the only one of its kind. Johnny got his start in 1978 working the door at places like the China Club. He prided himself on being “the first person somebody sees on the way in, and the last on the way out. ” After a while, he became tired of the “big, loud, schmaltz-filled nightclubs” and wanted to open a place where people could have conversations and escape the chaos of the city. He opened the Auction House, which earned its name because most of its furniture and art came from the auction houses that Johnny scoured throughout the Northeast. The reproductions of old paintings, especially by Rembrandt and De Goya, fit very well in the space, which, being an old carriage house, has fifteen foot ceilings. As for the furniture, “the turn of the century motif will never go out of style, ” Johnny said while discussing the timelessness of his design choices. At the time, the only real bars were traditional Irish ones, so Johnny was a true innovator in creating something more like a drawing room or a parlor – “a lounge. ” “We were one of the first lounges in the city. Now everyone has a lounge, ” Johnny stated, adding that many policies that are now commonplace were first set into motion by the Auction House. For example, after spending many years running the doors of nightclubs and seeing the damage that people fresh out of college (“In their fifth year of college, ” as he put it) could do, Johnny implemented an over-25-only rule, which was enforced with ID checks at the door. He also did not allow baseball hats: “It’s always the kid with the baseball cap that causes problems. ” As a big animal rights activist, he does not allow fur to be worn in his establishment. The Auction House also has never had any signage. When the lounge first opened, not having a sign was a very risky move. It soon leant the place a sense of mystery and privacy, however, suggesting that patrons of the bar “had to know about it. ” The policy attracted quite a few celebrities, including many SNL cast members. These days, however, many bars opt to have no sign. Johnny suggested that he has considered adding a sign to the auction house, just because the idea of having no marking on a bar has become so mainstream. Johnny is very proud to have been continually running a bar for over twenty years. “In this city, four years is considered a long run. ” More specifically, however, Johnny is happy to have designed a space where people can make connections. “Five different people met their spouse here in our first year, ” he said, proudly. “We’re putting people together. ”
Brandy's Piano Bar, located on a quiet Yorktown street, has been a piano bar since 1979 but has been a straight-up bar for even longer. When the current owner took over in 1985, he renovated the space and discovered the original panels that decorate the short dividing wall between the bar and the seating area. They feature the bar as it once was, and the two men portrayed in front of the building are thought to be the original owners. I spoke to Peter, who has been working at Brandy's Piano Bar since St. Patrick's Day in 2014. Although Brandy's features a singing wait staff, Peter works the earlier hours, noting that he only sings "in the shower. " The bar offers a happy hour from 4pm to 8pm with live music beginning every night at 9: 30pm. The piano player rotates each night; therefore, one can expect to be able to listen to anything from Broadway hits to classic piano tunes to the top forty. Requests are welcome and according to Peter, "There's no song they won't try... though they might be crap at it. "While customers sing along, it is the waitstaff that steal the show, with many of them moving on to roles on and off-Broadway. Peter pointed out the signed posters from New York professional productions that decorate the back wall. They represent the shows that feature ex-Brandy's employees. Some even return to Brandy's after a run on Broadway, including Lauren Mufson, who played Donna in Mamma Mia. Peter explained that Brandy's is a great place for people who do not want to visit a "touristy" location. Though the after-9: 30pm crowd is different every night and comes from all over the city and the world, Peter's early evening crowd is familiar to him, full of locals and regulars. Despite the amazing musicians and voices that pass through, Brandy's is still a neighborhood joint, complete with a friendly, relaxed atmosphere.
The first time that I stopped into Brady's, it was a Sunday afternoon, and when I asked the bartender for a business card, one of the regulars jovially yelled out, "This isn't a business, it's a circus. " And thus began my relationship with this friendly corner spot. A bar has stood on 82nd and Second Avenue since the early 1900s, though it was not always called Brady’s. The original bar, McGrath’s, which was allegedly “open” during Prohibition, was bought by an Irishman named Dan Brady in 1961. In 1991, Mr. Brady signed it over to his son, Dan Jr., who left his work in the world of computers to run the family business. I spoke to the younger Dan, who is chock full of memories of the bar. Although his father was Irish and there is a large selection of Irish whiskey, Brady’s is more of a sports bar than an Irish tavern. Dan describes it as a “blue collar bar in a white collar neighborhood. ” His earliest memories of the establishment are from when he was just a toddler and customers would take him by the hand and lead him to the candy counter down the street. He told me stories of running out the front door and in through the back door over and over and playing ball against a building on 82nd Street. He also showed me a photograph on the wall, taken in 1976, of an outing to Westchester. Dan’s whole family, as well as many of the bar customers, chose to go on the trip together. I was impressed to learn that Dan has studied up on the history of the neighborhood. He took me outside and pointed to a notch where horses had been tied up back when the old carriage house (now the restaurant and teahouse King’s Carriage House) was in use, and pointed out where the hay for the horses used to be kept. When Dan took over from his father, he made a lot of changes (installing flatscreen TVs, adding a dart board and a pool table, and updating the jukebox). He had suggested these ideas to his father before he inherited the bar, but Dan Sr. preferred to keep it the way it had always been and told his son to wait to change the layout until Brady’s was in his name. There is no doubt in my mind that Dan made the right decision to follow in his dad's footsteps - his eyes lit up each time he spoke about a different memory or showed me another personal touch to the bar, including the back wall, which had a signed boxing glove from Mohammad Ali and other sports memorabilia. Before I left, Dan mentioned that many people assume that because the bar is 100 years old, it is an “old man’s kind of place. ” Though it is true that many of the customers have been coming for years, Dan said that the atmosphere of the bar changes considerably at around 8pm to welcome a different kind of crowd. People of all ages come to drink, converse, and play games. “We have a really friendly pool table, ” Dan told me with a smile, adding that the experts are usually very happy to give advice to those who request it.
Though Ryan's Daughter has been operating since 1979, there has been a drinking establishment on the corner of East 85th Street and First Avenue since the Prohibition era, when it was a German club. It remained under German ownership through the 1930s and was then officially licensed as "The Old Stream" until the 1970s, when it passed into Irish hands. It was renamed "The Minstrel Boy" in 1974, after the traditional Irish song. In 1979, under new ownership once again, the name changed to Ryan's Daughter, a reference to the famous 1970 Irish film starring Robert Mitchum and Sarah Miles. Throughout this entire period, the spot remained a friendly neighborhood watering hole. "This is a home for everybody, " Michael "Mick" Mellamphy said. He owns the bar with Jim Gerding, whom he met while working here in the late nineties when it was still owned by Stoney McGurrin. The two men made sure to share this information with me: Though they officially took over in 2011, Stoney is still around and very much involved. While I was speaking to Mick, I was able to witness Stoney's involvement first-hand when he dropped off a plate of food to Mick, encouraging him to eat during his long bartending shift. "He's the most interesting guy in the world, " Jim told me. Stoney was born in Ireland and moved to the United States in his teens. He worked at a series of odd jobs, including as a bartender, a cabdriver, and as a truck driver with an African-American partner in the 1960s. "He's a great storyteller, " Jim added, mentioning that Stoney lives above the bar and essentially acts as a live-in handyman and consultant. "He doesn't go fishing; he wakes up and goes to work. "Jim and Mick have tried to keep the bar the same ("We keep it like we found it, " Jim said), and they have been rewarded by meeting people who recognize the bar from years gone by. For example, Mick told me about a regular who was married at the bar back when it was The Old Stream, as well as an elderly woman who lives in the neighborhood whose father used to come to the bar during World War II. As I talked with the two men, I was surprised to see how busy the bar was, notwithstanding that it was midday on a weekday. Mick said that it was not uncommon to see a crowd that size. He then pointed to a group of nurses who had just gotten off an early shift, and were celebrating as if it was Friday night. Mick said that when he first started out in 1999, there were a lot more construction workers and retirees during the daytime hours. Now, the neighborhood has gotten younger and construction workers are no longer allowed to drink at lunch. "Places that do well are places that appeal to the locals, " he told me, and Ryan's Daughter certainly fulfills that requirement. The bar itself is a fun, two-storied collection of eclectic knick-knacks. There are assorted signs from Ireland, a Hoop Fever game in the back, and various advertisements for the "Unofficial Upper East Side Billiards Competition. " My eye was drawn to a shoe repair sign in the back. Jim told me that the bar acquired the sign after hosting a party for a man who used to repair shoes across the street. He had been in the same shop for fifty years, and so when he went out of business, the pub decided to send him off in style. The whole neighborhood turned out, as well as Channel 7 News, and Jim and Mick kept the sign as homage. Jim led me to the cozier upper level where the bar holds a variety of events, including jazz on Thursday nights, various play readings, and private parties. Ryan's Daughter tries to appeal to a variety of tastes and demographics. As Jim said, "Whether you've lived here your whole life or just got here a week ago, either way, this is your extended living room. "
Paul Floess grew up in the northern part of Italy, on the Austrian border. "I only knew about heavy foods - food that kept us warm in the wintertime, " he recalled. But then he began to travel, and he educated himself on the different ingredients and the recipes in the various regions throughout Italy. To this day, in 2017, Paul continues to look forward to spending a few weeks in Italy every summer, discovering something new and refreshing to bring back to his charming Upper East Side restaurant. Opened in 2011, Paul was able to make his dream come true after spending some twenty years cooking in other restaurants nearby. After all this time, Paul was ready to venture out on his own. "I knew exactly what people liked to eat and what they expected from a good restaurant. " He was proud to tell me that everyone leaves happy, and they continue to return. It is primarily neighborhood denizens who come in - always bringing new friends or family members. Grateful, he commented, "We are doing well, we always have a full house on the weekends, " but Paul is constantly amused by those who step inside and tell him that they never noticed his space. Luna Rossa is what we at Manhattan Sideways like to refer to as a true hidden gem – intimate, with fantastic food and a welcoming staff. I never tire of hearing the stories of chefs who grew up watching their mom in the kitchen and were inspired from a young age to want to learn to cook. For Paul, it was slightly different in that his mom was the chef at his aunt's nearby hotel. As a young boy, he would go there after school and wash dishes, and for seven years he worked there in the summers. He learned all of the recipes, and to this day, still prepares many of them in his own restaurant. Paul emphasized, however, that he will continue to return to his homeland where he will find inspiration and eagerly come back to Manhattan so that he can share it with his loyal customers.
I would not have guessed, walking through the room hung with sparkly princess dresses and pink china, that Judy Famigletti used to be a hockey mom. The owner of Let's Dress Up, an event center for little girls, told me that she has two sons who both played ice hockey through college. She would go with them to their different games and formed her own business while traveling: she designed sports-themed Christmas ornaments, which developed into a broader home accessories business. While she greatly enjoyed painting, sewing, and decorating, most of Judy's creative power was directed towards sports and practicality. She had no use for frills and sparkles. Once her sons were grown, Judy moved to the city and set off on a new path. She knew that she wanted to have her own business that involved home decorating and that she wanted to work with little girls, since she was already very familiar with the world of boys. She reminisced about how she used to walk around her neighborhood when she was little, asking people for old jewelry and wearing her big sister's dresses. Judy began designing the concept for Let's Dress Up, meanwhile getting in touch with her feminine side. Needing to be resourceful in her first few years, as she no longer had a house in which to hold Let's Dress Up, she decided to barter with a restaurant. They allowed her to use their private room in return for decorating the eatery for the holidays. In 2005, she began holding events in the restaurant's back room, decking it out with her old hats and dolls. Shortly thereafter, Judy was able to move into her own space on 85th Street, followed by another location in Connecticut in 2010 - in an effort to be closer to her son and three of her grandchildren. "My granddaughter practically lived in the store until Kindergarten, " she said with a smile. Her sons also helped her with the business. In 2015, tragedy struck. Because the traveling was starting to become a hassle, Judy decided to close the Connecticut location and focus on the 85th Street spot. Shortly after making that decision, however, a fire broke out, ruining all of her old hats and dolls, and causing the space to require a complete overhaul. When I had the pleasure of meeting Judy at the end of 2015, her feathers did not appear to be ruffled. She had just finished renovating and moving her Connecticut dress-up things into the store. "After the fire, I decorated it based on the new girl, " Judy shared, showing me a wall hung with Disney princess outfits. Instead of her classic, vintage items, she had bright, shiny new things, with an emphasis on Disney's Frozen. "Elsa has replaced Ariel as the favorite princess. "Judy was inspired by the number of little girls who stopped by when she was renovating to ask, "When are you going to open? " She began thinking of new ways to expand Let's Dress Up, beyond the tried-and-true birthday parties. When I visited, she had just started offering special "Classes in the Castle" that little girls could come to with a play date. During these classes, the girls do craft projects, play with the dress-up items and learn the rules of princess etiquette from "Lady Judith" - Judy's persona in her shop. Judy showed me an example of one craft, in which little girls dressed a Pinkalicious dress-up doll after listening to one of the stories in the series by Victoria and Elizabeth Kann. Judy has now expanded into a summer camp and occasionally holds seasonal workshops; however, she assured me that her main passion will always be the parties. Each of the parties is all-inclusive, beginning with a special tea party invitation that is sent to the guests. On the day of the event, the hosting family arrives fifteen minutes early so that the birthday girl can select her favorite dress and be ready to greet her guests. Once all of the girls are dressed in the various gowns, purses, tiaras, wands, and jewelry, they get glitter nail polish and sparkly, clear lip gloss. Judy then puts a pink screen up so that the girls can take group and individual photos. The various parts of the party last only fifteen minutes, which Judy feels is the perfect amount of time for short attention spans. When I inquired about the age range, Judy told me, "The most common age is five. I can tell when they outgrow it because they start asking why there's no prince. "Once the pictures are taken, all the little princesses sit down to their tea party, set with proper china. I asked if any of the china ever breaks and Judy shook her head vehemently, saying, "When they dress like princesses, they act like princesses. " Judy took all the tea party equipment out of pretty striped hatboxes, laying everything out on a doily. "The piece de resistance is the glass slipper, " she said, putting a tiny slipper at the top of the place setting. She also showed me the little party favors, composed of sparkly bracelets in a mesh bag. Judy has used the same party favor throughout the years "because it's the right one. "Each tea party is comprised of the same ingredients: a bagel with cream cheese or butter, strawberries, cheese sandwiches cut in the shape of a heart, and cupcakes or cake. After listing the different courses of the princess feast, Judy informed me that she used to do her parties for the Museum of the City of New York. They requested that she hold high-end birthday parties in their Dollhouse Room. Though the parties were fun and the room was beautiful, it was a massive undertaking. Today, Judy sticks to her spot on 85th Street. Judy has also allowed others to take over her space, as there is enough room for a long table. She is looking forward to the day when someone chooses to have a baby shower in her space. Until then, Judy already has a lot on her beautiful pink china plate, with as many as four parties in one day. On my way out the door, I saw a wall full of knightly coats of armor, often used by little boys who are invited to the parties (although there are times when the boys are perfectly content to wear the dresses). I asked if the girls could be knights, instead of princesses. Judy answered with a benevolent smile, "They can be anything they want to be. "
Meet Amanda Gagnon. Actress turned Anthrozoologist turned dog (and people) trainer. Towards the end of 2018, we had the pleasure of spending time with her at the newly renovated doggy digs on West 85th Street where green stable-style doors open into a wide open puppy playing space. About a decade prior to our meeting, Amanda was side-gigging her actress career and took a day job at a doggy daycare center where, she stated passionately: “I loved working with the dogs SOOO much that I never went on another audition. ” At that daycare, she found that many of the dogs had behavioral problems, which is where Amanda’s curiosity in dog training began. After diving in extensively, and unfortunately learning the reality of all the bad care and training out there, Amanda decided to take it on herself. She became an expert trainer and Masters student of Anthrozoology, studying the relationship between dogs and humans across different cultures. Through sharing her unique expertise with fellow dog owners in local parks, buzz spread and eventually led to a large clientele – including many well-known celebrities. As a dog trainer, one of Amanda’s dirtiest secrets is that she spends far less time training dogs than she does training people. When it comes to learning, it turns out humans and dogs are not so different after all. “When you get down to the nitty gritty, we learn in much the same way, it’s just that the rewards are different. For a dog, the reward is a treat, a ball, something tangible. For a person it’s feeling fulfilled, successful, happy. "Yes, Amanda trains dogs to become “good dogs, ” but she is primarily training PEOPLE on how better to fix problematic doggy behaviors, how to communicate better, how to accept the behaviors they cannot fix, and, ultimately, how to have better relationships with their dogs. Amanda expanded on her philosophy: “Typical dog training tends to be so focused on stopping problem behaviors and making your dog perfect, but it doesn’t have to be entirely about that. You should have a good relationship with your dog! You didn’t get your dog so he could sit in a corner and behave all day. You got your dog to go out and meet people and do things and have fun! …The main goal is to help improve your life with your dog. ” From Puppy Socials to Paint-Your-Pet night at her training center, Amanda is as serious about fun as she is behavior training, offering pups and their parents more than just a place to learn new techniques, but also to play and socialize with other like-minded creatures. While puppies are her specialty, Amanda trains dogs of all ages and carries, in store, the best products for the job. One of which are “the perfect dog treat. ” Amanda partnered with Sherri Davis - who came from a successful corporate career managing events for almost twenty years - but found that her traveling precluded her from having her own dog. That all changed in 2016, when Sherri gave her notice and rescued a puppy on February 29. She named her Leap - as in the leap year. Sherri told us that she became a happier person. "Everyone around me was happier, strangers on the street became my neighbors and all because of this little ball of fluff. " She went on to say, "I quickly became a helicopter dog mom and realized the treats on the market were filled with crazy ingredients. After almost a year of testing, focus groups, interviews with nutritionists and vets, I believe we developed the perfect dog treat. " Amuse Pooch launched in 2017, selling their single ingredient, human grade all chicken breast Chicken Chips or 100% USDA Beef Chips, which Amanda keeps stocked in her storefront. According to Amanda, “The idea behind the store is to carry the products that I love and have been recommending to people for years which are usually hard to find, and to keep them at a price point where people can actually afford to train their dogs. ”A true expert in her field, Amanda is welcoming, full of patience, and always able to draw on her vast experience and continuing study of the relationships between dogs and humans, in order to meet the needs of her clients.