The East Village has notoriously been New York’s counterculture epicenter. It has become synonymous with art, music, grit, and grunge: a good place to let your freak flag fly. It comes as no surprise, then, that this beloved East Village dive bar, built in 1835, was a haunt for people like Frank Sinatra, Allen Ginsberg, The Ramones, W. H. Auden, and legend has it, even Leon Trotsky. It closed its doors in 2012, but resurfaced in the spring of 2015, new and improved and ready to welcome a new generation of creatives over its dimly lit threshold. Pirate Booty’s founder Robert Ehrlich and La Palapa owner Barbara Sibley teamed up to restore the old neighborhood staple. They cleaned the place up, but still aimed to keep some of the grungy charm that kept people coming back; A mural dating back to the 1920s still remains, as well as a wooden phone booth and classic horseshoe bar. Holiday Cocktail Lounge has all the eccentricity of the East Village that people have come to expect from time-honored St Marks Place establishments with just a touch of contemporary chic.
Serving an interesting but decadent assortment of coffees, hot cakes, desserts, Japanese tapas, sandwiches, pasta, and more, Hi-Collar functions as many things. In the morning the atmosphere is subdued and relaxed like a coffee shop, as customers come to enjoy “kissaten” – a term to describe Japanese-style coffee shops. The lady we spoke to at Hi-Collar told us their coffee selection is extensive and that there are a variety of beans to choose from. Not only is there the opportunity to select the bean varietal, but one can also choose how the coffee is made as well: pour over, aeropress, or siphon—each method drawing out a distinct flavor. For the non-coffee drinker, there are teas and even a fruit milkshake. As the afternoon wears on and evening approaches, Hi-Collar becomes a bar complete with wine, sake, and beer. Inquiring about the name, we found that Hi-Collar is in fact a term that came to be during the Japanese Jazz Age, when Western culture infiltrated Japan and many men were seen wearing Western style high collars. The only seating available is at the long bar, and the beautiful flowers and lamps that hang from the ceiling add to the allure of this multifaceted nook on 10th.
By the time I arrived at Fish Bar on a Friday afternoon, a few regulars had already settled in. They chatted quietly as I explored the bar, which - true to its name - is decorated with fish and undersea creatures of all kinds. As I checked out Fish Bar’s reasonably priced drinks, which attract a diverse group of young people and locals, I wondered why the owner had decided on a nautical theme… and why there were so many dollar bills stuck to the ceiling. Fortunately, John, the owner, was happy to answer my questions. In the mid-nineties, he said, he frequented a bar called the Castro Lounge, which was unofficially known as “Fish Bar. ” When the owner put the bar on the market, John bought it and made the unofficial name official. Fish Bar opened on January 1st, 2000, and regulars immediately began bringing fish back from vacations to decorate the ocean-blue walls. “It escalated quickly, ” John said with a sigh. That explained Fish Bar’s origins, but not the money on the ceiling. According to John, it is a game invented by the regulars, who have a special technique to get the dollar bills to stick. But he refused to tell me anything else. “I guess you’ll just have to come by and check it out, ” he said, and I assured him that I would visit Fish Bar soon - with a wallet full of dollar bills.
"The Two Faces of Italian Food" is the tagline at this restaurant and wine bar. The perfect blend they are referring to is tradition and innovation. The menu boasts homemade and traditional options - the wine list is not limited to Italian varieties, though the beer is. We stopped in briefly and relaxed with a glass of wine in their quiet back garden and spoke with one of the restaurant's partners as waiters set up for that evening's meal. When we asked him to describe the food that Giano served in a short sentence he told us humbly: "Italian food. No big deal. " Can't wait to try it!
Most business owners know how difficult it is to bounce back after being robbed. Makoto Wantanabe has done it twice and, ironically, has a thief to thank for the very birth of Tokio 7. Makoto was globetrotting in the early 1990s when he arrived in Southern California on what was supposed to be the penultimate stop on his tour. He befriended a homeless man and let him stay in his hotel room for the night, but Makoto awoke to find everything except for his passport was stolen. Stranded with no money and far from his home in the Japanese countryside, Makoto called one of his only contacts in the U. S., who worked at a Japanese restaurant in Manhattan. He scrounged up enough money for a bus ticket and was off. While in New York, Makoto felt that men’s clothing suffered from a lack of style. Having always had a knack for fashion, he knew he could change that but lacked the funds to open a store with brand new clothing. So, after several years of saving his wages as a waiter, he founded one of the first consignment shops in New York City. Tokio 7 now carries men’s and women’s clothes, with the overarching theme being, as Makoto says, that they are simply “cool. ” The clothes are mostly from Japanese designers and name brands with unique twists. In the store, clothing that has been donated with a lot of wear is labeled “well loved. ”Despite its importance in the community, the shop fell on tough times during the COVID-19 pandemic. To make matters worse, Tokio 7 was looted in the summer of 2020 and had 300 items stolen. When Makoto contemplated closing his doors permanently, longtime customers begged him to reconsider. Resilient as ever, he set up a small photography area in the back of the shop and sold a portion of his clothes online to compensate for the decline of in-person purchases. Reflecting on his journey, Makoto marveled at the whims of fate. Had he not been robbed all of those decades ago in California, he had planned to start a life in the Amazon rainforest
This small, old-world neighborhood barbershop is loaded with personality. Everything about Barbiere is unique: the whimsical wrought-iron gate out front, the retro hair and shaving products along the walls, and the high-quality, old-fashioned service. When we poked our heads in to chat with the barbers and their clients—all seated in vintage leather chairs—they were proud to tell us that James Franco is among the celebrities that drop by for a haircut or a classic shave.
“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. ”
A look at Manhattan’s most long-standing bars would be lacking without McSorley’s, which is hailed as the oldest Irish saloon in the city. It was founded by Irish immigrant John McSorley as a working-class pub named The Old House at Home. Known for serving beer for the price of pennies and free plates of cheese and crackers, the bar stayed alive during Prohibition by selling “Near Beer” to its loyal patrons. Throughout its long history, McSorley’s has preserved its famous golden rule, ordering customers to “Be Good or Be Gone. ” Its previous slogan of “Good Ale, Raw Onions, and No Ladies” remains true on the first two counts. As for the latter, although McSorley’s was indeed one of the last men-only bars in the city, a court ruling forced it to admit women in the 1970s. It was eventually purchased by a night manager, Matthew Maher, who then passed it on to his daughter, Teresa. She has made history at this well-loved institution by becoming the first woman to work behind the bar. Aside from this, little has changed. The memorabilia on the walls and the sawdust-covered floor speak to McSorley’s storied past. There is even a chair that Abraham Lincoln sat in when he stopped by for a drink in 1859. A more somber memento can be found hanging from the electric lamps along the bar. Soldiers leaving to fight in World War I were given a turkey and ale dinner, and the wishbones were then placed on the lamps with the hope the men would come back, collect them, and celebrate their safe journey home. Dozens of aged wishbones remain there today, in remembrance to the soldiers who were unable to return. Unsurprisingly, given its enduring popularity, McSorley’s has been featured in numerous works of art, literature, and media. Most notably, it was immortalized in E. E. Cummings’ poem “Sitting in McSorley’s” and by New Yorker writer Joseph Mitchell, who was so taken with the bar as a microcosm of old New York that he published an anthology of essays in its honor.