This place is busy 7 nights a week. And that’s no surprise, because there is always something going on, whether it be their Monday nite spelling bee (who knew hipsters could spell) or because there is some new folky Williamsburg starving trust fund talent playing the streetcar-like backroom. The bar was formerly a local luncheonette as well as, yes you guessed it, a candy store. In the summer the back patio gets filled to the rim with people wearing think-rimed fake glasses.
Live Music: Nightly, 8 p.m.
Spelling Bee: Every other Monday, 7:30 p.m.; prizes range from bar tabs to paninis
Sun-Wed, 5pm-2am; Thu-Sat, 5pm-4am
709 Lorimer St., nr. Richardson St. Brooklyn, NY 11211 718-302-3770
Ever since members of the Russian Imperial Ballet founded the restaurant in 1927, it became a second home for Russian and Polish expats, the intellectual elite and the high society. Its long running slogan is: “Six minutes and twenty-three seconds from Lincoln Center and slightly to the left of Carnegie Hall”. The food may not be as awesome as the interior, but the brunch is surprisingly affordable and makes for a marvelous time on a Sunday morning. (the croissants are to die for!) A lot of history has happened in its exquisite red and gold interior: Scenes from Manhattan, The Turning Point, Tootsie and New York Stories, were filmed at the restaurant. And in 1972, Madonna worked there, as a coat-check clerk. Even my family has history here:
My grandmother´s uncle had a Russian sweetheart back in Lithuania. They lost contact due to the war. He moved to New York to escape the Nazis. One fine day he walked into the Russian Tea Room. and out of all the Russian establishments in the world, who was there but no other than the one woman he never forgot. (Just like Casablanca, with Nazis and everything!) They were married soon afterwards.
Friday from 5pm – 7pm is Vodka Hour. A flight of vodka – tasting of three – for $14
Hours: Mon-Sat, 11:30am-3pm and 5pm-11pm; Sun, 11am-3pm and 5pm-10pm
150 W. 57th St., nr. Seventh Ave. NY, 10019 212-333-2970
This is probably my favorite bar in NYC. While many hot spots are trying to mimic speakeasys, Bill’s is the real thing. In 1924, Bill Hardy “opened” for clandestine business, and thus began the legend. Having been a boxer, a jockey, a dance instructor, a Broadway dandy and married to one of the Ziegfield girls from the legendary Ziegfield Follies, who better than Mr. Bill Hardy. Evoking the “Gay Nineties” as his theme (as in 1890’s), you’ll see everything from an autographed Buffalo Bill poster, boxers, to century-old playbills, to a bevy of famous Ziegfield girls, to a very young Al Jolson. Hardy exhumed the careers of many famous vaudevillians and hired them to rework their magic for a whole new generation in the 20’s. At its height, Bill’s featured three floors of rotating entertainers doing their act on one floor, taking a break, then moving on to the next. Every night was a party at Bill’s and every table a part of it. The infectious group sing-along continues to today. And yes, you really did have to ring a buzzer and whisper the correct password to get in. (Back then this wasn’t just a gimmick) After Prohibition Bill’s was often mentioned in many of the high profile columns of the day – Walter Winchell, Hedda Hopper, Jack O’Brien. And if you ask the 45-year-veteran maitre d’ Aldo, he’ll tell you exactly where Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio once sat. Today, the piano still plays, as people of all ages sing along. The Monkey Bar is just across the street, but Bill’s is where you’ll want to stay. When it comes to bars, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Live Piano: Mon.–Wed., 8 p.m.; Thu.–Sat., 8:30 p.m.
Hours Mon-Fri, 11:30am-1:30am; Sat, 5pm-1:30am; Sun, closed
57 E. 54th St., nr. Madison Ave. 10022 212-355-0243
One of the best places to be in the summer! Built in 1929, this is a historic lightship (one of 13 remaining from more than 100 built). The US Coast Guard used lightships as floating lighthouses to guard other ships that were too far from land to be served by a lighthouse on shore. The crew was stationed aboard ship for three months, followed by two months of shore leave. It was said to be a job “filled with months of boredom followed by minutes of pure fear”. (Sounds like most jobs right now.) The Frying Pan spent three years at the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay before being salvaged and brought to Chelsea Piers. Now it is a blast to explore its barnacle-encrusted interior (complete with catwalks and an exposed engine room). The front quarters often serve as dj lounge while live acts use the stage in the dark belly of the ship. On the pier, a tiki bar serves up booze and burgers, and a 16-foot observation plank offers a fantastic view of the Hudson.
Hours: Daily, 12:30pm-midnight
Pier 66, at W. 26th St. at West Side Highway 10011 212-989-6363
The East Village can get overrun with NYU kids, especially on a weekend nite. But Big Bar has proved immune to this. True to it’s GEN X roots, the bar remains pretty much the same as when it opened in 1990. Awesome find. A tiny bar with a big personality. Good drinks, music and always a mellow, fun time. One of the NYC bars I truly love!
Hours: Sun-Thu, 5pm-2am; Fri-Sat, 5pm-4am
75 E. 7th St., nr. First Ave. 10003 212-777-6969
The historic Lenox Lounge has been in the Harlem community since 1939, serving as the back drop for many jazz legends such as Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane. The Jazz Club also known as the Zebra Room was once used by the Harlem Renaissance writes James Baldwin and Langston Hughes. It was also said to be a hangout for Malcolm X.
The historic Lenox Lounge has been in Harlem since 1939, serving as the back drop for many jazz legends such as Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane. It was also known to be a hangout for Malcolm X. The place still looks and sounds amazing today. There is a bar area you can go to for no charge, the Zebra Room has a cover charge that ranges from $10 to $20 depending on the day and the live act. They have a small kitchen that offers soul food, but the real delicacy is the first rate jazz the serve up each nite. One of my favorite places in NYC.
Hours: Daily, noon-4am
Mon-Fri, 5pm-7pm; $3 domestic beers, $5 house wine, well drinks and shots, $7 margaritas and daiquiris, $5 buffalo wings
288 Lenox Ave., nr. 125th St. 212-427-0253
Gorgeous and spacious place in Williamsburg, named after a hip, gay neighborhood in the Motor City. Lots of fun dj nights (Monday karaoke) and inexpensive drinks: beers from Germany, England and Belgium and their specialty the Bramble: made from fresh berries. The place attracts plenty of locals. Shih, the owner tends bar. Local hipsters (originally from Ohio and other Midwest states) like it here cause it doesn’t get too touristy.
Hours: Daily, 5:30pm-4am
594 Union Ave., at Richardson St., Brooklyn, NY 11211 718-388-3884