Recently Opened Bars
by Leslie Pariseau, Paper magazine contributor, 06/08/2011
33 Nassau Avenue, 347-987-4632, Greenpoint, Brooklyn
Sometimes you need to fill the void. A break-up void = scotch and pitchers. A Thursday night rampage void = a late night slice (or three). An empty bed, roommate out of town void = booty call(s). Whatever your own issue, we expect sometime or another this summer you'll fill Spritzenhaus's colossal void and simultaneously knock another off the list above. Like you, Spritzenhaus is good at filling the cavity. Each evening with magnetic pull, the airy space overlooking McCarren park reels in passersby craning necks intending to continue past toward some other destination. Groups of tank-topped beer drinkers dangle legs around the zinc-plated bar and at communal tables while ordering sausages and pizzas to share. Considering the forecast, it's a relief the place isn't weather dependent, but even so, windows are almost always thrown open to the park, and come winter, the big fireplace will be prime stake out territory where a flannelled Williamsburgian will race to cut off his bearded and Red Winged counterpart. Spritzenhaus claims to serve a hundred beers, but at this point, only 25 are featured at any given time. That should be enough to fill some sort of void...for now.
171 East Broadway, 212-228-3100, Chinatown, Manhattan
Most New Yorkers thrive on the city's nature of change and uncertainty. (Will the G train be running? Will there be a two-hour wait at the John Dory on a Tuesday night?). Lately, an especially enthusiastic sway toward the impermanent and unpredictable has manifested itself in pop-up shops, restaurants and even magazines. With fleeting appearances in empty storefronts and repurposed school cafeterias, pop-ups will crank for a few weeks or a month and then shutter in line with their purposeful ephemerality. One incarnation, LTO (Limited Time Only), is extending the pop-up party with a year-long run of rotating chefs and bar teams in the old Broadway East space in Chinatown. Fronted by a marquis style banner announcing the flavor of the week, LTO ushered in its first week with a team from Washington DC headed by Chef RJ Cooper of Rogue 24 and his 24-course tasting menu paired with cocktails from Gina Chersevani of PS7. On Cinco de Mayo, bar flies leaning against the downstairs bar cave's living wall were presented with impromptu liquid nitrogen blasted piña coladas. Bartender Claire Bertin-Lang followed it with rounds of piña-backs, her combination of mezcal shooters followed with pickled pineapple juice from Cooper's kitchen. More recently, the Fatty 'Cue crew took over with a family style dinner and brunch of smoke infused menu of meat, fish and soup. Following evening service upstairs, a stellar line up of bartenders from all over the United States brought in crowds downstairs the likes of which that awkward intersection of East Broadway and Canal have never seen. We expect the crowds to keep coming, and in keeping with the nature and charm of the pop up, it's quite uncertain who will show up next.
49 W. 44th St., 212-840-3080, Midtown West, Manhattan
In 1939, the Wigwam Bar opened at 44th Street's Iroquois Hotel complete with Native American tchotchkes and pilgrim paraphernalia. After a hiatus as a private dining room, the small space at the back of the hotel's lobby has been renamed Lantern's Keep, hung with reproductions of Degas's ballerinas, and arranged with polished wooden furniture, but head bartender Meaghan Dorman (also of Raines Law Room) fondly re-nicknamed it the Wigwam. One of New York's oldest hotels, the Iroquois has the sleepy feel of a hotel well-kept and dusted, but perhaps a bit forgotten following its boom era (during which James Dean was a permanent resident). This same quiet resplendence carries over to the modest hum of Lantern's Keep. Dorman has set up a small, handsome bar lined with exceptional spirits and a menu splashed with classics like the tall, fizzy pink Floradora (raspberries, gin, ginger, lemon, lime and soda), an early 20th century New York favorite. Guests are a funny mix of curious youngsters having heard something about booze and middle-aged hotel guests having heard something about cocktail hour. Bar staff, though starched and buttoned, are happy to banter and whip up special requests for both, creating a variation on the Corpse Reviver #2 using elderflower liqueur when we stopped in one evening. Lantern's Keep will occasionally close for private events, but guests will always know when to wander in because, of course, the lantern out front will have been lit.
113 Franklin St., 212-334-3633, TriBeCa, Manhattan
Like something out of an Artaud play, TriBeCa's latest spectacle, Theater Bar, embraces the dark side of partying and banishes all bar-as-background conventions. Of course, its schtick is the stage, perfect for New York, where most everyone's personal bubble acts as an arena. This couldn't have been more true than on a recent evening at the newly opened boîte. There was a tone of rising urgency, with music thrumming loudly, guests elbowing for drinks and entourages emitting dull roars at lounge tables where some had the sleepy look of opium eaters and others the crazed eyes of drama queens craving an audience. At the end of the long room, the bar, bedecked as a grand stage with crimson curtains and dramatic lighting, perches above its crushing audience and elevates the bartender from friendly neighborhood lubricator to thrilling performer with a bar spoon. It wasn't clear why there were so many thespians behind the bar that evening, or why the menu (written in four acts) contained so many allusions to vaguely defined elixirs ordered by a bewildering numerical system (Elixir No. 14 Parsley Essence), but even so, the sampled cocktails were well-mixed. One drink made with tequila, yuzu and shiso had a wasabi shiso rim that zinged just as saltily as the guy cutting in front of the small girl attempting to order it. Though it's better to just order drinks at the bar than actually sit at it, there is enough drama there to keep one entertained—while the occasional corseted cocktail waitress struts around flashing pale body parts, another semi-clad girl prances about on stilts in face paint. The bar is also split into two similar rooms, for a looking glass effect leaving one to wonder how all those other people suddenly appeared on the other side. No, that wasn't just your gorgeous self gazing back across—it's your foxy Jungian shadow telling you to head downstairs, continue past the bathrooms, walk through the kitchen doors and turn right. Saunter up the stairs and you'll make a very Artaudian entrance on the other side of the looking glass where the crowd is less, the conversation quieter and the drama subdued, but surely always lurking.
61 Bergen St., Cobble Hill, Brooklyn
Cobble Hill is not for want of watering holes, but another is always warmly welcomed into the lush living neighborhood, especially when it puts Brooklyn pride at the center (literally, there's a map above the bar of a Godzilla-sized Brooklyn pushing its adjacent geography into oblivion). The night we visited 61 Local, a hoard of Young Republicans had overtaken the front (bartender: "I didn't even know there were Young Republicans in Brooklyn"), while neighborhood families and hipsters filled up the communal tables in back, quickly proving the borough's diversity.
1. It's HUGE... by neighborhood standards, anyway. If the entirety of the borough's Young Republicans fit, so can 15 of your liberal, birthday-celebrating friends.
2. Brooklyn beer, wine and kombucha. From Sixpoint to Red Hook winery, 61 Local has you covered on almost all imbibing fronts. We're hoping for local whiskey next.
3. Arty party: Embroidered light boxes from artist Iviva Olenick ring the room with delicate cartoons of Brooklyn imagery, while a selection of large format photography is scattered throughout.
4. Cheese. Soft cheese, hard cheese, ricotta cheese. There's lots and lots of cheese—all from 'round these parts, of course.
5. Stellar accoutrements for all that cheese: fig jam, house made spicy peanuts, buckwheat honey, McClure pickles, curried crunch and Dickson's chicken liver mousse. SOLD.
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