“East Side” barhopping

New York City’s nightlife changes so fast, it would do well to develop its own Twitter feed.  While we cannot even begin to keep up with the latest hot-spots some 2,400 miles away, we can point out Manhattan’s East Village and Lower East Side as safe bets for ample cocktail-hopping.  Some of our faves from the past, present (and future?) have included:

Niagara:  Location!  Location!  Location!  Niagara’s always hopping, thanks to its perfect positioning at the edge of Alphabet City and the East Village.  We’ve been to some really fun nights here, most notably a duo of “Glam Rock” tributes that raised the roof downstairs in the basement.  Niagara hosts a number of different-vibed crowds throughout the week – some of the “complete tool” variety, but if you are anywhere in the vicinity, chances are you’ll pop in here for at least a shot at some point in the evening!  Check their website for upcoming events and/ or musical acts.

Niagara - 112 Avenue A (at 7th Street), New York, NY  10009, 212-420-9517, https://www.facebook.com/NiagaraNYC?rf=237467956373555

Lucy’s:  By now, we don’t have to tell you how much we love dive bars.  (Our other blog posts on San Francisco, New Orleans and Los Angeles have proven that.)  But what you may not know is that our favorite dive in all of NYC just happens to be Lucy’s.  This odd spot is one of the world’s strange anomalies that somehow manages to blow our minds with each new visit.  Owned, and tended, by a sweet Polish grandma since the 1970s, the tavern ebbs and flows with a continuous swell of Avenue A hipsters.  We’re not sure how Lucy does it, but even after serving her 1,456,982nd can of PBR, she still manages to maintain a sweet smile, and that perfectly coiffed updo.  (Most likely a wig?)

On our last visit, we noticed a younger female helper who might just be Lucy’s granddaughter?  We found it quite amusing as we watched Lucy easily out-serve the whippersnapper, and all the while with a smile the Cheshire Cat would be proud of!  Cool red leather bar stools, a billiard table and a jukebox filled with old rock favorites and indie rock hits seal the deal.  So, the next time you’re in the East Village, don’t forget to stop in and say hello to Miss Lucy.  After all, she ain’t getting any younger! 

Lucy’s - 35 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009, (212) 673 3824

Klimat Lounge NYC:  We stumbled upon this cute little spot on our August 2013 trip, and returned later at night to visit with one of our best NYC friends.  What attracted us back was Klimat’s promise of over 12 different specialty draught brews curated from all corners of Eastern Europe.  (And there are even more in bottles.)  A similarly-themed menu includes ethnic tastes such as red borsht, grilled kielbasa and pierogis served alongside a rotating collection of artwork.  Relaxed, yet just hip enough, this is the perfect spot to catch up and unwind.  Check their website for current events.

Klimat Lounge NYC - 77 East 7th Street, New York, NY  10003, (917) 214-0589, http://www.klimatlounge.com/

Now if you’re not drunk enough yet, we also recommend the frou-frou cocktails at Lolita, the cheap beers at the SKINnY (former host to our monthly VIC+TIM parties), as well as all of the nearby fleshpots described in the article below.  Set of Drifters tip:  Need to soak up some booze after a night of partying?  There’s no better place than Rosario’s Pizza on the corner of Stanton and Orchard in the Lower East Side.  Just look at that line.  Who knows?  If you’ve bombed out all night with the lasses (or lads) thus far, Rosario’s may be the place you finally seal the deal and get lucky!

Lolita - 266 Broome Street, New York, NY  10002, (212) 966-7223, http://www.lolitabar.net/

SKINnY Bar and Lounge - 174 Orchard Street, New York, NY  10002, (212) 228-3668, http://theskinnybarlounge.com/

Rosario’s Pizza - 173 Orchard Street, New York, NY  10002, (212) 777-9813

Brooklyn Bowl (Williamsburg)

When we found out our buddy Alex was DJing at Brooklyn Bowl while we were visiting NYC in August of 2013, we were both thrilled and a bit terrified.  How could we entice a horde of old friends we hadn’t seen in years with the lure of just “another night of bowling?”  Well, we should not have been so fraught with worry.  Brooklyn Bowl is not like most alleys.  You won‘t scent any funky smell of rented bowling shoes lingering in the air here.  Nor will you see hordes of people wearing matching bowling league shirts shouting at each other from the next lane over.  And while these are scenes we all grew up loving in suburban America, it’s nice to see the past-time upped a few notches at Williamsburg’s gargantuan multipurpose venue.

Brooklyn Bowl debuted in 2009 after a multimillion dollar transformation converted the preexisting 1880s ironworks foundry warehouse into a LEED-certified funspot lauded by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the top 20 places in America to see live music.  (As of this writing, additional clubs are planned for London and Las Vegas.)

Yes, Brooklyn Bowl has everything any aspiring hipster could ever want:  a rotating roster of name musical acts and DJs, strong drinks from multiple bars, upscale bar food supplied by Blue Ribbon and a stellar video bowling alley that looks as good in the dark as it does in the light.  Elvis Costello, The B-52s and Guns ‘N Roses have all played here, and may be on the roster for future return dates.  You may want to check their website calendar for future highlights before departing on your trip.

At Brooklyn Bowl, the party gets started nightly from 6:00 PM until late.  A “Family Bowl” is also available on Saturdays and Sundays from 12:00 PM until 6:00 PM.  This warms our cockles; it’s nice to know the grand old tradition of bowling will live on into future generations, albeit set to the exotic beat of CocoRosie and/ or resident DJ ?uestlove.

Set of Drifters tip:  Make sure to scope out all of the cool vintage “State Fair” paraphernalia that graces the walls at Brooklyn Bowl.  And that large retro circus poster near the 2nd floor bathrooms?  Worthy of at a photo or two.

Brooklyn Bowl - 61 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn, NY  11211, (718) 963-3369


NYC's best Karaoke spots

What would a night out in NYC be without someone shouting, “Hey, let’s go sing Karaoke?”  Well, we suppose it’d just be another night out in NYC without karaoke.  But seriously folks…

Though prior to living in NYC we would have likely poo-poohed the idea of going out to sing with, and in front of, a load of other horrible, out-of-key crooners, we have to admit that New York’s underbelly of wild Karaoke spots have, uh, changed our tune.

One of our favorite spots in town is Congee Village on the Lower East Side.  With its crazy lighting and frilly water features, this zany Chinese restaurant/ bar/ sing spot feels like the love child of a disco and a pachinko parlor!  (Proprietors boast of a tasteful décor on their website, but we’ll let you form your own opinion.)

Make sure to call ahead for your own private karaoke room, the perfect environment to assuage any fear of facing a crowd.  (Set of Drifters hint:  Just add beer.)  At Congee Village, karaoke lyrics are paired with videos produced in Asia that interpret meanings to your favorite songs of yesteryear, often to amusing results.  We could no doubt watch these clips for hours.  A heavy metal song set to the backdrop of a Royal wedding?  Crazy.  We also love the fact that you can order in your bubble tea and congee (a porridge of boiled rice and water highlighted by any number of proteins) direct to your private room at your leisure.  How civilized.  Congee Village is open Sunday through Thursday from 10:30 AM until 12:30 AM, and on Fridays and Saturdays from 10:30 AM until 2:00 AM.

Now if you’re looking for more of an exhibitionistic experience, may we recommend SingSing on the edge of Alphabet City?  From outside on Avenue A, passerbys can watch warblers in the front room wail along to such hits as Pat Benatar’s “Hell Is for Children,” Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talking Bout Love” or even “You Should Hear How She Talks About You” by Melissa Manchester.  Despite slightly higher prices/ song, SingSing has proven itself as one of the most popular karaoke bars in the city.  (A second bar opened on nearby St. Mark's Place in recent years.)  And thus, if you want a private room here, you’ll have to book far ahead.

Still, we say screw it.  Part of the fun at SingSing is the ability to simply float in off the street and pack into the throng!  At SingSing’s bar, anyone can be a star - well, at least for 2.5 minutes.

Songbirds are welcome at SingSing from 6:00 PM until 4:00 AM Monday through Wednesday, and extends it hours from 4:00 PM until 4:00 AM Thursdays through Sundays.  The St. Mark's location has even longer hours!  Check their website for special events, Happy Hour deals and the lengthy song list.

Another good choice for karaoke is Biny, the large combo Japanese restaurant/ bar located just north of Canal Street on the edge of SOHO.  Biny might be the type of karaoke spot you graduate to after you’ve been practicing for some time at smaller venues.  With its decent-sized stage, it can be a bit intimidating.  That being said, seven private “luxury” rooms await, some of them quite spacious, and you can hire any of these for your next birthday party blowout with friends - and dancing!  (We still remember the scandalous photos taken here during a rousing rendition of Madonna’s “Like A Virgin.”)

Feeling “Hungry Like the Wolf?”  You might want to consider Biny for dinner.  A prix-fixe menu is priced at $24 USD and includes selections of gyoza, shumai and teriyaki delights.  Sushi boats are also available for parties of all sizes, though expect to pay through the nose, ear and throat.

Biny is open Monday through Thursday from 5:00PM until 12:00AM, Fridays and Saturdays from 5:00PM until 4:00 AM and Sundays from 7:00PM until midnight.

Congee Village - 100 Allen Street, New York, NY  10002, (212) 941-1818, http://www.congeevillagerestaurants.com/

SingSing (Alphabet City) - 81 Avenue A, New York, NY  10008, (212) 674-0700, http://www.karaokesingsing.com/avea/price

SingSing (East Village) - 9 St. Mark's Place, New York, NY  10003, (212) 387 - 7800, http://www.karaokesingsing.com/stmarks/price

Biny - 8 Thompson Street, New York, NY  10013, (212) 334-5490, http://www.biny.com/

East Village for the boys

Over the decades, the East Village and its neighboring Bowery have seen their fair share of wild and sleazy gay bars!  Sadly, a majority of these (including The Slide, The Hole and The Boys Room) have all gone by the wayside.  But don’t you fret, there’s always another whole set of trashy places ready and waiting to make a name for themselves, or at the very least, willing to take your money with the promise of sweaty go-go boys.  

One of the most popular gay bars in the East Village is still, ahem, The Cock.  Originally located on Avenue A, this bar is known for its great selection of raunchy music (and some rather graphically-festooned restrooms).  Frankly, we can’t remember a time when this place wasn’t packed to the gills.  If you know, and like, NY denizens such as Amanda Lepore, Kenny Kenny and Cazwell, you’ll be in fine company at The Cock.  Be on the lookout for unusual events such as the industrial style catwalk show we experienced a number of years back.  Set of Drifters tip:  Make sure you do your research before showing up.  This place has a history of closing down and reopening at a moment’s notice.  (Don’t ask, don’t tell.)  Ironically, The Cock relocated several years ago to where The Hole used to be.

The Cock - 29 2nd Avenue, New York, NY  10003, (212) 473-9406, http://thecockbar.com/

Perhaps the antithesis of The Cock, the Boiler Room has an old-school feel that makes it seem less like a gay bar than a haven for indie rockers and hipster nerds with perfectly-coiffed beards.  Augmented by a simple pool table and jukebox, this place seems to have avoided remodel throughout its 20-year history, and that is often just the way we like it.  The Boiler Room’s crowd is mixed so if you’re looking for a laid back place to have a drink with friends, this makes for a good match, particularly during Happy Hour (4:00 – 8:00 PM) when drinks are 2-for-1!  Extra points for their “No Britney!  No Gaga!” house DJ night on Mondays.

The Boiler Room - 86 East 4th Street, New York, NY  10003, (212) 254-7536, http://boilerroomnyc.com/

Eastern Bloc is Soviet-themed venue that we’ll bet has Putin’s anti-gay propaganda followers fuming!  The website’s “For Adults Only” warning almost assures a lewd evening, though to be perfectly honest, we’ve never been here to verify that claim.  We offer this watering hole simply on the recommendation of a friend who says it’s a rather wild place.  So, check out their roster of different DJ parties... if you dare!

Eastern Bloc - 505 East 6th Street, New York, NY  10009, (212) 777-2555, http://www.easternblocny.com/index.php?id=1

Once our favorite in all of Manhattan, the Phoenix is certainly as casual at the Boiler Room, yet today feels a lot less rough ‘n tumble or edgy than it used to be.  We still love the old antique bar that sits at the Phoenix’s center.  The cavalcade of cheap looking painted picture frames strewn all over the walls?  Not so much.

What used to be a somewhat rowdy place with drink specials-a-plenty, and a jukebox full of musical oddities, has now turned into a soulless hodge-podge for plucked and tweezed Manhattanites looking to drown their sorrows in a Katy Perry ditty – or worse.  We surmise the real action is still at the pool table on the weekends; though on our visit in August 2013, we did not stick around long enough for verification.  Who are the new owners?  I’m afraid we’re not fans.

The Phoenix - 447 E 13th Street (between 1st Avenue and Avenue A), New York, NY  10009, (212) 477-9979, http://phoenixbarnyc.com/

We also recommend:

Maison Premiere (Williamsburg) - 298 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211, (347) 335-0446, http://maisonpremiere.com/

Dram (South Williamsburg) - 177 South 4th Street, Brooklyn, NY  11211, (718) 486-3726, http://drambar.com/