Last Thursday I turned twenty-two. In lieu of attending a fabulous friend-thrown Adelphean-sponsored birthday party, I made a list of twenty-two resolutions for life conduct in the coming months and nursed a size ten hangover alone in my apartment. At my poorly-attended Pity Party (though to clarify: the morning OF my birthday was AWESOME, it just came with a price) I got to thinking about birthdays and the significance we vest in their passage. We all have this one day in a year that is signpost and commemoration both, a thing noticed for its transition, sic transit gloria, we all have a day when we get to be reminded of the people who love us and are fond of us and want to be around us. And doesn’t that kind of un-curated attention de facto draw attention to the life you’ve been living and will continue to live? Oh, the place’s you’ll go and whatnot? And what have I been doing for these twelve months at twenty-one? Where have I been putting my time and energy, where have I been? Here we go, tenuous segue…
I’ve been in a lot of different bars.
I’ve been writing in bars and working in bars and having Lady’s nights at bars, I’ve been having meetings at bars, I’ve been going on “dates” at bars, I’ve been seeing out a ‘Cheers!’ sitcomplex (use your deductive reasoning) that allows me to think of myself as the Shelley Long/Diane to various Ted Danson/Sam’s when I’m at work. I wouldn’t call myself a lush, mind, but there is something alluring about the atmosphere of a dark, woody room with candles in it and other young whippersnappers leaning in close to explain their “producing careers.” While one of my 22 goals as a budding city bartender has become to find a graceful way to get a smidge less entangled in the Lower East Side service industry network (i.e, just because one “totally knows the bouncer at _____”, you don’t always have to, like, go there), I cannot deny that many good times were had at locations ranking high on the Dubious Doppler. So as catharsis, I give my experiences out to you in the world now. If you’re inclined, go where I have gone. Tread lightly, enjoy, and most of all post your own responses/favorite city spots. No – most of all, don’t have so much fun at any of these places that you’re super sick all through your own birthday. Some things are more important than being OUT; leaving the party on time is a knack worth aspiring to.
The way I see it, the problem with Yelp! is that only horrorshow monsters go on Yelp!. So only listen to me.
If you’re like me, when you go out on a Thursday (best day) there are at least three different nights you might have:
- Awkward/ragtag bunch of people. Questions arise: how do I get rid of some of them? That was uncharitable of me. I’ve cursed the night with bad vibes, woe are we…ugh there are too many of us to fit in a cab and I don’t remember so-and-so’s girlfriend’s name.
- Ladies looking to have lady fun. Like, dancing ourselves clean of so and so’s most recent guytastrophe. We want to get wine drunk and be in bed by 1am tops.
- TROLLING. Lipstick leading hiphugging sexfarm trawling. Like a stacked game of Russian Roulette in that it ends badly more often than not. Enforced, Affected Fun (EAF).
Using my evenings as a fail-free template, lean in close you captive queue. Working backwards, evening three:
EAF: Easy. If you like dancing to The Meters and rubbing up against circa 79 Elvis Costello doppelgangers, you belong at The Woods or Union Pool in Brooklyn. Tried and true, no revelation here. I personally will give you a neck rub if after two PBRS and a taco truck taco you can’t get some Philosophy major in a beanie to hit on you by the fire pit at the latter. Go forth and game on.
If you’re too cool for Brooklyn but still into The Meters, try Home Sweet Home, King’s Cross or (personal favorite!) Lit Lounge on the LES. Any of these spots are good for oldies jams and the Rivers Cuomo-types who love them, deejay pending. If you like listening to music that sounds to me like a factory floor/hob-nobbing with J Crew gents “in finance”, try Ella, 2A (young crowd), Pianos (sort of Skeeze City), The Blind Barber, the three floors of Hotel Chantelle or Chloe (this last usually has pretty great music, akshelly). Uptowners may flock to Empire Hotel’s rooftop. You might consider bringing your exceedingly confident old college roommate along on EAF Night to allow you to bypass block-length lines at these venues. Also be forewarned: on actual weekend nights, the horribility of these places increases exponentially. Creeps with inexplicable accents will want to talk really close to your face. Abstain.
Personal fave is, again, the Lit Lounge (post heyday) – gets mega-packed on the weekends, but is kind to the slightly underdressed and only-into-the-Jackson 5.
Skipping to 1: Ragtag Night. An unusual group! You want to go somewhere either way conducive to conversation/new friendships or loud enough to excuse inevitably clicking off; the trick is in the balance. I suggest Sweet and Vicious on the LES (it’s big, has an outdoor patio, nice music but no dancing pressure) or any number of vaguely-rustic beloved Second Avenue haunts: Ninth Ward, Shoolbred’s, Dempsey’s, Swift. Also consider the semi-dive that is kind to an after-peak-hours crowd: Drop-Off Service (kitschy, big), Watering Hole, Revival (dive city, nice patio). One Last Shag in BedStuy. Tandem in Bushwick. Two-Door Tavern in the Burgh. These are all out and out bars with nice and varied selections (this list is not about that) and…unifying themes fall in the face of my “I’ve personally had a good time there” stories. Just trust me. They’re great because each might be destinations unto themselves or a pitstop on a night of prowling, and that’s ideal – unless it’s a tense weekend to-do, there’ll be room for the creepy pair-off people besides those of us who want to talk politics and have but one amaretto, neat. Note that these are also good places to bring people visiting you from other cities. They will make you seem fairly cool and low-key.
And 2! It’s LADEEEEEZ NIGHT! You want to go somewhere classy and comfortable and a little special. Maybe a fancy-schmancy cocktail or two. Maybe a gown.
I suggest! The Redhead, by 14th street. Tasty, tasty food, rustic candle-lit theme, not too pricy. Or The Barrel at St. Mark’s. Never been at night but they have live music and a lovely lady-friendly lunch special.
Others: Lovers of Today and its attending inner-sanctum speakeasies (divine and dangerous cocktails, the occasional celeb sighting), Bar Veloce for wine and tapas, Maison Premiere in the Burgh (oysters and absinthe cocktails at Happy Hour). V Bar if you’re also into a posh Italian dinner. Should you want to feel super bohemian, pack into Anyway Cafe for an infused liqueur and someone playing acoustic guitar in your lap, practically.
Last Thursday I turned 22 and I thought about fun and then television-style FUN! and the David Foster Wallace quote about how it is distinctly possible to stay too long at the fair. It’s nice to know your town and feel it about you like a blanket, as a hip youth in 2012. But the wisdom I think I grew into while watching Sex and the City and dancing with the aftermath of a Good Time, paying for it after the fact, is…
that it’s the best, dear friends, to wake up in your own bed and feel fancy-free in the morning. I mean, you don’t get enough of em to waste.
(Stay tuned for Brunch and Coffee Shops Editions. Also thanks to the other Adelpheans for being fantastic wonderful ladies who will celebrate your birthday even if the heroine is IN ABSENTIA)