Ask your grandmother what the Bowery means to her, and she won't say "that's where Pulino's and DBGB are." The Bowery was the dregs of the city as recent as 50 years ago, but before that it was a breeding ground for American ideas. In fact, contemporary slang for getting drunk, dying and saying goodbye were first uttered by 19th century Bowery punks.
In a talk at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, David Mulkins, co-founder and chair of the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors, noted that the Bowery is largely responsible for some quite significant contributions to American culture like Vaudeville, tap dancing and punk rock.
But the website Bowery Boogie contends that the Bowery culture of yesteryear also deserves credit for coining terms like "chum," "kick the bucket," "going on a bender," "pal," "blow-out" and "so long."
For more background on what the Bowery used to be before the posh hotels and chic bars, check out the incredible 1956 documentary 'On The Bowery' at Film Forum.