Major League Eating, like most professional sports, has an off-season. The height of dog day Summer and crawfish cooked Spring gives way to a cold bleak Winter. Frosty Winter, where despite the occasional RP Funding Chili Eating Contest in balmy Orlando, competitive eaters hunker down under the covers, eating bon bons and watching basement quality videos of past training runs. It is a few lonely months and some of us turn away from eating to the warm bosom of alcohol and drinking, albeit at a slower pace than we eat. To combat this stir crazy (instead of stir fry) diet, this week, I am introducing two new columns to compliment my food based ones on the Huffington Post - this one, titled, "Writing About Drinking While Drinking While Writing," and later one titled, "Dive Bar Beauty."
While listing my top ten New York City bars today, I am swigging Abita Grapefruit IPA (wonderful citrus notes with the right kind of funk) and sipping Brennivin Schnapps from Iceland (like Vicks vapor rub poured in cold gin equaling the medicine you don't need, but want). Over twenty years of late nights, early afternoons in drinking holes and saloons...these are the ten or so that put my liver back in a New York Groove...
10. The Baby Doll Lounge (defunct). Just below Canal Street lay this decrepit peeler joint with bathrooms as bad as the Mars Bar (honorable mention for this list). You can gleam the outside in the film version of the NY Post headline "Headless Body in Topless Bar" (yes, there is such a film, but the interiors were shot in LA). Nearby, semi-legal places like The Harmony Theater and Blue Angels offered soft touch dancing and potato chips, but The Baby Doll Lounge looked like the bar that Satan would own. The girls on stage could care less - I once watched a heavyset stripper spent her entire three song allotment picking something from her teeth. Somehow guys and drinkers kept coming back. The bud bottles were reasonably priced but one friend swore off the place when one sloped face stripper mentioned, that despite her recent stroke, she could wink another body part. She did, and my friend ran from the bar. Sadly, The Baby Doll couldn't survive a Guilani run city and despite changing the neon sign from "Topless" to "Stopless" (much like Billy's did in Chelsea), the Baby Doll would become a high end Italian restaurant, forever altering the location's clam specials.
9. Red Rock West (defunct). On 17th street within view of the High Line is one of Manhattan's worst pizza places, but its former tenant use to bring such joy to sailors and bikers and the ladies who love the boys with crew cuts or long unruly hair. Red Rock West always had the largest bouncers and it was good to know the bouncers. Behind the bar, the all female staff wore very little and rock and roll blared at an incredible decibel level. The bartenders all had their tricks from breathing fire to pouring a whole beer bottle down her jeans (Kimmie - where are you now?). It was the place to be for Fleet Week and my long haired friend Dinshaw and I would dress in short order cook shirts, sailor hats, and say we were from the USS Titanic. Those get-ups helped the ladies distinguish us from the other clean cut sailors and we did better than one would imagine with such a cheap gimmick. I don't know why Red Rock West closed but the area has become a haven for Lindsey Lohan to be banned from bottle service clubs. It's too bad - Lindsey would have loved Red Rock, and the bouncers would have loved Lindsey.
8. The Corner Bistro. If this was a burger column, the Bistro would be #1. I insisted to the president of the Burger Club of America that the Corner Bistro was the best in the world and she asked, "If I was drunk when I was there." I was and am often, but it is still the best burger bar none. Every member of the the staff behind the bar are old souls and despite knowing where the bodies are buried, they will never tell. They will sell you the Bistro Burger, brimming with onion, lettuce, tomato and magical pickles, topped with bacon and dripping juice that is nectar of the Gods. And the fries are good too. I seem to only drink McSorely's when at the Bistro, but they have the goods at good prices. New York doesn't have the death penalty, but if it did, I guarantee the Bistro Burger would be the leading last meal on Death Row.
7. McSorely's. It claims to be the oldest bar in the US, but it also only let women in the 60s, Still, there is nothing pretentious about the sawdusted saloon. Everything historical is fading, but the beer - only light or dark served two at time - is as fresh as a Spring morning. Joseph Mitchell's words are now carried on by 40 year barman Geoffery Bartholomew and his poems. Watching the sun stream through the criss crossed windows late afternoon onto the worn bar will turn one to poetry to describe the scene. The mustard is hot, the cheese plate is sliced cheddar and onions and a sleeve of Saltines, but the place has more charm than any four star hotel - McSorely's welcomes you back like a warm hug on a cold day. Light or Dark could describe men's souls just as well as your only choice at McSorely's, but I'll take the mugs over a moral compass any day or night.
Crazy Legs Conti is an organ donor, but his liver is already listed on Ebay. His Twitter handle is ColemansBandG and his CB Handle is Peppy.