Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Thirsty Scholar - New York, NY

I've been meaning to write about this place for a while now, as it's really our main go-to bar in the city. At first glance, there's nothing really special about it and it certainly doesn't stand out amongst everything else on Second Ave. in the East Village. But there's just a great vibe to this place, and they do everything right.

Let's start with the bartenders, easygoing Irish dudes. They got the accents to keep the ladies happy, and they got the mentality that if you're there to drink you're there to drink. I have never sat there for very long with an empty glass, and that's honestly what I want from a bar. In terms of atmosphere, it's sort of dark, very pubby with some slight loungey accents. They have a dart board in the corner, and unlike many bars in New York, a place in the back to hang up coats.

I'd be amiss if I didn't also mention the music selection. I'll say it right now, I'm completely over the internet-jukebox concept. The last thing I want is some idiot with bad musical taste forcing me to listen to an entire album of Meat Loaf. Thirsty Scholar has never had that; instead they play from an iPod that generally contains a good mix of alternative rock from the '90s (STP, Smashing Pumpkins) and today (My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy). Since that's the kind of music I tend to listen to, it works for me; your mileage may vary.

The only sort-of-drawback is the crowd; there's never a consistent crowd all night. It's very much a place people seem to go before or after other bars; kind of perplexing to me, but so it goes. So you don't have a good crowd of people hanging out all night. Of course, the plus side to this is that, at some point in the night, you can definitely commandeer a seat at the bar. :)

Basically, Thirsty Scholar is a great place to drink in excess, which I have done there countless times. I recommend that you go there and do the same.

The Thirsty Scholar
155 Second Ave. (btw 9th & 10th St.)
New York, NY
(212) 777-6514

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Arlo & Esme - New York, NY

Arlo & Esme... certainly a unique name, and it's really quite an interesting place. Upon entry to the small room, I quite instantly felt comfortable. The painted white brick wall interior, dark wood trim, and simple furnishings actually have a bit of a homey feel - it's something I'd want a room in my house to look like some day.

So, first impressions, great. As I contemplated my drink order I realized I was seeing pretty few beer selections and I was starting to worry that this beautiful place was not going to be a bar I frequented. I got myself a Stella and moved on, temporarily. I knew that there was a downstairs to this bar and hoped things might improve - drink wise - there.

After a drink or two we made our way downstairs to find a cool New York basement, donned with brick archways into something like 5 different areas to chill, stand, dance, and of course drink. Yes, I did say dance - it was for a good friend's birthday, hey there's a first for everything, and I can post on a place that has dancing if I want to.

We made our way to the downstairs bar and were very pleasently surprised to see a large beer selection, which included Keith's current favorite, Six Point Bengali Tiger! I found myself an organic brown ale, which I enjoyed very much.

To begin to wrap up, I wish I liked dancing more because I would probably find myself here a bunch if I did. And honestly, I would probably be able to ignore the dancing part of things if it didn't get so incredibly crowded later into the night.

So, if you like good beer, like to dance, and are cool with being in a really crowded bar, I'd say you should check this place out. For me, I doubt I'll be going back here unless I get invited by my best friend again.


42 E 1st Street
New York, NY
(212) 777-5617

Friday, July 24, 2009

Tierney's Tavern - Montclair, NJ

Since Keith and I lost our super-easy-access to New York when I moved out of my apartment, we discovered that we can have a more than satisfying bar experience at Tierney's Tavern in Montclair in between our trips to the city.

Walking into Tierney's Tavern, I feel like many a patron has done the same for years before me. There's a sense of community here, like the parents of the patrons all hung out at this watering hole when they were in their 20s. No worries though, there isn't that towny-bar feeling that a place like this could have.

The decor is simple. Dark, well broken in wood, provides a very homey and lived-in feeling. They don't bother with tchotchkes cluttering the place - beer and alcohol is the point here. There are, however, the ever-present St. Patrick's day beer banners hanging from the ceiling, but I'll take it.

The layout works for me... The tavern is split up into two floors. Downstairs, patrons have a choice of sitting at the large bar in the middle of the room or planting themselves at the long picnic-style tables around the perimeter. There's a very friendly vibe here, so don't be surprised if a group you don't know joins your table. Upstairs is a more open feeling with round, bar-height tables spread around the room, and a small stage area for bands.

Keith and I tend to keep to the downstairs as the bands aren't usually our style.

Our favorite spot downstairs is most certainly at the bar. Grab a seat there, have a few drinks, and you're bound to get a buy-back. The bar tenders are simple and easy-going. No fancy hot chicks in tiny tops tending bar here - not that there's anything wrong with that, but if that's what you're looking for, you're at the wrong place.

The one pseudo-negative I can come up with here is the Internet jukebox. You never know what's going to get played on there. Keith and I can tend to get influenced by the music playing at a bar, so sometimes we end up being unhappy with what we're hearing, but hey, if nothing else, you can at least talk about the crappy music people are playing.

Oh, and one important fact... This bar is CASH ONLY. There is an ATM in the back of the bar, so no big issue, but if you don't want to pay fees to take out cash, I recommend you stock up before you come.

While we're on the topic of money, drinks here won't make you go broke. We've experienced some drink specials on Guinness and its family of beers, and even without that, around $5 to $6 is what you'll pay for your brew.

Overall, this is a good, down to earth tavern. Come by, enjoy yourself and be merry at Tierney's.


136 Valley Rd
Montclair, NJ 07042

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Atlantic City, Part One

Just got back from a "guys' weekend" in Atlantic City. And I thought it'd be a good opportunity to talk about some of the bars that I have gone to countless times in that town. My parents own a house in the area, so whenever we're down there going to the beach etc., we always check out the bars in the casinos. I'm sure I'll write a sequel to this later on in the year, once we start going down again, and cover the places we didn't go to this weekend. Here we go!

Red Square (Tropicana)
Red Square is located in The Quarter, which is Tropicana's entertainment section that's made up to look like you're outside in Cuba. I'm not sure it really accomplishes that, but it does have some decent bars. This one is basically a Communist Russia theme bar. Their slogan is "Join the Party"; get it? It's like, a party 'cause you're drinking, but like it's The Party like the Communist Party... anyway, this place is not too bad. They have an ice room where you put on big fur coats and Russian hats and drink vodka. The bar has an ice strip running through it that you can chill your drinks on. Sometimes in the summer they have go-go dancers in booty shorts and furry hats. The main drawback to this place is it specializes in drinks that are really expensive. The norm is a $10 mixed drink. Therefore this place is cool to have a drink or two, but I wouldn't recommend doing serious drinking there unless you just hit the jackpot at the slots.

Cuba Libre (Tropicana)
More fun in The Quarter. Cuba Libre is a fun bar, they have salsa dancers on certain nights as entertainment. As you'd guess, everything here has a Cuban theme. I didn't have a Cuba Libre (rum and Coke), but I did have a few mojitos, which they do a decent job of. Not much to say about this place, usually they have hot bartenders and it's generally not as expensive as some of the other places. I'd say go there earlier rather than later, when they sometimes charge a cover to get in. There is apparently a balcony upstairs where you're able to smoke, though I have personally never seen it. An added bonus is that they do have pretty good food, though I'm a bar reviewer not a restaurant reviewer so I'll stop it at that.

Ri Ra (Tropicana)
Upstairs in The Quarter is Ri Ra, what I like to refer to as "The Fake Hoboken Bar." It's sort of like if someone went to a bunch of North Jersey bars with Irish names, took pictures, and then made the TGI Friday's sort of version. Don't get me wrong: the food (fancied-up pub food) is good, the atmosphere is good, they have bands at night on the weekends. It's a good bar, and definitely better than the typical casino bar. And it's not like I believe there's anything authentic about Red Square or Cuba Libre either. It's just funny to me, as I've actually been to the kind of bars (the NJ version of Irish pubs) that Ri Ra apes.

B Bar (Borgata)
Later we headed to the Borgata for a change of scenery. The B Bar is the only real casino floor bar in the Borgata, and to go along with their opulent ultra-modern aesthetic, they eschew the typical casino floor bar accoutrements (tables and chairs that could have been lifted from your local diner, old carpeting, lounge singers) in favor of low lights, modern couches and banquettes, and an overall club feel. They even have a black curtain surrounding the bar that helps you forget you're on a casino floor. They have TV screens playing random movies (I've seen Coyote Ugly multiple times, I think Showgirls once or twice). And at the bar are video poker machines for if you just can't bear to stop gambling even when you are relaxing with a drink.
I have honestly spent more time in this bar than I'd care to admit. There was a summer where a friend and I came down around ten times, and we always seemed to end up at B Bar. Part of it is that they never close. Ever. I've been there at 4 in the afternoon, I've been there at 7 in the morning. And both times had a pretty decent crowd inside. There are better bars in the Borgata, perhaps, but this place has a certain pretentious-but-not-really charm that keeps me coming back. Plus I can drink until I pass out, then wake up and possibly continue. :)

So that's it for this installment. Stay tuned for part 2, which will probably include Borgata's Gypsy Bar and Bobby Flay Steaks, among others. Vicky and I may even talk about how shitty the beach bars are; stay tuned!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Grassroots Pub - New York, NY

Grassroots is one of those places that's very easy to pass on the street without thinking twice. The exterior is unassuming, the front door actually down a few steps from street level; and the only signage is a small neon sign on the window that you can barely see from the street. But it's really worth checking out, as it's one of the least pretentious bars in the area (LES? East Village? I can never keep NY "neighborhoods" straight in my head).

The place is somewhat small and cramped. There are some tables and of course seats at the bar... however good luck trying to get one on a weekend night. The bartender uses a complex system of indecipherable grunts to answer your requests for drinks. However, these is all part of the place's charm; the bar is inviting despite all of that, and for all the bartender's lack of verbal communication, he's incredibly efficient in getting me what I really want -- beer, not conversation.

There are a bunch of beers on tap (including several from Brooklyn Brewery), available in a small mug, a pint glass, or a pitcher; as well as a fully stocked bar. In addition, you can order air-popped popcorn until they run out. If you're not sold already, this is not the place for you. But it was for me.

All in all, if you want a low-key unpretentious place to BS and have a beer, go to this bar.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Trinity, Irish Pub & Carvery - Atlantic City, New Jersey

If you frequent Atlantic City at all you may have heard about The Pier at Caesar's. For those who have no idea what I'm talking about, let me fill you in. The Pier is essentially a pretty large and fairly high-end mall for the first 2 floors, but the top floor features bars and restaurants.

The Trinity, Irish Pub & Carvery is my focus here. It's got a very promising look. They've done a great job making it look like a classic pub. When inside, I could almost forget that I was actually in a newly built mall that sits amongst many casinos.

Unfortunately, I just haven't been able to get into this place. Keith and I went on July 3rd, a night that we expected would bring the partiers out. We were mistaken. I'm not sure if we just happened to choose a bad day or if the place just hasn't been able to pull a crowd, but it was a nearly empty bar.

Now, this isn't something that will definitely turn me off of a bar; I often like a quiet setting for a cold one. The real turn off here was the horrendous music. When we had first come in there was a Flogging Molly song playing - not necessarily my favorite, but Irish and kind of fun to listen to. It all went far downhill from there. Slow, boring song after slow, boring song was what followed. Some of the most depressing songs I could think of were being played and it was just not making feel like I wanted to stay. I actually felt like I needed to drink my cider as quickly as possible so I could get out of there before true depression set in.

Ok, so, on a positive note it did have some good brews offered up. I was able to get my cider, as you might expect since it is an Irish pub.

I think I might give it one more chance one of these days on a Saturday night at midnight where if it's still the same as I found it last time, then I'll be sure that there's no hope for this place.

The Trinity was not a winner for me.


The Trinity, Irish Pub & Carvery
The Pier at Caesar's 3rd Floor
Atlantic City, NJ

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Four-Faced Liar - New York, NY

This is a bar that Keith and I had never heard of but stumbled upon while wandering around Greenwich Village. I was very glad to have ended up there as it was exactly what I'd been looking for that night. A simple, small, low key bar with a pair of bar stools free for us to sit at.

It's really not much to look at, so if you're looking for a big fancy night out, this isn't the place for you. The inside of the bar is not greatly decorated. Behind the bar was the usual display of varying liquor bottles but other than that I noticed a generally dark and simple interior.

There was some relatively quiet music playing in the background letting Keith and me talk to each other easily - no yelling necessary. Now, if we'd gotten there a little later (we were there around 10pm or so) and couldn't find seats at the bar we'd most likely be able to grab a seat over at one of the few small tables taking up most of the other side of the small room.

Friendly bartenders and the seemingly easy going patrons made for a very relaxing and enjoyable experience.

Overall, I certainly approve.


165 W 4th St
New York, NY 10014
(212) 366-0608