50 Favorite Bars of New York: My Book Is Available on Amazon! (order now)
Well, it’s been a long time coming, my friends, but it’s done. I turned in the final art and last draft of my bar book to my editors a couple of weeks ago. It was formerly known as Great Good Places of New York, and is now going by the title Bars, Taverns, and Dives New Yorkers Love. (It’s available for pre-order here on Amazon.) To say I’m happy about wrapping it up would be an understatement, like saying Tom Hanks’s character thought it was “pretty cool” getting off that island in Cast Away. I feel lighter, free, and giddy as a little schkoolgirl.
It was a fabulous gig, this book. A great part-time job for the past two years. I’d pitched the publisher, Rizzoli, an idea for a book profiling 25 beloved bars of NYC; a drawing and about 1000 words for each one, covering a little history, trivia, best times to visit, what to drink, and some color commentary. Rizzoli told me they wanted a total of 50 (FIFTY!) bars from all five boroughs, so 50 it would be, from all five boroughs: Brooklyn, Manhattan, Staten Island, Queens and The Bronx.
Colleen and I hopped all over the city checking out likely candidates, probably visiting 150 bars of New York over a year and a half. With the help of friends who aided our research (and delightful research it was) and at times acted as guides in exotic places like Staten Island and Deep Queens, I winnowed it down to 50. We got to know New York a whole lot better, gave our livers a hearty workout, and renewed our love for NYC in the process. It was a cascading schedule of new adventures, a neophile’s dream.
You know how the first couple of days of a vacation seem like a week and a half, because it’s all so novel and you’re doing so many cool, new things? It was like that. The past two years felt like five, and I mean that in a good way. Explore your hometowns, people! It’ll expand time and make your life fuller, exciting, and more interesting. Seriously.
I feel good about the end results, so I’ll call it a success no matter what happens next. I wrote and illustrated a freaking book, something to check off my bucket list right there. The mission is accomplished, and I have a whole raft of people to thank.
Juan and Tony, for instance, for chauffeuring us all over Staten Island, not once but twice. And that’s a big damn island, folks, at 14 miles long and seven and a half at its widest for a total of about 60 square miles, dwarfing puny Manhattan’s 23. (Punk-ass Manhattan.) We covered SI stem to stern, tip to tail, From Charleston in the southwest to Tompkinsville in the northeast. Tip: you will find some of the best pizza in New York at Lee’s Tavern of Dongan Hills.
Big thanks to Al Rodriguez and Omary Gonell for schlepping us around Queens, and to what is reputed to be one of the oldest bars of New York (if not THE oldest), the wonderful Neir’s Tavern in Woodhaven, there since (quite possibly) 1829.
We had a nice jaunt up to the Bronx with Bridget and Brian, and caught a Yankees–Tigers game after a visit to Stan’s Sports Bar, just down the street. Chaotic, crowded, and loud as hell. You got a problem with that? It’s the perfect place to rev up for a ballgame.
Roger Hitts (off the Sunnyside Hittses) trucked all over half of Queens with us too, and showed us a charming old-school family pub in Astoria called Cronin and Phelan’s, established in 1905 and still pouring a hell of a fresh Guinness. Go there hungry. The menu is solid, extensive, and affordable.
Dave Pappas bopped around Bay Ridge, Brooklyn with us for an afternoon, showing us some beautiful old classics like Skinflint’s and Three Jolly Pigeons. I settled on two from Bay Ridge, including the Pour House, run by Chris Byrne. Go there on a Sunday when Chris is working and settle in to watch sportsball. He’ll make sure you feel at home and have a good time. He was born for the job of barkeeper.
Mike Sorgatz and I hit a few places, including the Brooklyn Ice House in Red Hook (one of the best dive bars of New York, which we’ve actually hit quite often, including a couple days after Hurricane Sandy wrecked the whole neighborhood), and The Rusty Knot on the far, faaarrrr west side of Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. Charming place to watch the sunset over the Hudson, with good bar food and a free jukebox to boot. And pickle shots (whiskey and pickle brine), which just may have been invented there.
Mark “the Shark” Roth and I stopped in at J.G. Melon on the Upper East Side (which made the cut) and the Raccoon Lodge in Soho (didn’t make the cut; RIP Raccoon Lodge!). The former famous for its burger and tony clientele, the latter for being a scruffy ’80s holdout in one of the millionaire enclaves of post-Bloomberg Manhattan. Sadly, it closed a month after my first visit.
Hmmm. Who else to thank? My agent Meg Thompson for getting me the book deal in the first place, of course, and my editors Tricia Levi and Caitlin Leffel, too. Thank you, ladies! Caitlin even hung out with me at the Old Town Bar for a couple rounds shortly after the events of November 8. Good news: the booze worked. Also good: the tab was written off as research.
There were others too… details are foggy…. I’m sure they know who they are, amiright? You’re forever in my heart, whoever you may be….
Anyway, the bottom line is this: book is done and I’d be much obliged if you kindly pre-order it on Amazon. I understand this helps the rankings, or the search-a-bility or the bottom line or something. The art, both prints and the original pen and ink drawings, are for sale on my website.