Monday, May 09, 2005

Tour 2: Vintage Bar Crawl

TOUR: Vintage Bar Crawl
BARS: Loreley, Chumley’s, Ear Inn, McSorley’s
DATE: May 6, 2005

On Friday night the weather was as inconsistent as Vladimir Putin’s relationship with democracy. But despite the vacillations of rain and wind, Danny and I set out on a Vintage Bar Crawl to let off a little work week stress. We vowed not to go above 14th street (as there are really very few reasons to ever go above Union Square) and to start at Loreley, despite the fact that this German restaurant can in no way be considered a vintage bar (we considered their authentic Bretzels the best absorption for massive amounts of alcohol). But even though our rules were a bit nebulous, our purpose was not.

We had been to Loreley (7 Rivington) for dinner on a previous occasion, but this time we focused exclusively on the massive .5L beer steins (they also serve full liter steins, but anyone that likes fruit based martinis as much as I do, is in no way man enough for a full liter of German beer). And, of course, the Bretzels ($5). The Bretzels lived up to my memory of them, soft and doughy on the inside, but with the crisp baked exterior of New York bagels. These bready salt snacks went nicely with the Spaten Lager ($6) recommended to me by our waitress. It was no wonder why Loreley was packed.

But young men go west and so we did too, heading to Chumley’s (86 Bedford St.) and the merge of alcoholism and the New York literary scene of old. Chumley’s gets my endorsement as the best vintage bar we visited. Its atmosphere of literary unpretentious mixed with a fratastic crowd that in any other place might have bothered me, but here, oddly, didn’t. However, it was the bar itself that exceeded expectations. The secret entrance on Pamela Court adds an element of adventure to any bender. Not to mention that the homemade beer I tried, “Wing and A Prayer Wheat” ($6), was outstanding, light, crisp (I sound like a commercial), and accented with a lemon wedge whose acidity cut into the hops nicely.

The Ear Inn followed (326 Spring St.), a prime contender for oldest bar in Manhattan status. Unlike Chumley’s and Loreley, the beer selection wasn’t all that distinctive, but I ended up liking the rather chill feel and eclectic, slightly older clientele of Ear Inn more than I would’ve thought. We both opted for Boddington’s Pub Ale ($6 (noticing a price theme here?)) on tap, watched the Wizards win their first playoff series during my lifetime, and used the provided crayons to engage in some childhood nostalgia all across the paper tabletops. Ear Inn has survived all these years for a reason. It’s casual and comfortable without a hint of pretension.

Finally we landed on McSorley’s (15 E. 7th St.) sawdust floors. McSorley’s long-standing reputation needs little elaboration here, but I will add my approval (as if they need it) for the “Twinkie”-sized “light and dark” beers ($4), which contrary to other’s reports, tasted very different. I preferred the dark beer which was not overly bitter as dark beers so frequently are. The dust covered wall and ceiling fixtures, the white-apron wearing bartenders, and overall “I love the Irish (but had Colin Farell)”pub authenticity was the best way to end this vintage evening. Maybe we hadn’t gone back in time, but we had proved Friday night escapes can take many forms.

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