Q: What makes a place a bar? (I figured I’d tackle the biggest question right off the bat)
A: Clearly, if a place has a big bar, without being surrounded by lots of dining tables, it’s a bar, right? Well, kind of. For example, a place that is blatantly a bar is Plug Uglies. A place that isn’t would be T.G.I. Fridays because even though there is a bar on site, you’re going there to eat, got it? If not, another example is that I consider Brother Jimmy’s a bar, because most people go there to drink, while Duke’s is a restaurant because most go there to eat. Those last two would be the closest to the line (that I drew) that my definition would come. I included the Heartland Brewery because they at least make their own beers. Though if Friday’s started brewing their own IPA…T.G.IPA perhaps…I’m copyrighting that now…well, no, they would still be a restaurant in my eyes.
Q: What about hotel bars?
A: This isn’t as tricky as discerning if it is a bar or not. If a hotel bar is marked with its own signs outside and I can see it from the street, it counts. For example, any bar in a W Hotel or Bridges at the Hilton, etc. would count. I would have no idea there was a bar in the Times Square Marriott unless I was a guest so it does not count. The point is to find places to drink if I am (and I am) an ordinary shnook.
Q: What is a shnook?
A: A shmendrik.
Q: What about clubs?
A: They do not count. Most clubs usually open and close faster than (insert your ex girlfriends name here), but that’s not the main reason. The whole point of a bar is someplace to go and sit with friends and have a conversation that’s audible and without having to pay a ridiculous cover to do so. Dancing, being pretentious and pretending to be part of the in-crowd is acceptable behavior for some (see the middle crowds in “The Crowd” question below), but this is not a list for those places, this is a bar list.
Q: What about places like Gramercy Tavern and Coffee Shop Bar?
A: Deceiving! Anyone who’s been to both know that they are restaurants. Coffee Shop Bar may have some lounge type seating, but you’re not fooling anyone. “Bar and Grill” also does not signify a bar. Just because there’s a small bar to sit at while you’re waiting for food, doesn’t mean it’s a bar. Case in point: if you can’t get a little loud at a bar while watching the Mets hit a home run without people staring at you because you’re disturbing their meal, you’re not at a bar.
Q: Am I going to drink in every bar?
A: That’s the whole frickin point! I want to sit in a bar, have a pint, soak in the atmosphere, write it down, move on.
Q: What if you catch the bar on an off night?
A: There should be no such thing. You know why pubs all over the world are successful? Because they keep a daily, steady stream of people coming in, day in and day out, at all hours of being open. They don’t need silly promotions or gimmicks to get them in to the bar. A bar should provide a great place 365/24/7. It doesn’t have to be packed all of the time, but it shouldn’t be the bartender talking to one patron. If no one comes in to your bar until later, open up later!
Q: What type of crowd is acceptable to me, and in that case, humanity?
A: There are many categories like your 30/40-year-old bars, old man bar, meat head central, the yuppie business kids, Bridge and Tunnels (B&T’s, in case you didn’t know that), hipsters, or just a good crowd who can hang with their friends and have a good time, the last being the optimal for me. Though I do find a slightly older crowd to be a lot of fun too, mainly because they can either hold their alcohol properly or quietly pass out at the end of the bar.
Q: What should be on a bar TV?
A: Easy, sports and only sports. A lot of bars try to put on CNN or movies or TV and yet don’t find it necessary to either put on the sound or the closed captioning. I’m not going out for a drink to stare at Wolf Blitzer’s face, no offense Wolfy. And movies might be great, but not when there’s a big game on or when I can’t recite every word to myself and don’t need the volume (The Godfather). ESPN and other sports networks let the visuals and their own info at the bottom speak, thus sound is not necessary. Except between 5 and 6 EST. I enjoy Around the Horn and PTI, but for god sakes, if I can’t hear or read what they’re saying, what’s the point of having it on TV! My thanks to Woody Paige for providing his own closed captioning in the background throughout the show.
Q: Are We Not Men?
A: We Are Devo!
Q: What should a beer cost?
A: Since it’s NYC, the beers may cost a little more than the outsiders are used to. I find that the price of a pint should fall within the $4 to $6 range. Your light beer drafts should be in the $4-5 range, your Yuengling’s, Stella’s, and similar beers should be anywhere from $5 to $6. If the price of the pint falls within this range, I called it “average prices” or “decent prices” or “regular prices”. If it falls above or below, I labeled it “slightly above average prices” or “slightly below average prices”, respectively. Happy hour drafts should be no more than $4. If it is, head for zee hills.
Q: How will I compare beers at the different bars?
A: I decided that I will go purely on draft beers, which every bar should have. If they don’t, I’ll have a bottle of beer (which, surprisingly, can be stale). But more specifically, I always order a Bud Light or Miller Light draft (despite what the commercials say, they’re the same from a tap). If the bar doesn’t serve either, I then go to Yuengling, next in line is Brooklyn Lager, and then, if I have to, a Guinness. I say “if I have to” because Guinness in America is crap, though I will point out a good tap when I come across them. If I said the beer tasted fine or average or decent, then it tasted just what you would expect it to taste like. If it doesn’t, then I noted it, for better or worse.
Q: What taps should a bar have?
A: They should easily have one of the above mentioned beers on tap. If they do, I would either not mention the taps or say “average taps”. If I ventured into a microbrewery, I try to pick the lightest lager that would be comparable to a normal beer. And they should have bottles of regular beer because you know what, I’m not always up for supporting every brew that comes out of some hipster’s Brooklyn basement.
Q: Why will some bars have shorter write ups than others?
A: As we all know, when we like something, we tend to sum those feelings up quickly. But when we hate something, we can go on for hours about that thing. So, if I loved a bar, you’re doing everything right. If I hated a place, I may run on for a while.
Q: Don’t new bars open up all the time?
A: Not as often as you would think. I get newsletters alerting me to new places, and I’m constantly traveling the city, so I will usually get to the new place. However, I’m not perfect. If I’m in the Lower East Side and can’t tell that you’re a bar because you don’t have a single sign up, I might miss it unless I walked these blocks at midnight (which I have done sometimes). It also sucks that you think it’s cool to not have a sign.
More relevant questions will be added and responded to as they arise. Drop me an e-mail.