20 bars we hope never close, ever
Gray's Papaya in the West Village. Milady's in Soho. And pretty soon 7A in the East Village, too. For whatever reason, there've been a ton of high-profile, well-loved NYC spots that've recently closed-up shop. And it's the worst.
All of this led us to ask the question: would you rather go deaf in one ear, or only be able to use the Internet for one hour per week? And that led us to ask the other question: if these restaurants can't make it, what's to stop all the rest of our non-glitzy standby favorites from going down as well? So we came up with a list of bars we hope never, ever close, and included some stories that only such places can create. Go to them. Drink in them. Keep them around forever.
Jeremy's Ale House
"The best post-college bar with bras hanging from the ceiling and beers served in giant, styrofoam cups (that somehow feel classy, rather than trashy), Jeremy's also has way-better-than-it-needs-to-be fried seafood."
- Andrew Zimmer
"I have no idea how they pay the rent on this billion-square-foot basement on proceeds from Scrabble rentals and hour-long blocks of shuffleboard alone, while STILL paying a live jazz band that’s honestly pretty great, but I hope they keep doing it forever."
- Ben Robinson
"For various reasons, our Tech team is unwelcome at Botanica. And yet, they're still welcome at Milano's. Also, Milano's has the best sandwich board creative in town."
"If this is what Chelsea was like in 1936, when Peter McManus opened, then Chelsea was pretty damn great in 1936. Bartenders straight from central bartender casting, and regulars who have literally never even heard the word 'brunch'. One night, I lost my credit card, but it was still saved on my Seamless account, so I had five orders of mozzarella sticks delivered, in a monsoon, and traded the bartender for drinks until the rain stopped."
Old Town Bar
"I’ve never felt more ensconced by a urinal in my life. At least not in the good way. The fried clams are also comforting. And for those who didn’t know that there’s an upstairs: there’s an upstairs."
WXOU Radio Bar
"A couple years ago, I found myself in the West Village during SantaCon, which was a mistake, but Radio Bar had none of them in there. Best. SantaCon. Ever. Also, they've got excellent poster/jukebox game."
Upper West Side
"Never have I ever had the opportunity to order cocktails, prime rib, and sushi all at the same bar, and feel totally unafraid of any of them. Well, maybe a little afraid. But I’m still alive, I swear."
"This place is great because of tallboys, metal on the jukebox, Buck Hunter, old-timey windows, and the only bathroom on the planet that I actually have fond memories of. The smell of it (not quite dry paint?) somehow makes me nostalgic for the time I couldn't get in it because there was a 90% chance someone was either doing something illegal, or having sex in it."
Waterfront Ale House
"A few years ago, I left an expensive umbrella under a table there, walked two blocks, then remembered the umbrella, and walked back to get it. It was gone! Now every time I go back, I’m reminded why I can’t have nice things. Also: even though the Waterfront is basically my Mom, there's really nowhere else to go in this semi-neighborhood except that crazy Guinness bar I've never set foot in (Editor's Note: Paddy Reilly's is kinda great and has great open mic nights). I hope Waterfront sticks around so I'll always have someplace to responsibly drink 50 beers and eat a very satisfying burger after an unsatisfying movie at Kips Bay. Do you guys have plans tonight? Want to go see The Legend of Hercules?"
"One time I was murdered in that weird underground hallway that leads to the bathroom. I never found out why the guy did it, but I think that just makes the story more interesting."
All of Red Hook
"Just, all of it."
"During the Blackout of '03, my friend T was at a rooftop party in Tribeca. For reasons he has never explained, there were a bunch of male models at this party. T corralled everyone down to Nancy Whiskey, which stayed open, because Nancy Whiskey is powered by a force greater than electricity. Amazingly, one of the male models ordered a green apple martini. The bartender started banging on the bar and screaming at him to get his green apple martini-loving ass out of the bar. That really sums everything up: so friendly they'll stay open during a man-made disaster, but wonderfully ornery about who they'll stay open for (note: T lies a lot, so it's possible none of this actually happened.)."
"Buy a drink, get a hot dog. One time I was all 'Theoretically speaking, what if I bought a drink and wanted something OTHER than a hot dog?', and they gave me a little plastic basket of the most delicious cheese balls that ever left orange residue on someone’s shirt. The next time I went, I bought a drink and asked for them again. The bartender said they’d never had cheese balls. I took my hot dog and decided I should stop drinking quite so much."
"Foolproof formula for making you feel like you’re not in the West Village when you’re actually in the middle of the West Village: juke box, cheap beer, cheaper whiskey, and a female bartender who likes all those things more than you."
"There may not be another place on the planet where you can eat dumplings, play pool on a zebra-print table, and watch caged go-go dancers, and not feel weird about any of it."
"In 2006, I was drinking at Tempest Bar with the guy who would eventually go on to expose Brett Favre's penis. It was January, and I'm 99% sure I had bronchitis, but even though I was hocking up a lung and wheezing enough to be hooked up to a machine, I kept drinking anyway and wound up with a hangover that lasted a month (or possibly an illness that lasted a month). Tempest is the kind of place that makes you feel like a weakling if you let failing organs stand in the way of irresponsible consumption. We can't lose places like that."
"If you've never taken part in the roller coaster of emotions that double-fisting beers in a borderline-tourist trap can give you, that might be a good thing. Or not?!? We're not sure. (Also see: White Horse Tavern.)"
"A last bastion of old Williamsburg booze-hounding amongst the ever-rising skyline, please never take away our 32oz cups of beer and strong-as-f**k margaritas."
"The first time I stepped foot in here, I couldn't believe it existed for so long without me knowing about it. The stories of how great the bartender is? All true, much like (probably) the ones about the ladies of the night."
"The weirdest NYC scene I’ve ever witnessed, happened here. Me and a high school friend who bartended at Boxcar in the ‘90s were talking to a regular who made so much money cashing out before the Internet Bubble burst, he could afford to spend his time taking fencing classes just because. He was explaining how he hurt his back practicing with a wire hanger, when this very clean-cut, bald guy in a starched business button-down piped up and said, 'Did I hear you say fencing?' We were like, 'Well, really we were talking about how spectacularly bored our new friend is…', but the guy jumped off his stool, grabbed a fencing bag, and proceeded to gear up. Meanwhile, his date – who by the way was a professional – was distraught (despite being a professional). As Fencing Man thrusted and parried to the delight of everyone and no one, she ran into the bathroom, then emerged with a folded up piece of paper she handed to the bartender, and asked her to read. Very reluctantly, the bartender read what turned out to be a poem. It was not an awesome poem, but if you wrote a poem about her writing the poem in the bathroom and the fencing and the Internet, that would be an awesome poem. Also, they have a kick-ass happy hour."