Thursday, September 19, 2013

Manhattan Town

New York, NY

A couple weeks ago, my trusty cohort Devlin and I spent three days exploring the beer scene in New York City on foot. Ever since I began doing this weird little blog, I've wanted to beer hike in NYC -- maybe the best urban hiking city in the world. We didn't have time to visit every worthy place in the area, but I think we did pretty good. Below are some brief notes and forgettable pictures of our first hike. The Garmin unit that I normally use to track my routes shit the bed for good almost immediately upon arrival, so I don't know exactly how many miles we logged or exactly which streets we took, but here's a basic idea:

Manhattan: Midtown, Hell's Kitchen, East Village
The Ginger Man-Valhalla-Pony Bar-Birreria-Standings-Proletariat
About 5.5 miles

View NYC Day 1: Manhattan in a larger map

On the first of our three days, we stuck mainly to Midtown and the East Village. (We stormed Brooklyn on days two and three -- more on that in later posts.) Devlin arrived at Penn Station around noon on Monday and after a teriffic slice across the street at Pizza Suprema, we headed for our first beer stop of the trip: The Ginger Man.

1. Ginger Man

When I was in Houston in July, the original Ginger Man (est. 1985) was on my short list of places to visit, but with my work schedule, I was not able to make it out there. (Michael Jackson would've been disappointed -- I read that it was one of his favorite places.) New York's is an institution, too. It opened in the mid-90s and some say it's Manhattan's first -- and still best -- craft beer bar. Whatever it is, it's great fun and even during a semi-busy lunch rush, we enjoyed chatting with the beertender and getting her ideas of some of the other places we should visit while in town. (She had a few suggestions that weren't on our preliminary list, but for the most part, we knew where we needed to hit. The internet is a wonderful tool.)

2. Valhalla

After a pint of some really good local beer, we headed a few blocks north and west to Hell's Kitchen. Originally we just came to Valhalla to kill time before Pony Bar opened, but it turned out to be a great place. There are a ton of taps in this bright, airy space and it isn't short on character.

Just about every bar we visited had a good selection of local beers along with many of our West Coast favorites. In fact, Devlin claimed that he had a few that could hold their own with anything we have in Seattle.

After Valhalla, we went about six blocks south to Pony Bar, another "don't miss" stop for craft beer in New York City. As with the other stops, Pony had plenty to choose from on the tap list and good conversation at the bar. Gotta love New Yorkers and their gift of gab. I felt a little bad for the beertender as she was dealing with a group of self-absorbed ninnies who were slamming lemon drops and cosmos while squealing about god-knows-what at a table in the corner. Fucking annoying. I guess when you work the happy hour shift near midtown Manhattan, you have to come to expect that once in a while.

3. Pony Bar

It was still pretty early and Devlin was enjoying the company of a new drinking buddy he met, so we had a second round. Also, I was able to snag a nice shot of him at the bar, about to punch me in the face (seen here.) I think he was getting hungry and agitated. Or maybe he's just an asshole.

On my way to meet Devlin earlier in the day, I peeked into Mario Batali's Midtown masterpiece, Eataly. I can't say enough about how impressed I was with this place. It has several restaurants from simple, elegant lunch counters to formal dining. There's a fresh pasta counter, an authentic Napolitano pizzeria, fresh gelato, a butcher, a bakery, a glorius seafood selection... Just unbelievable. The place has its own information desk and they give you a fucking map! Next time you're in Manhattan, go there and have a blast.

Devlin's lame attempt at photobombing.
4. Birreria

I didn't even mention Birreria -- Eataly's restaurant and brewery. (It's up on the 14th floor, apart from everything else, so I completely missed it on my morning recon mission.) Birreria is a collaboration between the good people at Dogfish Head and Italian Breweries Birra del Borgo and Baladin. They brew unfiltered and unpasteurized cask ales, served via traditional hand pumps. The whole place is on a beautiful roof deck patio and just a pants-load of fun. It wasn't cheap, but we had a great dinner.

5. Standings

After dinner, we continued south to meet up with a local beer writer and all-around fine fellow, Chris, who helms the popular local blog Brew York. It was just about time for the first Monday Night Football of the season, so we figured Standings was the place to go (plus, I heard there was going to be free wings.) I didn't have high expectations for Standings, but was pleasantly surprised to find a very unconventional sports bar. It's not large, impersonal and crawling with dickheads like a lot of sports bars. Standings is small, has a very solid beer selection, and tons of personality. There's great sports memorabilia all over the place and plenty of TVs for whatever is on. If I lived in town, I'd probably visit this spot regularly. They also offer free food all the time, which is really nice of them.

6. Proletariat

After the game, the two Chris' and I made the short walk to our last stop, just around the corner, on St. Mark's. Proletariat is a fairly upscale, but non-pretentious place. The tap list isn't huge, but it's thoughtfully assembled (same with the bottle list). You're sure to find something interesting to drink and enjoy hanging out at the small, but long bar. We were lucky enough to visit on a night when avid home brewer and collector Anthony was working. We had a great conversation about all kinds of things and he even pulled out a few special bottles from his personal stash that he had been wanting to try. It was a great end to a long day. Thanks a million for sharing, Anthony!

Crif Dogs

When we bid farewell to our new pal Chris and left Proletariat, we were immediately confronted by a huge, neon hot dog. There is no point resisting Crif Dogs, so we stepped in, ordered some cans of MGD (this is almost certainly why I felt like shit the next day) and some crazy hot dogs. Devlin got one with pickles, peanut butter and crushed up potato chips on it while I went with the "jon-jon deragon" (cream cheese, scallions, and everything bagel seeds). We didn't bother to pick up the phone in the booth (look it up) as it was late and we had two more full days ahead of us.

By the time we got back to our Alphabet City apartment accommodations and climbed the stairs to 5E, it was time to collapse. Tomorrow, we would brave the heat, humidity, and crowds and head over the Brooklyn Bridge for more exploration. I'll try to get that little adventure up for you soon.

*NOTE: you may be tempted to leave me a nasty comment about how I skipped a really great spot that you know of and that's fine, go ahead. But also understand that I have two more hikes and about 13 more bars to tell you about, so maybe you're just being impatient.

Here's the usual lame slideshow. Feel free to skip it:

Cheers and thanks for reading.

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