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« Tuesday, November 9th, 2010—Bar 303 | Main | Sunday, November 7th, 2010—Bar 301 »

Monday, November 8th, 2010—Bar 302

Day 302—Sunday, November 7th, 2010
Winner's Circle Restaurant
and Bar
The donation bell has rung and it’s from an old friend of mine from Peoria, Illinois, Joe Waugh. Joe has generously donated 50 bucks to the bar crawl and he and his wife Connie joined the bar crawl back in April when I was in Peoria and stopped in at Jimmy’s Bar. His daughter Angela was part of the bar crawl a few days later when I was in Chicago. Thanks, Joe and I hope we can have a drink or four when I’m back in Peoria at Christmas!

Speaking of donations, there’s a fine documentary in the works by a guy who was an editor at Time Out New York years ago, Joe Angio. I met Joe years ago and while I never wrote any stories for Time Out while he was an editor there, I met him once and had a good time at Puck Fair. Joe is now an indpendent film maker and is producing a documentary on a great band, The Mekons. One of the first people I ever met in New York was Sally Timms and I was blown away when she nonchalantly told me she was a member of the Mekons. Joe needs some help in getting the film made and you can donate to help see this film see the light of day right here: The Revenge of the Mekons. You can get your name on the credits if you pledge a certain amount and there’s other goodies available, in fact today is Sally Timms day and she has donated some really cool items, you should go and check them out. Please donate as I really want to see this film. The Mekons rule!

Tonight I have yet another special guest here on the 365 Bar Crawl. It’s none other than Fat Al, who’s one of the writer’s and creator of a blog I really like, The Half Empty Glass and they’ve really supported the 365 blog. We’ve been meaning to meet up for a drink for quite awhile and tonight’s the night. I don’t know if Fat Al is bringing his cranky partner in blogging, anonymous271, but he did have the genius idea of meeting at the Winner’s Circle Restaurant bar in what is, I believe Manhattan’s biggest OTB. My only fear is that they won’t let me take pictures for obvious reasons. What I’ve decided to do is just not ask. And before I get a comment saying I’m invading people’s privacy, I’ll fuzz out any face that doesn’t belong to myself or Fat Al. And so, it’s off to the races we go, Tiki Bar Susie, I think you’ll like this one!

Here we are at the Winner's Circle, let's go check it out.

Wow, it's bright in here and it's got a bit of a prison-yard break atmosphere going on. I found out that the bar and restaurant are upstairs.

A mark of a nice 4-star bar and restaurant is one where they remind you in the title that it's, "Fine Dining."

This is just me, but if all the lighs worked on the sign, it might reflect a more winning atmosphere. But that's just me.

Hmmm...the sanitary grade is pending...all part of the gambling experience I guess. Let's go inside, fine dining awaits!

Here's the stairway to winning, the velvet rope is a nice touch! Maybe there's celebrities up there!

None of the Kardashian clan seem to be here, but here's some of the winners enjoying the evening.

The horse races are shown on these screens in the front room, but I need to find the bar.

And here we are. Could that be Fat Al? Let's go see.

It wasn't Fat Al, in fact he couldn't really speak English very well, but he did have a mastery of the word, "motherfucker" as he lost race after race. Here's the bar and the bartender who talked and resembled a young Peter Lorre.

The top of the bar is lined with TV sets showing the races of the day. By now I was really confused, a little uncomfortable and was wishing Fat Al would show up.

Obligatory bar room mirror shot!

The bartender changes the channel to a new race. It's uncomfortably quiet and bright in here. Where are you Fat Al?

Finally Fat Al showed up along with Half Empty Glass commentator jco. We retired to the "fine dining area" and we were greeted by this friendly fellow who's identity I've saved with a handy black bar.

Here's jco with Fat Al who didn't want his face shown in the picture, due to work-related issues. I think he's a mercenary, but don't tell anyone.

I tried to get into the spirit of things, but had trouble with the OTB guide. It was kind of like a math book with silly horse names in it. Color me confused.

Fat Al and jco were betting wildly though...

And they won 110 bucks on the Snowbound Sailor race. The name of that horse conjured up images of Popeye on a cocaine run.

After about a half an hour we were told the place was closing early, so sadly we couldn't sample any of the fine dining here. But Fat Al and jco said they would take me to a nice Mexican place within walking distance.

On the way we walked by Port 41, which was the 61st bar I went to on the bar crawl. We decided to stop in for a drink.

It was a lot darker in here and I prefer these sights to the horses any day of the week. Oh to be a Sharpie marker!

And here's a familiar face, Frank Wood! I met him on the first bar of the bar crawl at Otto's Shrunken Head.

And here we are at the El Azteca Bar. Time for Sunday dinner!

I had the tortilla soup for a starter, it was delicious!

jco had the nachos which is a huge portion.

Fat Al and I had this dish for a main entree, I can't remember the name, but it was chicken cutlet in a spicy rice mix and it was great. And Fat Al generously picked up the tab as a donation to the bar crawl! Thanks, Fat Al, great to meet you and jco and I hope you'll both join the bar crawl again! Goodnight, everybody!

The Winner’s Circle Restaurant walks that fine, razor edge line of a land somewhere between the unending boring ambience of a DMV waiting room and a “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” therapy session with the evil Nurse Ratched. The name itself is pure irony. “The Winner’s Circle.” Ha! You couldn’t find a group of men more down and out and lost for luck if you called central casting. It’s bright inside the bar and grim all at the same time. For the most part, it’s quiet in the bar and front area and then suddenly punctuated with screams of “Come on and win you motherfucker!” and then quiet again as the men see their horses lose and their last pile of nickels disappear quicker than a plate of fresh eclairs placed in front of Oprah Winfrey.

They have a menu and a kitchen at The Winner’s Circle, but they were closing early and we didn’t have time to finish three beers, much less sample the fine cuisine available. I’m guessing it’s a cross between prison food and grade school cafeteria fare. There’s a full bar available for those that can afford such luxuries as liquor and that’s why the bar is never full.

It’s a true New York City scene and one that I hope never dies. I will return and I thank Fat Al for the fine suggestion.

Winner's Circle Restaurant
515 Seventh Ave. (@38th St)


Bonus Photo From jco at Port 41!

We stopped for a quick drink at Port 41 and jco took a shot of the dueling toilets in the ladies room. This could probably qualify for the most uncomfortable toilet area in New York City. Deedle-eee-dee-dee.

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Reader Comments (27)

An epic night on the crawl! Great to almost see Fat Al and jco. And the review...best one ever!

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBarfly

We're honored to have been a part of the bar crawl. We had an excellent time. And hang on in there, the finish line is in sight...


November 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFat Al

Dueling toilets! Classic! Scary, but classic. Your soup looked yummy and the nachos, too...you can't go wrong with any meal featuring that much guacamole. The W ner Circle was a little bright and sterile for me, but I hope it lasts forever. If the state can make billions off of gambling, why shouldn't everyone else be able to as well? Of course, I say this as a recent winner. Due to a late arrival at the bar and a lack of square choices, we ended up with Blame. And, TA-DA! Turned 20 bucks into 120! Magic! TO: BETTING, MOTHERFUCKER! Viva la Mekons.

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBiff

I have GOT to get up to NYC before the crawl ends!

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDan

@Biff: TO BETTING and viva la Mekons!

@Dan: I'd love to hang out with you on the bar crawl, get up here!

November 8, 2010 | Registered Commenter365 Beers

Port 41 revisited saved the night,,,,at least for me. This Winner's Circle doesn't cut it. This is one ugly and bright bar and will be at the bottom of the list when its over. @Fat Al: were you hiding your face because you picked a loser,,, not the horse,,, the bar,,,,just kidding,,,lol.

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAl

The Winner's circle would be a lot easier for me to take with a couple of Prozacs and a Thorazine chaser, it does look like the reception area at a mental hospital, doesn't it? Sorry I missed Port 41 the first time around...that must have been when my computer was down and I was having my two abscessed molars pulled. I just checked out the link...JESUS PLEASEUS!!!

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJaws the Cabbie

A great day/night out!
Great looking grub!
(there's something I always liked about Port 41...)
Nice to see the company you had along.
Fat Al and jco!
Frank Wood making another appearance some 301 days later!
(those numbers are amazing as well)
Happy Belated Birthday Biff (Browns Win!)
and Happy Birthday to my Mom who turns 80 today.
(and is a fan of Marty and the 365 Crawl...how could she not be with her kid pimping it)
Onward and Crawlward!

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenter"Boris"

@Al: No doubt that the Winner's Circle is a bad bar. In some ways, that's what makes it worth visiting. A unique slice of life in NYC. For better, and for worse. But personally I was fairly relieved to find out that the kitchen was closed...

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFat Al

@Biff: Is it your birthday today? HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE BIFFEROONIE!

@"Boris:" Thanks for the nice wishes and tell your mom I said, "Happy Birthday!"

@Fat Al: It was a great choice and a nice slice of New York city to show on the bar crawl. Great meeting you and jco, thanks for the drinks and dinner!

November 8, 2010 | Registered Commenter365 Beers

I am not a fan of The Winner’s Circle. I do NOT like bright bars with uncomfortable silences. Not At All! But, I liked the El Azteca Bar - a LOT. That torilla soup looked and sounded delicious!

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermeleah rebeccah

@Meleah: The Winner's Circle was worth going to just so I could showcase all different kinds of bars in NYC and it was fun due to the fact that Fat Al and jco were there to goof a little on the place made it fun. And that tortilla soup was great!

November 8, 2010 | Registered Commenter365 Beers

this was hilarious! loved the kardashian comment! LOL! good choice fat al! and i agree with barfly, funniest review ever!

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterrita r.

This may be my all-time favorite entry, Marty.

The only explanation possible on the dueling toilets is that some guy though it was the women's version of urinals. Now I can't believe I've never seen it before!

Boris, tell me your mom reads A Guy walks into 365 Bars. Sweet. Now you don't have to buy her a card.

Hmmmm, maybe we should change the name of Grade "A" Fancy to "Grade Pending". It seems all the rage!

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGrade "A" Karen

I had a fantastic time at the Winner's Circle, more so given that the restaurant was closed and Snowbound Sailor paid for the drinks. But I will admit that the Twin Toilets really made my night. Thanks so much, Marty, I look forward to more of the crawl! -- jco

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjco

@Grade "A" Karen: Glad you enjoyed the post, it's one of my favorites too!

@jco: I had a blast last night, one of the best night's on the crawl, great to meet and hang out with you and Fat Al. And don't worry Fat Al's identity secret is safe with me!

November 8, 2010 | Registered Commenter365 Beers

Wow. Just wow. Glad you guys were up for the adventure, cause it was fun to see! I know men get confused about women going to the bathroom together. But I've never seen them have to "go" together. Priceless. At least your dinner looked delicious.

Happy Birthday "Boris's" Mom!

I was supposed to be flying through New York today. Sad. But I would have hoped for something a little more exciting than that winning circle :)

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkari

Double toilets? is that belgian toilets? pee on the left, poo on the right, it must be that! ha!
To go to port 41 before to eat mexican food : THAT MAKES SENSE MARTY! You are my hero :D
Happy Birthday Biff !

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterZioum Zioum The Chainsaw

@365: Holy shit thats a NY version of a TAB. Fitzy would love this joint. Personally I can't handle horse racing and it looks terribly uneasy in there with all those strung out folk losing all their cash.
@Myself: GO EAGLES

To Letterman!!!

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTim Clack in NYC!!!

@kari: Why were you going to be flying through New York?

@Zioum Zioum: Love the Belgian toilet theory!

@Tim Clack: Definitely a weird vibe in there and that makes me want to go back. The place is loaded with characters. Maybe next year I'll do A Guy Walks Into The Winner's Circle 365 Times.

November 8, 2010 | Registered Commenter365 Beers

Just a short layover on my way back east. But the relationship ended so the trip got canceled :( At work instead. Fun times.

AGWITWC365Times would be a ride that's for sure!

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkari

Thanks for the birthday wishes! It was actually yesterday and the Browns gifted me a win! Hooray! Hope that Shannon had a happy birthday this weekend and that Mama B had a happy day today! TO SCORPIOS! And twin toilets!

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBiff

@kari: Sorry to hear about that.

@Biff: Happy belated Birthday, Bifferoonie! Hope you had fun. GO BROWNS!

November 8, 2010 | Registered Commenter365 Beers

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