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Tuesday, January 4th, 2011—Bar 359

Day 359—Monday, January 3rd, 2010
Formerly Bill's Gay Nineties

Okay, first things first, a live donation has been made by my friend and co-worker, Dorothy Niemczyk! Dorothy contributed a generous twenty dollars for the last night of the bar crawl and here she is presenting it to me below:
Thanks, so much, Dorothy, that’s very nice of you. And in a work-related message: Your proof is done and on the table in the ink jet room.

Alright, on to the crawl! If memory serves me correctly (and it often does not), Bill’s Gay Nineties Piano Bar was one of my co-pilot Al Rizo’s earlier suggestions. I filed it away and people keep mentioning it to me and I was originally going to meet Paul Scanlon, who we met yesterday at Bill’s, but that didn’t work out so we met at Mumble’s. Well, I’m just about out of days here, so I better get there while the bar crawl is still crawling. Ready, set...crawl!

Here we are, Bill's Gay Nineties, let's go check it out.

Here's Rita, the lovely coat-check woman and hostess. She pointed me to the direction of the bar.

Which is right throught the swinging saloon doors.

It's Monday, so there's plenty of seats at the bar, let's settle in.

And here's beer number one, served up by the friendly and hospitable bartender, Marc.

A shot of the festive bar.

Bob and Tony were holding down the end of the bar and posed for the 365 camera. Cheers, guys!

Vintage photos line the walls in here.

Many of them are old-time sports photos, like these two baseball players.

Here's a wall of antique boxing photos.

And a photo of a horse, of course, of course! Even if that horse isn't the famous Mr. Ed.

A long shot of the dark wooden bar.

The lone chandelier that illuminates and hangs over the bar.

There's tables for dining opposite the bar.

Which is where I found this party enjoying drinks and the ambiance at Bill's. From left: Molly, Carrie, Tony and Ashely.

There's a piano player on duty every night at Bill's, let's go check him out.

It's Elliot Paul and he's quite the entertaining Piano Man. Billy Joel would be proud of this guy!

Here's Elliot in full swing.

And now he's got some of the crowd up on there feet dancing.

It looks more like Friday night than Monday in here.

But, alas it is Monday and I have to hit the road to get my beauty sleep for the last few nights. Here's a parting shot with everyone from the bar. Goodnight, everybody!

In 1924, Bill Hardy opened up Bill's Gay Nineties as a speakeasy and it became a roaring success, housing three floors of rotating entertainment. After prohibition ended, the shutters came off the window and you know longer needed to know the secret word to get in the door. And today the bar pretty much remains the same, which is nice in this era of cookie cutter sports bars that get thrown up and then go out of business just as soon. The bar is classic old school New York from the well worn bar itself to the blue-checked table-clothed tables and chairs opposite and in front. The walls are lined with vintage photos from the past and you could spend the evening perusing them and not see every thing in one night. It’s a true classic New York bar in here.

They have a full bar at Bill’s with friendly and expert bartenders who can handle any drink selection you throw at them. Bill’s has a lunch and dinner menu and the kitchen is open till 11:30pm. All entrees are served with a potato and vegetable and here’s a few selections from the menu: Pan Seared Maryland Crab Cakes; Broiled Filet of North Atlantic Salmon; Shrimp Scampi sautéed with Garlic and White Wine and Bill’s New York Strip Steak.

Bill’s is one of the last original piano bars in town and there’s three pianists on duty Monday through Saturday. The piano gets fired up around eight o’clock at night. Feel free to request a tune, and while you would think that “Free Bird” isn’t in their repertoire, request away, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Bill's Gay Nineties
57 E. 54th St (Near Madison Ave.)

Mucho Thanks as always to my Co-Pilot, Al Rizo for suggesting this place months ago!

Bonus Photos From Clacky’s Bunt Custer's Bar!
Our friend and commentator Tim “Clacky” Clack in Australia has opened his own bar in his backyard and sent in some photos from the opening party. Here’s part one of the photos from the celebrations from his bar, fondly known as “Bunt Custer’s.” Take it away Clacky!

Opening day at Bunt Custer's, Maryville, Newcastle.

The Cliff Richard "Wired for Sound" memorial corner...Is Cliff even dead?

Party ready to go!

Shan does first drinks. Margarita time!

This happy chap is Dr. Nay Field. Doctor, beer drinker and co-builder of the Bunt Custer's Bar.

Things got lively when Gerant rocked up in a dress and Nay put on a Mexican wrestling mask.

Hey it's a 365 salute all the way from Australia! (keep in mind Shots of tequila had begun buy this point.)

Thanks for the photos Clacky, stay tuned for Part II, tomorrow!


Monday, January 3rd, 2011—Bar 358

Day 358—Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

A couple weeks ago I was featured in a Q. and A. on the fine blog, Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York. I got some nice emails after it ran and one of them suggested I go check out legendary Bill’s Restaurant and Piano Bar in midtown. The email was signed, Paul Scanlon. The name rung a bell and then I remembered the name from the Rolling Stone masthead from the ‘70’s (yes, I’ve always been a masthead geek) and from books on Rolling Stone and Hunter S. Thompson. I wondered if it was the same guy and then I looked at where his email came from and sure enough, it said wennermedia.com. As In Jann Wenner. As in Rolling Stone. After a couple of emails I found out that after being the managing editor of Rolling Stone from 1970 to 1979, Scanlon moved over to editorial duties at GQ, then went on to book editing and other projects and now he had come full circle and is back at Rolling Stone working on a couple projects there. Because of the holiday craziness we never did get to Bill’s, but we made plans to meet at Mumble’s, a joint nearby where I live. I'm looking forward to meeting him, you know he's got some good stories to tell. And so it’s off we go!

I told you it was close by, here we are already.

The bar is crowded for a Sunday afternoon, but I spy on seat at the bar. Let's go snag it.

And no sooner am I seated, than Hal, the very friendly bartender serves up an ice-cold beer.

Cheers, seven more to go (pretend I have two extra fingers on my hand.)

Joe and Carolyn were seated at the end of the bar and we had a nice chat about my 365 journey.

A view from my perch at the bar. Wow, that TV is bright, someone needs to tone that down a bit!

Some of the drafts available at the bar. As you can see, there's a TV on either side of the bar, Gene, you'd like it in here!

Lou was seated next to me and he's a somewhat regular in here who lives nearby.

There's a long wooden railing and stools opposite the bar to hang out at.

And behind the railing are some tables to sit and dine at.

And the main dining room is located to the left of the bar.

Kimberly, a pretty waitress at the bar waits for a drink that Hal is preparing. Hi, Kimberly!

Speaking of Hal, here he is in action behind the bar.

Carolyn and Joe are enjoying brunch at the bar and chatting with a friend.

Mike took Lou's seat next to me at the bar and we had a nice conversation about modern technology and the horrors of texting.

A vintage Budweiser sign hangs behind the bar, topped with holiday stockings.

Okay, night has settled in and the bar becomes darker, illuminated by round globes hanging overhead.

And here he is, tonight's special guest star, Paul Scanlon. I always tell people, that it's not the bars that are the best part of this 365 journey, but the people inside of them. Well, this turned out to be a real highlight. I knew Paul would have some classic Rolling Stone stories and boy did he ever. I don't have room in this caption area to tell them and most of it were off the record but some of the name's in the stories included, Jann Wenner, Hunter Thompson, Andy Warhol, Chet Flippo, David Felton, Ben Fong-Torres, Mick Jagger, Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Buddy Miles, Cameron Crowe and it just went on and on. Great stories from a great era in journalism that will never be duplicated. Thanks for an entertaining evening, Paul!

By the end of the evening Paul got into the 365 spirit and joined me for a one-finger salute! Goodnight, everybody!

Mumbles Restaurant and Bar is located near Union Square and has a real neighborhood feel to it. There’s nothing too spectacular about the place, but it’s a friendly spot, mainly filled with locals from the neighborhood. The bar is dark and wooden and globe lights hang overhead. There’s dining tables behind it and a full dining room off to the side of the bar.

It’s a full bar with a good selection of bottled and draft beers. Mumbles also has a large and varied menu with a decent selection of burgers and sandwiches. There’s also pasta and four types of pizza available and if you have a big appetite some of the main entrees include: Blackened Pork Chops, Oven Roasted New Zealand Rack of Lamb, Chilean Sea Bass and one of their specialties, “Better Than mom`s” Meatloaf. That’s a pretty bold statement, because my mom makes a mean meatloaf, so next time I’ll check that out.

Mumbles has brunch on the weekend, available till 4pm. Delivery is also available.

179 Third Ave. (@17th Street)


Bonus Paul Scanlon Photos!
This morning, Paul sent me a few photos from back in the day and here they are.

Paul with Hunter S. Thompson in the spring of 1973. Paul was one of the first people that Hunter showed the original "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" manuscript to.

Here's Paul with writer Fred Exley, best known for his book, "A Fan's Notes." This was taken from 1978 when they were working on an excerpt from his novel, "Last Notes From Home," for Rolling Stone.

And here's a classic photo of a good portion of the Rolling Stone staff watching Nixon resign. Great photos, Paul, thanks for sharing them!


Sunday, January 2nd, 2011—Bar 357

Day 357—Saturday, January 1st, 2011
Mel's Burger Bar

Live from New York, it’s Cheeseburger Saturday Night! Starring Mel’s Burger Bar, with a special guest appearance from my friend and downstairs neighbor, Deloy. And featuring the Ready for Prime Beef Player, Marty. Ladies and gentlemen, Mel’s Burger Bar!

Here we are at my friend and downstair's neighbor Deloy's door. Hey Deloy, Christmas is over, you might want to pack up the trees till next year.

And here she is, my lovely and beautiful neighbor, Deloy. A woman who once helped me pick up chicken wings off the stairwell after I tripped head over heels and about broke my neck. It's a long story and yes, I had been drinking.

Through the miracle of the internet you're spared us getting on the wrong train (my fault, of course), and then ending up in midtown in a throng of tourists where it's impossible to get a cab. Deloy saved the day and miraculously hailed a cab for us.

Hooray for Deloy!

And here we are, uptown at Mel's Burger Bar.

There's plenty of seats at the bar. Don't worry there fellow, we're not here to bother you, you just keep talking on your cell phone.

Justin was our friendly bartender and he quickly served up a couple pre-dinner beers.

Cheers from Deloy and I!

The back of Justin's shirt is adorned with a quote from Hunter S. Thompson. I'd have preferred this HST quote, "The only thing that really worried me was the ether. There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a man in the depths of an ether binge, and I knew we'd get into that rotten stuff pretty soon." But I guess it wouldn't be fitting for a family restaurant in this day and age. Too bad.

There's tables and red leather banquettes opposite the bar.

Just in case you forget where you are, there's a subtle reminder on the back wall.

In addition to a fantastic burger selection, Mel's has a great beer menu.

Here's the informal back dining room.

Brooke's the friendly and pretty manager. She suggested I try the Broadway burger and I told her I would. It's a done deal.

And for the record, this guy is still talking on his cell phone.

Okay, it's Cheeseburger Saturday Night, time to order some food!

We started out with an appetizer of friend pickles. Neither Deloy or I had ever had one, so it was time to try them out.

Deloy liked them and so did I. Both of us agreed that anything fried can't be too bad.

And before we had a chance to get too pickled, dinner is served!

Deloy got the Kobe Sliders...

I got the Broadway burger that Brooke had suggested. We also got fries and onion strings and everything was delicious! If you're a cheeseburger lover, you have to check this place out.

Okay, dinner's over and he's still talking on his cell phone. Sheesh! Goodnight, everybody!

If you’re looking for a place to unleash your inner Wimpy, Mel’s Burger Bar is the spot to do it in. There’s over a half dozen original variations on the burger to be had here. If eating at the bar is your thing, there’s a large semi-circular bar to dine and enjoy a drink or two. There’s tables and chairs opposite the bar and a dining room in the back. The bartenders and waitstaff are friendly and more than willing to assist you in choosing a burger of your choice.

There’s a full bar including a large selection of draft, canned and bottled beers. They also have four specialty house drinks, homemade punch cocktails and a Bastard Series including a Suffering Bastard, the Dying Bastard and the Dead Bastard which is Jack Daniels, Brandy, Beefeater, Bacardi, Lime Juice, Bitters and Ginger Ale. If you’re going to be a dead bastard, might as well go out with a smile on your face.

There’s plenty of burgers to choose from here including: The Original, a burger served on white toast with lettuce, pickles and tomatoes; The Cadillac Burger which is a bacon cheeseburger served on a potato roll; The Nurse Betty is a veggie burger with Monterey Jack Cheese and it comes with an onion focaccia roll and The Broadway which is served on sourdough rye bread and topped with melted Swiss cheese, bacon and jalapeno’s. In addition to burgers, Mel’s also offers Rotisserie Chicken, BBQ Ribs, Chicken Meatballs and Spaghetti and a French Dip sandwich. Brunch is also available Saturday and Sunday from 11pm to 3pm.

Mel's Burger Bar
2850 Broadway (Between 110th and 111th Street)

Bonus “Thought Glasses” Photos!
My friend Joe Freedman sent me a New Year’s gift. The gift is a pair of “Thought Glasses” he made from his production and design studio, Leafpdx in Portland, Oregon. The Thought Glasses subtly add subtext to your conversation and let’s people know what you’re really thinking about. Check them out below. Thanks, Joe and Happy New Year to you!

California dreaming on such a winter's day.

Hey, that reminds me, I need to check my Mega-Millions ticket!

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