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Entries in Classic New York Bars (3)


Tuesday, November 16, 2010—Bar 310

Day 310—Monday, November 15th, 2010
Fanelli's Cafe

Okay, after a couple of week’s with mucho guest stars, I’m back to solo bar-crawling. At last night’s dinner, Fanelli’s Cafe was mentioned by Jon and Karen and I told them I’ve been meaning to go there ever since the start of the bar crawl. It can get crazy crowded in there, but since it’s Monday, I think it’ll be manageable. There’s only one way to find out...

And that's to go there and here we are, let's go check it out.

I love the massive old wooden doors.

Wow, it's crowded for a Monday night, but I spy one empty seat at the bar, let's go grab it.

Steve's a veteran bartender here who's been at Fanneli's for over 15 years.

As I took a sip of beer I looked up and sure enough, there it is, the sign of a great bar, a tin ceiling!

A shot of the back of the bar from my vantage point.

Kristy was the waitress on duty. She was busy, but kindly agreed to pose for a photo inbetween waiting on tables.

Antique light fixtures hang over and illuminate the bar.

Rows of chairs and tables with red-checkered table-cloths line the wall opposite the bar.

Historical photos from days gone by cover the walls.

Here's a vintage boxing poster.

And more boxing photos are hung below it.

Let's go see who this group of people are at the end of the bar.

It turns out they're visiting from London and this is their third night in New York City. From left: James, Will, Eleanor and Alessandro. Will had been to Fanelli's before and brought the group here. Well done, Will!

A long shot of the bar.

A glance of the bar from the opposite end.

Kris was seated next to me waiting for friends to show up. They showed up and took a picture of the two of us. Kris used to live in New York, but now lives in L.A. and is with United Future, check them out here: United Future.

As the night wears on I spy an unusual sight at Fanelli's, empty stools at the front of the bar.

It's been a while since I've done an obligatory bathroom mirror shot, so here we go. Goodnight, everybody!

Fanelli’s is one of the oldest taverns in New York City. It was opened by Michael Fanelli in 1922 and even though the Fanelli family sold the business in 1982, the current owner’s have wisely left the iconic name unchanged. Also unchanged is the bar itself, a great old-school wooden behemoth of a bar. Wobbly ancient wooden tables and chairs line the wall opposite the bar and there’s a framed collage of vintage black and white photos featuring looks at a New York from days gone by and old boxing photos. There’s also a dining area in the back room, which most nights is spilling over with people drinking beer and eating burgers.

Fanilli’s offers a full bar with a good draft and bottled beer selection including: Red Stripe, Duvel, Samuel Adams and Heineken. They have a large menu with all the usual suspects such as chicken wings, mozzarella sticks, soups, salads and sandwiches. Some of the stand out items on the menu include: Meatloaf with gravy and mashed potatoes; Shepherds Pie; Maryland Crab Cake and Pumpkin Ravioli in alfredo sauce. Since they open at 10am breakfast is also served here, so you can have an egg sandwich with an early morning beer, truly the breakfast of champions!

Fanelli's Cafe
594 Prince St. (@Mercer St.)


Monday, July 26th, 2010—Bar 197

Day 197—Sunday, July 25th, 2010
P.J. Clarke's

Okay, for those of you who just follow the crawl during the week, you should really check out yesterday’s post. It was a great night out and one of the best so far, here’s the link: Sunday’s post.

Seeing the film “Goodfellas” last night, put me in an old school New York frame of mind, so tonight I thought I’d go to the classic New York tavern, P.J. Clarke’s. It’s one of New York’s most well known bars and some of the former regulars include Frank Sinatra, Jackie O., Nat King Cole and Buddy Holly proposed to Maria Elena Santiago in here in 1958.

I found this great P.J. Clarke’s story from the actor Richard Harris online and here it is: “I adore the hamburgers at P.J. Clarke's. In my drinking days, it was my first stop from the airport. A fellow named Vinny used to be the bartender there, and when I told him I wanted the usual, he lined up six double vodkas. I told an interviewer that once, and he said, ‘That's a lot of bull, that's one of your exaggerated stories!’ I said, ‘call a taxi.’ We walked into P. J. Clarke's, I said, ‘Vinny, my usual.’ And he lined up six double vodkas.”

Ha ha ha! That’s great, I think I’ll stick to beer though and I think I see a cheeseburger in my future!

Okay, we're two blocks away, here we are at 53rd and 3rd. Cheers to Dee Dee Ramone who used to work this block.

There it is, it looks like it's the one after 909. Okay, I'm done with the song puns.

Here it is, the legendary P.J. Clarke's.

The bar's crowded as usual, but I spy a seat I can wiggle into.

And bartender Michael is quick on the draw with an ice cold beer.

Here's some of the draft beer available.

There's a big crowd in here considering it's Sunday night.

As you can see, there's an extensive list of bottled beers available.

Here's Jillian, the lovely hostess for the back dining room.

And here's the back dining room in all its red-checkered table cloth glory.

The raw bar stands opposite the bar.

The whiskey list.

Mark and Can were seated next to me at the bar and had a few suggestions for the bar crawl, I may try one of them tonight.

It's Sunday night and that means Sunday dinner at a bar. Here's my appetizer, homemade potato chips and baked blue cheese dip.

The condiments are set up which can only mean...

Cheeseburger! Bartender Justin serves up the Cadillac Burger.

It truly lives up to its name.

A tasty burger indeed!

A glance out of the window as I leave. Goodnight, everybody!

P.J. Clarke’s is a New York institution. It’s open till four in the morning every day of the week and you’ll find a decent crowd of locals, tourists, business people and construction workers all enjoying the old school ambiance. If you’re lucky to score a stool at the front wooden bar, the bartenders will happily serve you up a beer or a drink that you can choose from one of the chalk board menus hanging up in the back wall of the bar. The bartenders wear white shirts and black ties and are quick with a drink and some of the friendliest servers in town.

P.J. Clarke’s has a full bar and a dining area in the back. The menu includes delicious appetizers such as: Homemade Potato Chips & Baked Blue Cheese Dip, Crisp Parmesan Tater Tots and ‘Hand Picked’ Jumbo Lump Crab Cake. There’s a raw bar that has offerings of, East & West Coast Oysters, Littleneck and Cherrystone Clams, Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail, and a Raw Sampler Platter including four oysters, four jumbo shrimp, three littlenecks and three cherrystones. There’s a wide range of entrees including five choices of steak and daily specials, but take my advice and skip them and order the The Cadillac Burger which is smoked country bacon and American cheese and a perfectly cooked burger. Nat King Cole named it and you should eat it if you’re there. The name isn’t a lie.

P.J. Clarke's
915 Third Ave.  (@55th St.)


Monday, July 12th, 2010—Bar 183

Day 183—Sunday, July 11th, 2010

Alright, first off, the PayPal donation bell has rung so hard I can hear it in my left ear, oh wait, that’s my tinitus roaring its ugly head, but none the less the bell has rung.

Ragin’ Ray Rogers sent in a generous twenty dollars with this stated purpose on the receipt: Purpose: “Just a little financial support from a fellow crawler as we embark on the second half of this adventure.”

Well, that’s more than just a little, Ray and I thank you and appreciate your generous donation!

Secondly one third of the Baltimore Bar Crawlers, Gene Rubbico sent in the very generous donation of $51.50 with this stated purpose: “Have an Old Speckled Hen at the Brews Brothers Bar.”

You’ve got it Gene. I’ll stop by there soon and have a few Old Speckled Hen’s in your honor. Gene is in the Air Force Reserve and is serving a tour of duty in Afghanistan for the next couple of months. I was lucky enough to be part of his send off party along with his wife, Smoopy, his friend Terry and yours fooly. They came to New York before Gene shipped off and joined me on the bar crawl, here’s a picture of the four of us out on the town, crawling around:
Thanks for the donation Gene! Be safe and I look forward to you, Smoopy and Terry rejoning the bar crawl!

Okay, last week I reported that I learned the legendary West Village bar, Fedora, might be closing its doors. I found out via Fat Al and Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York that the bar may be shuttering its windows. I decided to investigate, but right as I got there, the bar was closing. I did get to meet the sweet-smiling owner and bartender/hostess, Fedora and she said she’d be there on Sunday. So, the day is here and it’s off to Fedora’s we go.

Okay, the light's on this time and that's a good sign (no pun intended, really I just noticed it.)

Here's the bar. A true vintage wooden New York bar with a lone bowl of pretzels.

And here's the lovely Fedora serving me up a Budweiser. Fedora confirmed the rumors that the bar is closing. She can't continue to manage and run the bar due to health reasons and July 25th is the last call at Fedora's bar.

Here Fedora poses with John who's worked there for over 35 years. John says he doesn't know if the new management will keep him or not. If they're smart, they'll keep him and not change a thing in this wonderful bar and restaurant.

I spotted an Oscar among the various knick-knacks in the bar and Fedora told me it was an actual Oscar. Her sister got it for her and you can read the whole story in the review below.

And the Oscar for the most wonderful bar in the West Village goes to...Fedora!

Fedora showed me a photo of her and her husband Henry with the Oscar. The photo hangs on the wall.

Ava and Bil stopped in and said they just wanted to take a look around as they had never noticed the place before. I told them to take a long look, because it was closing, which saddened them. Fedora greeted them like she greets everyone, like life-long regulars.

Here's Fedora behind the bar with a photo of her two great grandchildren.

She told me this is her favorite photo in the bar, a portrait of a great lady in front of a great New York landmark.

An old school cash register sits in the middle of the bar.

A phone booth with a door on it. Made back in the days when phone calls were meant to be private.

Vintage photos line the walls.

This is a note from Lauren Bacall. Fedora told me the story that she came in for dinner  years ago and Fedora's husband Henry approached her and said, "I know who you are, you're Lucille Ball." Lauren Bacall laughed, told him who she was and wrote this note saying, "Henry, never mix your celebrities!"

Here's the dining area.

And here are some diners, from left: Doug, Alvin and Hugo. Doug and Alvin have been coming here since the '60's and are sad to see the end of Fedora's.

Here's a long shot of the bar who's final last call is looming.

Goodbye Fedora and goodnight everybody.

There’s no sense in writing a review of this legendary bar and restaurant which has been a West Village fixture since 1952, because in a couple weeks it’s gone. Poof. Fedora, who’s one of the sweetest women I have met in my whole life told me she has some health issues and has to rent the place out to other people. She just can’t run it anymore. She told me the last night open is going to be July 25th and that there wasn’t going to be any hoopla or last night festivities. She said she wasn’t even sure she was going to be there that night. Fedora told me if she could keep it going she would, but sometimes life deals you cards that aren’t easy to hold and she has to let it go. I asked if the new management would leave the place as it is and she told me that they were going to renovate it inside, but they told her the outside sign would remain and they'd keep her hours the same, in respect for the neighbors living nearby. We’ll see. If they’re smart, they’d leave it exactly as it is and just fix up what needs to be fixed, but again, we’ll see.

I had a great night in there and felt blessed to be able to spend close to an hour having a few beers and chatting with Fedora. She told me that her sister Norma was the secretary for legendary Variety editor Abel Green and that she had asked Green to help get the official Oscar for Fedora that is perched up on the bar today. I also learned that Fedora’s husband  Henry was the bartender for years and she mainly worked in the kitchen. When Henry passed away 13 years ago, Fedora took a more active role behind the bar. She told me that her and Henry always kept the hours of the bar from 5pm to 11pm so their neighbors wouldn't be disrupted by people leaving the bar late at night. Bar owners concerned about their neighbors, imagine that concept.

This was really a bittersweet night on the old bar crawl. When I was ready to leave I went over and kissed Fedora on the cheek and thanked her for her time and for chatting with me and wished her well. I took one last look around the place and headed for the door. You should really stop by before July 25th if you can. Take a good long look at a slice of New York’s history that is disappearing and preserve it in your memory banks. The promise of the future of all tomorrows look about as bright as a burnt out screen on a Blackberry.

To Fedora!

239 W. 4th St. (near Charles St.)