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Entries in The Winner's Circle (1)

Monday
Nov082010

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!

Review
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)
212-730-4900


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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.