Friday, August 03, 2012

The 9th Avenue crawl

Although on previous visits to Manhattan I have usually stayed over towards the East Side, I have somehow ended up spending more time hanging on the West, and particularly around the Mid-Town stretch of 9th Avenue - an even grungier counterpart of the bar-filled drag of 3rd Avenue that I had navigated with my old pal Dr Manhattan on my first night in the city last month. The Doctor, alas, was indisposed on my last night and unable to join me on a projected exploration of this area. Travelling solo, my peregrinations - and my drinking - were much more limited than they might have been. But I still indulged in a brief nostalgic tour of some of the odd little drinking dens I've discovered in this part of town before.

Places like.... the Holland Bar, a barebones boozer just round the back of the Port Authority Bus Station that was celebrated in the New York Times a few years ago (the bar* that I mentioned in my opening America post a month or so back); or BillyMark's West (on the corner of 29th St), similarly stripped down but rather warmer of welcome (run by a pair of Italian-American brothers, I gather); or Twins (run by a pair of twins, I believe); or the 9th Avenue Saloon (corner of 46th); or... well, there are just too many dive bars to choose from in that neck of the woods! Both time and money were limited, so I restricted myself to these few that I'd encountered before and thought worth paying another visit to. I really must go back for a more thorough exploratory crawl one day.

There's a fair amount of enticing sleazerie around over on 8th Avenue as well. Earlier in the day I'd happened upon Wakamba - or 'The Distinguished Wakamba Cocktail Lounge', to give it the full and misleadingly grandiose description emblazoned on its awning. Cocktails appear not to be heavily featured; it's just another unashamedly grotty drinking den dealing mainly in beers and shots, as far as I could see. Online reviews often seem to complain that it's a bit overpriced, and suggest that its main draw is the voluptuous and scantily clad Latina (and/or Eastern European?) girls who usually tend the bar. Perhaps that's more of an evening thing. When I looked in during a slow midweek afternoon, there was a guy behind the bar and all-afternoon 'happy hour' prices on domestic draught and bottled beers seemed very reasonable for a place that's in the heart of the tourist zone, only a few minutes' away from Times Square.

I'm looking forward to a chance to revisit 8th and 9th Avenues with a fuller wallet... and with Dr Manhattan or some other drinking buddies in tow.

*  The Holland used to give away shots for spot trivia questions. Last time I passed through, I won a drink for somehow remembering that the 4th President of the US had been James Madison.

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