When: Christmas Eve, 2:20pm
Well, I am old enough to remember when Muu-Muu’s was the new bar on 21st St. and I’m kind of shocked it hasn’t been turned into a coffee roaster or small-batch production liquor tasting room. Prices haven’t increased radically since the ’90s either ($6 happy hour martinis) and of course there is a hummus plate on the menu. At first glance, the clientele was also predominantly old-timers, but on closer inspection it was the men who were in their 40s and 50s. The women, a decade or two younger. I’m fairly certain one young woman was with her father not a romantic partner because they had very different styles and were not touchy-feely, but who’s to say?
Age appropriate? Yes, I’m of the mind that if a bar could be drinking age–and Muu-Muu’s was born in 1997–then it should be welcoming to the aged by default.
When: Thursday, 8:15pm
Technically, the closest bar to my new house. I have been hesitant to visit because strip mall bars make me nervous, and East Portland bars where you can’t see inside make me even more nervous. If you’re drunk enough, none of this matters, though.
I was good when I saw the bartender, late-middle-aged, in a cropped tank top. The clientele was a mix of ages and races, also a good sign. A group was sitting at a round table and singing that Was (Not Was) dinosaur song, “Boom boom acka-lacka lacka boom,” for no reason in particular, which I couldn’t see any millennials doing even ironically.
Age appropriate? No question. A gentleman asked the year I was born for Chinese zodiac purposes, and as I often do, bet him that I was older than he was. I was not. So you know, 2020 is the year of the rat, my year, and I will not be stopped.
A Chelsea Dance Club That Caters to the Olds (or at Least Those Over 30)
Barred: Bar Bar
When: Tuesday, 2:30pm
I only chose Bar Bar in part because I have anxiety about using an iPads with a keyboard (a laptop would be unthinkable) in public (even after vaping Sour Tsunami in my rental car) and it seemed chill with lots of outdoor tables that were awfully occupied for a weekday afternoon lending further credence to my no one works in Portland theory. (Don’t worry, I have the exact same theory about Brooklyn.)
Two tiny near newborns eventually showed up with their moms who were practically newborns (OK, plus 26 years) themselves. There were also young black-lipped goths in Birkenstocks, as well as a woman who looked barely 21 keeping the dream of the ‘90s alive by wearing a flannel and stocking cap in 90 degree weather and making me irritated and sweaty just looking at her.
Barred: Loyal Legion
When? A weekday between lunch and dinner
There is a certain style native to traveling Pacific NW (and probably Colorado but I’ve never been) women and German tourists who could be anywhere from 50-75: short no nonsense cropped hair, often gray, loose cotton pants, also cropped, polar fleece, Merrill type orthopedic/outdoorsy shoes. I can’t say I’m a fan of this look but I appreciate that they drink beer, usually craft. I might get shit for this, but it’s not always easy discerning a middle-aged Oregonian’s identity because they often look like stereotypical lesbians. I have friends and family, some straight, some not, who fall into this category.
Loyal Legion was a generic beer hall that happened to be open at the time I wanted to have a drink. I was amazed that two different couples composed of a nondescript husband (one was larger and gave off blue collar vibes, the other skinny and academic) and exactly the woman I just described entered a little after I was seated and sat at the bar about five stools separating them. Both also had colorful print scarves around their necks.
Was I carded? No, and it’s increasingly absurd that I continue this category.
Age appropriate? Sure, at least during the afternoon.
Barred: Tokyo Edition
I can’t exactly generalize about bars in Japan because I’m not sure I went to to totally representative ones.
I can say:
No one cards (me) in Tokyo.
You can smoke in 90% of bars.
Whiskey highballs are so popular you can get them in cans at 7-Eleven.
Women drink alone, which was surprising.
Spoiler: I did not feel too old to be anyplace I went.
Age appropriate? Yes. I technically went to two Kirin Cities. On my last night, in Shinjuku, just before closing, and a middle-aged couple were eating and drinking. I spent probably 2 hours in another Kirin City, in the basement of Tokyo Station drinking beers and shots, which the Japanese don’t seem to do. The after-work crowd consisted of mostly men, and I even got to experience a salaryman on the left side, passed out, slumped against the wall, though there were women interspersed, like one for every five men. I was surprised that it didn’t seem weird at all for solo ladies to be at the bar. A mousy woman in her 20s was on my other side, eating a basket of tortilla chips with chopsticks and working her way through three beers. Impressive. I do not doubt that she was the human Aggretsuko (the new secretly rage-filled, beer-drinking, heavy metal-singing Sanrio character).
Age appropriate? Oh yes, gloriously so. This bar was like a movie set, wood-paneled and smokey, bartenders in vests, the menus looking straight-up 1980, whiskey starting at $3 a glass (and well on up). Patrons under 40 were the exception not the norm. A++
Age appropriate? Yes. Just off the Harajuku fray, this izakaya showcases Baird Beer, a Japanese craft brew. The bar seating on a Saturday afternoon was commandeered by a group of middle-aged tourists that I wanted to say were English but that’s just because the English have a drinking reputation. Once again, a young Japanese woman sat alone on my row of stools facing the window. She had two large beers (not the smaller size) and left. And I was impressed again.
Age appropriate? Yes. I expected an Irish bar in Tokyo to be an expat hang, but the only Irishman present was the ruggedly handsome, Japanese-speaking owner and bartender. A tough 40-something Japanese woman rounded out the staff. There was a group of dressy men, clearly regulars, clustered at the bar. The tables were occupied by large mixed gender groups, not all young. I went back twice and the second time the bartender remembered our order: Kirin and shots of Jameson.
Old Imperial Bar
Age appropriate? Yep. I can’t really imagine this place is a draw for youth. On a weekday afternoon this mezzanine bar was almost empty while the lobby lounge was hopping. When I was seated, I was given architecture books with pages marked to show the bar’s original Frank Lloyd Wright details. I guess they assume that tourists wouldn’t accidentally stumble into this bar unless they knew what they were doing and/or were history buffs. A man wandered in and drank coffee, a lone woman, roughly my age was seated at the very long bar, drinking a cocktail.
Age appropriate? Sure. The only other woman present among the 5 who reserved at the 8-seat bar at 6pm on a Sunday was 30-ish with a hint of a Nuyorican accent yet she was from L.A. She and her boyfriend had been traveling around the world for a year and could never get their body clocks straight. So, I originally thought that if you had $60 to spend on a flight of tiny cocktails, you might be older with more disposable income, but then I remembered that there are people who don’t even work at all.
When: Roughly 8pm, Monday
I in no way think of Seamstress as a special occasion bar. It just happens that it was the best choice close to Tanoshi open on Christmas (where I ended up making out with an adult goth who thought I was a millennial because I up talk when everyone knows millennials vocal fry) and it now seemed liked a post-Tanoshi tradition, which is where I went for my birthday.
I was irrationally excited to see a butterfly pea flower cocktail, All the Way (vodka, butterfly pea flower, cherry, soda, lime, Peychauds) which seemed like a 4th of July holdover, red, white, and blue.
I was irrationally unexcited to hear the two women two years from 30 sitting next to me talk out loud (though neither particularly frying or upping their vocals). Apparently, they have a boring friend who’s a teacher in Saratoga Springs who wants to be an executive assistant but still has an AOL email (way boomer, no?) and texts photos of other friends’ babies. “It must be a stress on her to be independent,” said one who was also hoping she would be pregnant before another friend’s bachelorette party.
Was I carded: Not even close.
Age appropriate: Definitely. The crowd, particularly dining, is very mixed. The Upper East Side is fascinating that way. I was convinced a few years ago that that’s where all the great guys were hiding out like a bizarro Brooklyn, though I never really pursued that angle.
Barred: Vander Bar
When: 4:24pm, Friday
I wouldn’t have even known about the existence of Vanderbar if I hadn’t stayed at the Roosevelt Hotel earlier this year. It’s just a generic sports-ish bar balding-but-not-old guys with wedding rings hit before heading home on Metro-North, and where the female bartenders pay far more attention to these men than the women sitting in front of them attempting to get service or pay a bill. It was hard to properly suss out the action because simply turning one’s head makes these men think you’re checking them out.
After becoming afraid to turn my head, I just had to eavesdrop on the threesome (two men, one woman who wasn’t drinking) next to me and try to deduce if the guy who said “I’m too old for this shit” also said he was 38 or 28. After discussing “being late bloomers” as in only recently starting to drink alcohol, I couldn’t take it anymore and gawked. Twenty-eight definitely.
Was I carded? No.
Age appropriate? It says a lot of you’re too old for this shit and you’re not even 30. But no, this is not an exclusive venue.
Barred: The Churchill
When: 4:40pm, Friday
I ended up at The Churchill after drinking an expensive cocktail at Marta after discovering they no longer have a happy hour (I also discovered the cocktail wasn’t as expensive as it initially appeared as the restaurant is one of Danny Meyer’s latest to go tip inclusive). I wanted a beer no-fuss. At this hour, at least, it was very neighborhood-y, solidly middle-aged-plus.
I couldn’t help but butt into the conversation happening on my left after hearing “At my age, age-appropriate women don’t go out alone to bars.”
Then doubly-nosy, “Do you mind me asking how old you are?”
The 72-year-old who’d given up on meeting women in bars also turned out to have two daughters around my age, one 42, with a boyfriend in his early 30s. The more I parsed, the more I liked.
As is often the case, I stayed longer than intended and started discussing my long distance relationship with strangers who never ever think it’s a good idea and then I relay this to the other member of this long distance relationship because I’ve had too much to drink and that’s always an even worse idea. I’ll learn eventually.
Was I carded? No. I don’t think young people would try sneaking in here.
Age appropriate? For sure. Despite my big mouth, it was a fun early evening, and nice to talk to British couples in their 50s who come across as sensible just because they have an accent even if they might also be drunk
Barred: Sweet Afton
When: 4:36, Wednesday
I have been feeling jealous of Astoria over the summer since I’ve been getting to know it better now that I have a doctor in the neighborhood. Sure, all the things I’m craving are like Brooklyn-lite or Brooklyn 2009 (“young people know their pickles” my notes read) but living in a no good cheese or bread or cocktails zone can wear an aging person down.
Seeing a day-ish-drinking woman sitting alone, who was old enough to remember Jane Fonda workouts and Jamie Lee Curtis in Perfect made me happy. Though it turned out she was waiting for her niece and the bar was her choice. Once she arrived, they got a private table. Somehow that changed my perception.
Was I carded? No.
Age appropriate? In spirit, but barely in practice. I ended up having my 44th birthday here because it seemed chill, though.