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.
When: 5:22pm, Wednesday
Between the necessarily tough Irish bartender and the women at the end of the bar who were beyond even pretending to be young, one tan with short shorts, spaghetti straps, exposed midriff, and big silver crucifix necklace, her friend with pink hair, I loved The Jar Bar the second I walked in even though I was afraid I might get assaulted by the angry, stuttering man who took up residence right next to me and only required a few seconds to determine if he had Tourette’s and was beloved by all and I should be polite or drunk, damaged, and/or potentially dangerous.
“You’ve got 30 seconds to wrap this fucking conversation up,” the bartender said while calling him a cab.
“You are legally obliged to fuck off if I tell you to fuck off,” she added while he mumbled and sulked.
Because it’s Sunnyside you will hear a lot of accents and you will hear The Waterboys. Also, everyone smokes–there’s a patio out back.
Was I carded? Are you kidding?
Age appropriate? In spades. I’m not convinced there was anyone under 40 in the place.
When: 3:35pm, Friday
There’s an undeniable truth that the farther you get from Manhattan and North Brooklyn, the more diverse the drinkers you find at ordinary bars. And they are done with work at 4pm. In fact, they are already drunk and loud at 3:30pm (never mind that you’re also in far out Queens on a weekday afternoon, beer in hand). Based on the wide range of age, gender, and ethnicities hanging out together in clusters at Austin’s Ale House, the only logical assumption can be coworkers. Me, I don’t socialize with workmates. Though I hear this is something regular people do.
Was I carded? Nuh uh.
Age appropriate? Yes, there were quite a few grown women, two solo, in fact.
When: 5:54pm, Sunday
I have a ritual where I get a haircut in Kew Gardens, have a slice and a beer at Dani’s across the street then take the bus down Metropolitan to Forest Hills and have a drink or two at End of the Century Bar before drunk-shopping at Trader Joe’s, ending up with overflowing bags of things that sounded good at the time, then Lyft-ing home.
The tiki bar was closed so I stopped in Acey Ducey’s, technically not my first time because it’s where I had a pre-dinner drink at Sizzler when Sizzler still existed. It was all men mostly keeping to themselves minus a one in his 50s in a beige blazer who introduced himself to me as “The Spanish Dracula.”
At the same time, I heard someone say loudly “Fusilli Jerry” as Spanish Dracula was getting attention by holding up the side of his jacket over his face like it was vampire cape. Alice in Chains’ “The Rooster” started blaring, and that was my cue to drink up and get shopping.
Was I carded? I may have to drop this category at some point because no.
Age appropriate? For men. Maybe women too, though I was the only one there.
I wasn’t going to mention Bierocracy at all except that I ended up there twice in a week. It’s a different scene after work on a Wednesday (old folks and babies are thrown into the mix) compared to closer to midnight on a Friday (average age 31) but more importantly is that it falls into that “second city” category, or tier-2 as the non-Beijings and Shanghais are called in China, that I’m encountering more and more in NYC.
The staff is nice, the patrons chatty, ‘90s radio grunge rocks at a perceptible but not intrusive volume, sliders and kale salads can be consumed, but if it weren’t for the $14 cocktails and the looming Manhattan view if you cared to step outside, you would have no idea you were in New York.
I wouldn’t say Bierocracy would fit in Wilmington, DE, but I read this awe-inspiring wedding tale while sipping a Bayreuther Zwick’l (and trying not to hate-click “She Went to a College for a Job, and Found a Husband, Too” ) and it seemed appropriate.
Ok, talk may turn Queensy if initiated, as it did with the Long Island City real estate broker sharing our communal table who clearly has never been to Jackson Heights if he thinks I’m sitting on a gold mine (talk to me in five years if I can hold out) and that there are hipsters anywhere near Roosevelt Avenue. Or his friend whose grandma lives near me, and visits are an excuse to go to Las Margaritas (oh, I know it).
Maybe wholesome is the word I’m looking for.
Was I carded? No. But card-related, the credit card minimum is $30 and that’s kind of strange and not very tier-2 of them.
Age appropriate? It can be. That’s the thing about US tier-2s, no one really judges and who are you trying to impress anyway?
Depending on my mood and intent, Mar’s could be read two very different ways.
If I felt like talking about the food, it did what it needed to do and I was pleased. Before the holidays, I was feeling a little down and a lot bougie, soliciting Facebook suggestions for the nearest place to find cocktails, oysters, charcuterie, the Brooklyn basics (#notallnegronis), which would still require public transportation because that’s how it is. Ultimately, I decided on new-to-me Mar’s in Astoria. (Astoria is like this black hole that’s only two-ish miles away and yet I haven’t heard of half of the contemporary bars and restaurants there.) Yes, that’s what I had in mind. Happy hour oysters and a drink involving pumpkin liqueur that by all rights should’ve been sweet and gross but wasn’t. I even stuck around for a full-priced steak tartare, generously portioned, grass-fed, and a glass of Tempranillo (that turned into two when it got topped off by the woman bartending). People were friendly on both sides of the bar.
But if I wanted to approach it as a Middle Ages subject, which I haven’t done in a while, it was kind of a strange, funny fail. The only human obviously over 40 was a salt-and-peppery man at a table, holding court among extended family. The bar was sparsely occupied by regulars. Two young men in patterned sweaters too muted to be signaling ‘90s childhoods, and which I’m fairly certain weren’t intended to be ironic, were getting ready to head to their families on Long Island. One was talking about his Aunt Stacie who drinks too much and recently got a boob job, and I caught myself internally agreeing with absurdity of an old, drunk woman vain enough to think she needs nice tits. When asked how old she was, he said, “I don’t know…maybe 40? 45?”
I felt relieved when the second-oldest woman, 35 at best, appeared at the bar alone. After one drink, though, she morphed from quiet and sensible into authoritative and sassy and struck up a conversation with the only overtly single guy, a clean-cut, paperback-clutching beardo of the type that I’ve only started being able to recognize as handsome in the past few months. I kind of wanted this woman whose New Year’s resolution was to “have more fun” to stop talking even though I know that’s not what I’m supposed to say, and I was just jealous that she was starting her fun early. I was also fascinated because a friend just asked today whether anyone asks anyone out in person anymore and I never witness it but maybe in Astoria? Maybe they are married now because they both read books.
I didn’t stick around to find out. And I was “ma’am’ed” by a man when I asked for my check, which became divisive when I complained about it on social media, going as far as saying I’ll leave a lower tip if addressed as such even though I realize the intent is politeness.
Earlier, I asked Aunt Stacie’s nephew if there was a female equivalent to a mensch. It was decided there is not.
Mar’s * 34-21 34th Ave., Astoria, NY
When: Sunday, 6:51pm and 9:04pm
My notes from the new (at the time I actually went–I’ve been busy the past few months) Ridgewood heavy metal beerhall, Bierleichen, read “Awesomely mixed. Is metal the great equalizer?” by which I meant tribally diverse, not age-wise. On an early Sunday there were Latino dudes, a mixed gender rockabilly crew, man bun hipsters, generic young white people like you see in Astoria and could either be Midwest transplants or children of immigrants who haven’t moved to the suburbs yet, and an errant older gentleman I assumed to be Eastern European because all Ridgewood bars, even the upstarts, are required by law to accommodate at least one hold out.
Bierleichen, to its credit, is going for something different than a lot of new drinking establishments. Beer corpse, the name’s translation, is funny, for one. It’s not super polished. It looks like it set up in an old garage (and I think it may have been) with a lot of rough wood ceiling beams, raw cement floors and walls, glossy black subway tile for a little class, softened by skylights and hanging plants. There’s a random upright piano, picnic tables and those glass beer stein boots. And yes, Judas Priest, Scorpions and Danzig all got play on my visit. This might also be the only place in the neighborhood–a pretty good sausage neighborhood–where vegans can participate in sausage-eating.
* * *
Onderdonk & Sons, on the other hand, is sticking with the established tin ceiling, exposed brick and rich, dark woods aesthetic. I mean, it looks good and the booths are comfy. There is also no hard liquor despite screaming cocktail den. The fries are way better than average, by the way.
This crowd was younger, more male, more foreign (Brazilian? Russian?) and more neck-tattooed. I arbitrarily decided it was for overpaying airbnb guests. And probably Okcupid (not Tinder) dates.
* * *
Third stop was the previously blogged Queens Tavern where we encountered a number of the same people who had been at the aforementioned two bars as if there were only three neighborhood bars to choose from and this was the logical order in which to visit them.
There are no shortage of Ridgewood bars for newcomers and they just keep coming. I recently met a young man who is somehow involved with a bar being Kickstarted called The Bad Old Days…which I can’t even. Like the ‘70s when white folks were lobbying for Ridgewood to get its own zip code to split from Bushwick? The late ’90s when I thought I lived an hour from civilization and area bars were patronized by neo-nazis not neu-metalheads? The dark ages before cafes served single-origin coffee and Vietnamese food could be found at all, let alone using grass-fed beef?
Was I carded? At both places, no.
Age appropriate? At both places, no, not literally, but it’s still Queens so who cares really.
When: Friday, 2:42pm
I imagine that on any given day, a parade of disconnected subjects may form the basis of bar stool stories. On this particular afternoon, hot topics at The Ready Penny involved stuffed cabbage and dental procedures, and these topics persisted the duration of two slowly sipped pints of Stella.
“That Stella is so strong first thing in the day,” was declared at one point in no reference to me. “Knocks your socks off.” Thankfully, I wasn’t wearing socks.
I only interjected myself into conversation once when no one else appeared to be familiar with Jeepers Creepers. Reinforcements were needed, even an introvert could see that.
One of the only four customers on the late side of lunch brought stuffed cabbage in to share and snack on, as one does at the only remaining dive bar in Jackson Heights. By chance, another regular who apparently had his teeth recently fixed (“It’s going to take some getting used to” was the sentiment expressed while he was in the bathroom) was making stuffed cabbage for dinner.
His recipe? I missed what made up the “meat mixture,” though I’m guessing pork and beef, plus white rice from a Chinese restaurant, fried onion and garlic, tomato sauce using canned crushed tomatoes blended with light brown sugar and apple cider vinegar. Everything gets seasoned with parsley, salt and pepper. Don’t forget the Parmigiano-Reggiano, which must be freshly grated and not shaken from a cellulose-filled container.
The smoke points of grapeseed oil were compared to olive oil. It was decided that seasoned breadcrumbs should never be bought and always made at home.
A good 30 minutes later, the single-minded gentleman with improved chompers announced that he had to run to the store. “I forgot an ingredient for my stuffed cabbage.”
Was I carded? No, not even a question. I can’t imagine anyone even approaching underage attempting to sneak in.
Age appropriate? 40 feels downright youthful, which is the hallmark of a good dive bar. And though no women other than the not-old Irish bartender were in evidence–public, weekday drinking is mostly the province of men–I wouldn’t say they are unwelcome as long as they can handle overhearing “a corker” describe how “maiden juice” is good for dental work and pubic hair great for flossing.
The lack of female-friendly bars in the neighborhood is not just my lament, it has become an intermittent topic on neighborhood message board Jackson Heights Life and I’ve recently started chiming in because I’m now a homeowner and be the change and all that. My favorite quote to date: “I’ve been waiting for a place where a woman of a certain age can go to spend time with her neighbors!!”
For now, this is it.
When: Wednesday, 9:03pm
Despite billing as a gastropub, the Station House might possibly be the most Guy Fieri establishment I’ve ever been to–and I’ve been to two Guy Fieri restaurants. It’s also possible that I’m just responding to our server’s easygoing “hey, guys” rasp and thumb’s up flashing when checking in. (At least it wasn’t the hand gesture pictured above.)
Continually, I was convinced I was in another city. First, when I noticed $39 12 oz. beers highlighted on the menu. It was like when you’re disoriented in a foreign place and it takes a second to register that you’re seeing kroner or baht. Then I remembered I was off the E train in Queens, which still didn’t explain the barrel-aged Vespers, $14 cocktails (having just sampled a few quality tiki drinks for $10) short rib kimchi empanadas (which I ate and enjoyed) and Blueshammer-esque tunes I couldn’t muster the energy to Shazam. I think all second and third tier cities now have a place like this. I’ve been to them in Oklahoma City and Charlotte. I’d like to believe this is what Hoboken is made up of in its entirety.
Despite the fratty portrait I’m painting, the crowd was not homogenous, a hallmark of Queens that I always appreciate. There were young black women sitting with emo girls, grizzly men in baseball caps, a gentleman with an Aztec profile in a peacoat, and most importantly for my intents and purposes: two women hovering around 40, one with a bun, one with an indoor scarf.
Age appropriate? Close enough. While the average age was around 29, there was nothing that translated as uncomfortable for those a few decades older. I would argue that the Blackberry Bootlegger (Virginia Highland Port-finished Scotch, pinot noir, blackberries, ginger, lemon) is begging to be drunk by a mature woman.
Was I carded? No. I was surprised, though, to see what was either an informal doorman or authoritative customer with the appearance of one sitting on a stool near the entrance as I was leaving.
Gottscheer Hall, Sunday, 8:01pm
The sweet sixteen party being held in the event space, visible (prom dresses) and audible (Alicia Keys) through the sliding accordion doors brought down the median age considerably. Bottles of wine that said Sweet White on the label were being rushed to the tables, presumably not for the kids, while the bar was mostly occupied by adult refugees. Eventually, a trio, which I assumed had to be Euro hipsters since the two young men were dressed in a confusing manner–bolo ties, flat, wide-brimmed hats, leather jackets–reminiscent of alternative guys I went to high school with, not the ‘90s revival that’s currently en vogue. They were American, however.
Age Appropriate? The only woman over 40 was the bartender. She told us to come back on a Friday when it’s livelier.
Polish German Club House, Sunday, 9:10pm
Polish has long replaced the German, but the name remains. Club house is also a bit of an intimidating way to describe what is essentially someone’s living room that happens to have a bar against the wall. All patrons appeared to either live upstairs or have a connection to someone living upstairs. Outsiders can still drink beer, play with the pet chihuahua and eat homemade bagel chips, though. Even the guy, non-family, who comes in from Long Island to hang out in the old neighborhood and wasn’t crazy about gays in the St. Patrick’s Day parade, was friendly albeit misguided.
Age Appropriate? Once again, the only woman over 40 was the bartender, but it was ok.
No name bar, Sunday, ? pm
Where clubs or club houses can be forbidding, forgoing signage and windows with any visibility sends a stronger signal. This uninviting establishment directly next to the Forest Avenue station’s staircase appears to be exclusively for old Romanian men. If you are not an old Romanian man you probably won’t get the evil eye, you will simply be ignored by them. The bartender, barely drinking age, straight from Hungary, appeared happy to see women. (She also already knew that Bushwick and Williamsburg are the more desirable neighborhoods to hang out in.) When she asked if we smoked, I assumed it was to bring an ashtray, but she also handed us cigarettes. The only man not sitting at the bar was alone at a table next to us. His chair began tipping to the left and then fell over completely with his body still firmly planted in the seat. There was no movement for a solid three minutes as he lay crumpled on the floor with his chair. Eventually, a few guys got up from the bar, propped him back up, and he continued to slump forward the rest of the evening with his new drink untouched in front of him.
Age Appropriate? Age is less of an issue than being female and a native English-speaker. There is a women’s bathroom, however, at the end of a very dark, shadowy hall past the pool table. The giant rat trap next to the toilet was less off-putting than the giant tub of pink Queen Helene hair gel above the sink.