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March 20, 2011

Brooklyn: Hanson Dry opens in Clinton Hill

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Before I can begin to enjoy Hanson Dry, I have to forgive it first. The new bar on Fulton Street in Clinton Hill occupies the formerly blocked up storefront that hosted one of my favorite graffiti pieces in Brooklyn. The silver ESPO work with the Stevie Wonder quote, "Did you know that true love asks for nothing" was a landmark for me for ages. Months ago, it disappeared behind wooden construction boards. When it was all over, windows had returned and a new bar, Hanson Dry was open for business.

I'd love to trash it for being gentrifying nonsense with annoying clientele, but I actually quite enjoyed it. Last week, Tammi and I went and stuck around several rounds longer than intended listening to the bartender's iPod selections and relaxing. The music could have been titled 'the best of Clay's college years' and led to my assertion that 1996 was the best year for hip-hop and R&B potentially in the entire decade.

The strip of Fulton between Vanderbuilt and Franklin has been on the verge for some time. With Bar Olivino, Hot Bird around the corner and new bars like Hanson Dry popping up, this might be the moment.

January 23, 2010

This Week on Examiner: Adding some culture

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This week I went a little outside my usual area of coverage on Examiner. Jazz and Poetry are both art forms that I respect, yet know little about. So, I jumped in and covered a bit of both.

Nearly every venue in town this week has been hosting benefits for charities providing aid and service to Haiti's Earthquake victims. With so much else going on this week, I only got to cover one of them, L'Union Fait Force at Le Poisson Rouge.

The coolest part of the show was watching the Doctor Lonnie Smith Trio perform with Trumpeter Roy Hargrove. Smith (top) is a great showman whose flair added excitement to the show. Hargrove on the horn was wonderful.

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There was plenty more going on: Dance, Haitian drums, a pair of guitarists and the Vijay Iyer Trio, which is actually what drew me to the event. That morning, WNYC announced the event and played some of the Trio's take on Mystic Brew - better known to those of a 'certain age' as the basis of the classic "Electric Relaxation" by A Tribe Called Quest.

The show was fun and eclectic and went late into the night. I was so wiped out, I had to take off before the last set even started, missing hosts Groove Collective perform with Bernie Worrell of Funkadelic.

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On Wednesday, I changed things up a bit with by covering the Mixer Series at Cake Shop in the Lower East Side. It's a monthly series that hosts poets and authors reading their recent work. And first up was Tess Taylor, above, a classmate in college. We hadn't seen each other in at least the 10 years since graduation, but it was good to catch up, however briefly.

I don't know the first thing about poetry and I don't read books nearly as much as I should, but it was a great experience being surrounded by smart people enjoying intelligent things. I really hope to keep going to future Mixers.

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Among the other readers was Steve Geng, who read scenes from his new book, Bop City about Paris during the Algerian war. Just in the 15 minutes he was up there, he touched on themes of terrorism, sex, race, and French culture that fascinated me.

After the jump, more photos from both events...

Continue reading "This Week on Examiner: Adding some culture" »

December 9, 2009

Quick Bite: Bar 35 Pizza

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This may look like a generic bar pizza, but this mini-pie from Bar 35 in Honolulu's Chinatown was topped with Chinese sausage and sweet Thai chili sauce instead of the usual pepperoni and tomato sauce. It was certainly novel and actually pretty good. What I was really curious about was the Gyro pizza they served, but Tammi wasn't hearing it.

August 25, 2009

Tuesdays at The Blue Owl

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My friend, DJ Jon Oliver has started a new weekly party Tuesday nights at The Blue Owl in the East Village. It's coordinated with his weekly radio show on East Village Radio, The Main Ingredient.

Last weekend, Tammi and I stopped in and heard some tunes. It was a good time. If you're around tonight, come through.

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The Main Ingredient
Tuesdays at The Blue Owl
9pm - 2am
196 2nd Avenue (12th & 13th)

August 10, 2009

Lunch: MFC (formerly Bon Chon)

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A month or so ago the Bon Chon Chicken in Koreatown (and I believe the location in Flushing) suddenly changed its name to Mad For Chicken. According to Midtown Lunch, this is a familiar story:

Ah yes- the old open a franchise... steal the recipe... decide you don't want to pay the royalties anymore game. If this whole thing sounds familiar, it's because it is. Shorty's (on 9th Ave. btw. 41+42nd) did the same thing to Tony Luke's. Thankfully for Midtown Lunch'ers one commenter is reporting that the chicken pretty much tastes the same as it always has, but I'm guessing it still takes forever to get your order. Thanks to Lunch'er Paul for passing along this link to the Bon Chon Website.

I stopped in for lunch before a couple weeks ago and can verify that on all counts, things are about the same. The chicken was the same, if slightly spicier and the service was just as slow.

I will say this though, the place did seem more crowded that I had ever seen it during lunch. And the waiter actually warned me that the food would take about 45 minutes, which I don't think I've ever seen before - it always takes that long, they just don't usually warn you.

February 11, 2009

Lunch Returns to Bon Chon!

Bon Chon Drumstick

I first wrote about Bon Chon Chicken almost two years ago, inspired by the buzz in the Times and on the blogs. A few weeks later I tried to take go with a co-worker and they had stopped serving lunch. I was crushed.

Yesterday, hours after getting the skinny on Kyochon, Midtown Lunch had another post about Bon Chon. Apparently it's been open for lunch for months and no one knew!

So, today after a particularly aggravating morning at work, I recovered with a Medium Hot & Spicy Combo:

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It was all I remembered: sweet and sticky with a tingly with a subtle spice that builds after the first two, three, four pieces. I stopped there out of a modicum of self-control, but also because I needed to proselytize. I brought back a handful of wings and gave them to the co-workers I knew would appreciate them. My first stop was the guy who missed out the first time. I felt I owed him.

What I had forgotten about was the particularly long wait time for the food. Despite the mostly attentive service and ordering as soon as I sat down, my order took about 35 minutes to show up. So, it's not a quick lunch, but it's delicious.

February 9, 2009

Aspen: The Wine Spot

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My recent visit to Aspen was remarkable for being my least social excursion out there to date. The co-workers who usually accompany me there did not go this year and my suddenly sensitive stomach left me a little cranky and not in much of a mood for the crowds that end up in town for X Games.

The Wine Spot was my savior. If not for this place and Seth, its proprietor, I'd have found myself sitting in my room alone every night watching netflix instant or whatever crap was on TV.

Situated in the lobby of the Grand Hyatt Aspen, a 'residence,' which I think is just fancy-talk for 'time-share,' this place is just off the beaten path. It's right across from Rubey Park, the main bus stop for the whole town, right down the block from the bars, clubs and restaurants in the middle of town. Yet, it's not actually in the middle of anything, so most of the people who actually show up here are those who are staying there.

It was the perfect place to go to escape the crowds. I must have stopped in there 4 or 5 times and there were never more than 10 people in, even on Saturday night when packs of teens and twentysomethings roamed the streets looking for a party.

The first night I came in, Seth greeted me and reintroduced himself, remembering me from last year. It's an interesting thing because I've unintentionally become a regular in a place where people often only come in for a week or two a year. After being reacquainted, he went on to help me find some of the wine on the menu that I'd enjoy.

I also partook in the one food item they serve, a cheese and meat plate:

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Both the food and drink were great, but what kept me coming back was the warmth and familiarity of the hearth, the leather couches and the service.

January 21, 2009

Toasting President Obama

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Last night I celebrated the inauguration quietly with this small bottle of Champagne I had at The Wine Spot, a slightly out of the way little hotel bar that I visited last year. More on that to come. For now, cheers!

October 13, 2008

Deity Art Show


IMG_1936, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

In another display of serendipity this weekend, I planned to meet up with Tammi and our friend Mandy Saturday evening having no idea that there was going to be an art show starting right when I got there.

It turned out that a group named fokus was hosting a gallery show of John Wright, whose work I don't really know and AV One, who I've seen all over town for ages. I got to meet AV One and talk briefly, which was great after all these years of shooting his stuff and seeing his art on Flickr.

I somehow always manage to miss these art openings, so I was really happy to finally have one fall in my lap. It was a good time, I hope to finally start going to more.

June 25, 2008

Bars: Deity


IMG_5149, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Before we headed out of town, Tammi and I ha a joint birthday party at Deity, a bar set up in an old Synagogue. We've been stopping in here semi-regularly for the last few months. The space is stealthily concealed behind an obscured entryway. I'm pretty fond of it because it's nearly always empty, which I suppose isn't particularly good for business, but makes for a great lounge as far as I'm concerned. Especially since they also stock a number of great beers and bourbons that Tammi loves.

The hours are pretty limited during the week, although they aren't about to kick folks out if there's a crowd. They stayed open an hour after the usual closing time of 9pm for our group, which pretty much filled up the space.

On the weekend, the real show is downstairs, which opens up as a club. I haven't been, since clubs aren't really my thing, but I'll have to check it out one of these days.

May 12, 2008

Photo of the Day: Skeptical


IMG_8973, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Rani tends bar at Madame X when Jon DJs there. She often puts up with my incessant shooting at the bar, which I appreciate greatly.


May 10, 2008

Photo of the Day: Feeling the Music


IMG_0884, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

This is Sauniel, a friend of Jon's from high school. I met her at Madame X a few weeks back.

February 1, 2008

Aspen: Montagna's Hot Rocks


IMG_1458, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

This was probably the most interesting dish I had in Aspen. I had it in the front room bar at Montagna, the restaurants at The Little Nell Hotel, the menu included many small plates for the "Aprés Ski" period. (For the record, "Aprés Ski" is one of the most pretentious terms ever, but is pretty much accepted as a part of the Aspen daily schedule.)

The shrimp and chorizo skewers were served with a heated river stone on a bed of banana leaves, cinnamon sticks and star anise. The shrimp was par-cooked and could be placed on the rock as long as you want in order to achieve the perfect amount of char.

Continue reading "Aspen: Montagna's Hot Rocks" »

May 25, 2007

Bars: Dove Parlor


IMG_4378, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I sort of inherited The Dove. Frank, the owner of Black Star, along with Jen and Henrietta, two of my favorite bartenders there, opened this place up after Black Star closed. I think I may be the only former Black Star patron who goes with any regularity though. Dove is anything but a recreation of Black Star.

As the name suggests, Dove is a parlor more than a bar. It goes old fashioned with its antique looking decor and the doilies sitting under every glass. They recently started serving tea sandwiches and cheese plates.

Dove is also one of the more 'grown-up' bars near Washington Square Park, catering to the (slightly) more mature professional school crowd. These are the folks who have gotten past the frat party conditions of Macdougal, but still cram into a room a little more than they should. So watch out when stopping by on a Friday night. You might get flashbacks from your rush hour commute.

The drink menu focuses more on mixed drinks and wine much more than most other places in the area that I know. Tammi discovered the Sea Breeze here as she began migrating away from fru-fru cocktails. The wine selection is small, but has some good stuff. The beer selection is not extensive, it doesn't stock anything rare or obscure, but it has a very good basic set. When I'm there, I fall back on an old favorite, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Dove Parlor
228 Thompson St
New York, NY 10012
(212) 254-1435

May 16, 2007

Photo of the Day: 20 Year old Port


20 Year old Port, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I first tasted port in Lisbon. After dragging my jet-lagged sister around town all day, I had one last stop. We stopped at the Solar do Vinho do Porto - Lisbon, a branch of the government organization dedicated to the promotion of port wine. The main room looked more like a living room than a bar. Apparently the word "solar" in traditional English is the "upper chamber of a medieval house," presumably similar to a parlor or sitting room. At least that's what my computer's dictionary says.

I hadn't had port before. At the time I didn't know much about wine in general. I wanted to try it because it was so specifically Portuguese. I've been a fan ever since. While in Lisbon, I picked up a bottle each of red port and white port. White port is great, but you can't find it here in the states. When done right, it has a nutty caramel flavor that's incredible. The closest thing I've gotten to a good white port is a Marsala I got from Italian Wine Merchants last year.

Outside of that, I'm 'stuck' going after 10 and 20 year old red port as I find it. I've been considering buying a 1977 for myself for my 30th birthday this year, but I haven't actually done it yet...

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May 11, 2007

Bars: Moe's

I don't go to Moe's anymore. It's not that it's changed at all - at least not that I know of. In part it's just that I lost my patience for crowded bars a couple years ago. And Moe's can get pretty crowded.

On the weekends they have DJs spinning some great tunes. Jon DJed there from time to time. I don't remember how many times I've sat there just getting amped over the music. Even the jukebox is great. It's got old school hip-hop, soul and funk with an eclectic mix of everything else swirled in.

Unfortunately, the vibe at Moe's changes on the weekends too. It almost becomes more of a club than a bar and it has all the hazards that includes: Way too many over-dressed people crammed into a tight place. Maybe I've just gotten old, but that doesn't appeal to me so much these days.

During the week it's more of a neighborhood bar. Relaxed regulars hang out with the bartender or lounge on the couches in the back. Writing about it, I'm starting to miss it. I'll have to swing by for a round soon. Maybe this weekend before it gets too crowded.

Moe's is definitely a cool place to relax, but you have to hit it at the right time.
::c::

80 Lafayette Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11217
(718) 797-9536

May 2, 2007

Bars: The Ginger Man

I can't stand The Ginger Man. It's always packed with the worst sorts corporate tools. The service is awful, largely because even the waitresses can't get from one end of the room to another without bumping into 100 people. But I keep going back there.

Here's the thing, It's not a bad place. The space is beautiful, it's got 20 foot ceilings, huge windows which light up the place and a beautiful dark wood bar that goes on for days. There are comfortable couches and lazy boys in the backroom lounge. The little food I've had there has been pretty good. I'm fond of the giant pretzel served warm with a honey mustard dip.

Most importantly, it's got a ridiculous beer selection. It's got 66 draughts, 2 hand drawn casks and 130 bottled beers.

That's why I keep going back. That and the fact that I work 2 blocks away. It's location is also key to the crowd it attracts: It's stationed right between Penn Station and Grand Central, which makes it perfect staggering distance for all the suburbanites who need to catch their trains home.

The crowd is absolutely awful.

One day, I hope to figure out when the perfect time is to go to Ginger Man when it's empty and I can enjoy the selection and a snack while actually being able to hear my companions. One day...

The Ginger Man
11 East 36th Street
btwn Fifth Ave. and Madison Ave.
New York City
212.532.3740

April 28, 2007

Bars: Black Star Bar

FKA Black Star

I miss Black Star.

For me and Eric, along with a bunch of our friends, it was 'our' bar back when. Our 'local' - except neither of us actually lived over there.

It's gone now. They closed up in January '04 after the landlord outpriced them. The people who took over turned into a crappy place called Kabin that has giant plasma screens and no soul. I walked in once and it all just seemed wrong.

Kim g put me on to that place for her birthday. Maybe in 2001?

On Friday nights, Garfield the DJ played some great music. I must have run up to his booth dozens of times to ask for the names of songs he was playing. Every now and then I'll come across a page in a notebook with a drunken scrawl, "take me to the mardi gras - bob james" or some other such classic sample that I first heard at Black Star.

They packed them in on Saturday nights. Even with the lounge in the back room open, it was jammed. But we knew the staff, so we could always get a good spot.

On weeknights, after work it wasn't nearly so busy. Usually there were no more than a dozen of us there sitting at the bar hanging out with the bartenders and bullshitting. Thinking back to that, I understand the appeal of social clubs and lodges for old men.

To this day, I've never found a bar I felt as at home in. Blind Tiger got pretty close, until they closed. I'm holding out hope for the new place, but so far it's just too crowded. Black Star is pretty much the standard to which I judge nearly every other bar.


::c::

The Bar List

Behind the Bar

There are hundreds if not thousands of bars in New York. Now, I do go to a lot of bars, but I've barely scratched the surface. I have, however, gone to enough that I sometimes lose track of spots that I enjoyed.

Every now and again, people ask for bar recommendations or I have to come up with a place for, say, my 30th birthday party - which I still haven't done. It would be incredibly useful to have a receptacle for my impressions of the bars I've been to.

Following mikeoliver.org's mission statement of 'holding on to things Mike Oliver will forget...' I've decided to use the blog for just such a thing.

So, begins a new feature. Keep an eye out for upcoming posts on bars and boozing.
Expect a few quotes from my brooklyn record posts too. These won't all be reviews as much as (semi-)organized notes.

I'll break down the categories for your searching enjoyment. For all bars click here.

Let me know what I missed in the comments.


::c::

March 5, 2007

Bon Chon Chicken

All this talk of wings inspired me to finally check out some of the Korean fried chicken that I've been hearing about recently. I first read about it when The New York Times wrote about it. After writing the last post, I had a craving for more chicken wings, so I IM'ed Eric, who was down, obviously.

It's just around the corner from the main strip of Koreatown, 32nd Street between 5th and Broadway. I knew it was on the second floor, so I was expecting a non-descript side door to get in. It was definitely non-descript - and totally sketchy. There was a hand-written sign next to the elevator that said, "Elevator was broken, use stairs. Bon Chon Chicken." I walked down the hall to the dark stairway with a broken first step and wondered exactly where the hell I was going. The second floor landing was unlit, all that was there was a single, unmarked door. I had no idea if this was the right place and sort of wondered what sort of hole it was going to be.

Continue reading "Bon Chon Chicken" »


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