FIFTY

50 Commerce St btw Barrow St and Bedford St, West Village

The Place: A modern New American restaurant tucked away on a romantic little block in the West Village. And, full disclosure here, the place where my bartending bud Darnell runs a really dope cocktail program.

The Time: Thursday April 13, 7:30pm. I was hanging around Manhattan during the day for various odds and ends, when I realized I hadn’t seen Darnell in a while. Texted him, asked if he was working tonight. He said no but he told me to stop by Fifty anyway because I still hadn’t tried his award-winning cocktail. So I was like, fine you win I’ll go to your bar and drink the delicious cocktail you’ve created, twist my arm why don’t ya!?

The Vibe: Alright, more disclosure. I’ve been to Fifty before. For this blog, I try to go to all new spots so I can get a real first look at a place. BUT I’ve never been to Fifty alone or at a busy hour, so I’m kind of surprised to see it so bustling (though I should’ve expected a popular West Village restaurant to be hoppin’ at prime time on a Thursday). I settle in at the only bar stool available. The age range here is 35-70, and everyone seems like they must summer on the Cape. It’s mostly groups, a thirsty Thursday after-work crowd presumably. Most of the men are wearing suits with sneakers. There are two women next to me, probably in their 50s, asking about the single malts. Kill em ladies. The space itself is beautiful, with a gorgeous wooden back bar, marble bar top and comfy gray bar stools. It’s homey yet elegant (and now I feel like I’m writing for Architectural Digest).

The Bartender: Veronica’s behind the bar tonight. I’ve met her a few times before and she makes me feel right at home, asking if I’ve got any gigs lined up. She knows her shit and she’s great to chill with. And I’m not getting preferential treatment; she’s awesome with everyone, and she makes sure that woman next to me gets a Scotch she loves.

The Drank: They’ve got a great looking spring menu, but I’m here for the It Was All A Dream: Bacardi Ocho, passionfruit, averno amaro, orange juice and allspice dram. You guys. This drink is outrageous. Tropics in a glass. Seriously, it makes me feel like I’m in the DR and I’ve never been there. I may be biased because Darnell’s my friend, but he won the East Coast leg of the Bacardi Legacy cocktail competition with this drink and he’s taking it to the global finals in Berlin next month. So yeah. It’s legit.

Was I Hit On? A middle aged man wearing a blue plaid shirt and a wedding ring sits down a seat away from me. He orders a martini, and as he’s looking at the food menu, he pulls the classic “so what should I eat here?” When I’m like, “are you talking to me?” he says “you come here a lot?” And I’m ready to throw up. But it’s far from over. I find out his name is Justin and he invests in oil and gas companies. “You know, dirty energy” he says with a smirk. Under my breath I mutter: “at least you know it’s dirty.” He takes this to mean I’m interested in him and in anything he has to say. Here are some of the topics Justin mansplains to me while I attempt to read my book: real estate prices in downtown Manhattan, the political climate of West Africa, how he could never be vegetarian because he’d be “afraid of going hungry.” Oh, Justin. I feel so bad for your wife.

Should You Drink Here Alone? YES. Fuck the Justins of the world. While they exist in nice Manhattan establishments by nature, they should not deter you from enjoying your time here. Fifty is a great restaurant with incredible cocktails and an amazing staff. And trust me. It’s worth a visit just for that first sip of It Was All A Dream!

THE HAPPIEST HOUR

121 W. 10th St nr Greenwich Ave, West Village

The Place: A bright and lively tropical-themed bar that’s gotten a bunch of accolades lately. I think.

The Time: Wednesday June 22, 5:30pm. I had coffee with a friend near Union Square, and was seeing Halley Feiffer’s new play at the Lucille Lortel Theater later that night, so I had some time to kill in between. I stopped at Strand and picked up some unnecessary reading material, then headed over to the Happiest Hour for a drink and a quick bite. Because the best two places to kill time are a bookstore and a bar, am I right ladies?

The Vibe: I don’t know why but in my head I thought the Happiest Hour would be a speakeasy*, so I was pleasantly surprised to find a big bar right in plain sight. It was so lovely and light at 5:30 on a summer’s eve. There’s a seating area in the front, then a fairly large circle bar in the center, then a big space in the back with table service. There’s a see-through divider in the middle of the space that I keep thinking is a mirror, but I can’t see myself in it, so it’s not. They’ve got a Florida beach resort theme going on, and they embrace it fully. The music consists of mostly the Beach Boys, and other music like the Beach Boys. It’s great right now, but it makes me wonder what it’s like in the winter. Depressing or refreshing? When I get there, there are two guys drinking martinis on one side, and two girls drinking highlighter-colored cocktails and munching on fries on the other side. I sit on the side with the ladies. I didn’t mean to segregate this bar by gender, but then another man sat on the side with the dudes. The bar slowly fills up, and the gender segregation dissipates, primarily because it’s overwhelmingly occupied by white dudes in their 30s wearing dress shirts. Seriously, each time I look up, there’s another one. Are they having a convention?

The Drank: Belle of the Ball: red pepper, lemon, habanero, tequila, served tall with a slice of red pepper for garnish. It’s super yummy and goes down easy. I think I love it so much because it’s similar to one of my favorite drinks of all time over at my local watering hole, Huckleberry Bar. Most of the drinks give you a liquor option, usually providing a choice between gin, tequila or rum, depending on the cocktail. It’s not the biggest menu, but it’s certainly diverse, and with the choose-your-own-adventure liquor deal, everyone will get a drink that they’re happy with. I also got the Salt + Pepper Broccoli as a snack in an attempt to be healthy, but turns out it’s fried. Whoops. Whatever, it’s fucking delicious.

The Bartender: A large bald man in a Hawaiian shirt with a goatee named Sweeney. I asked him whether he would suggest tequila or gin for my drink, and without any hesitation he said “tequila no question.” I appreciate this sense of confidence and authority. A circle bar is damn hard to work, and Sweeney gets a bit more frantic with each new person that shows up, but he certainly holds it down. Since each drink has a liquor option, that’s double for a bartender to keep track of. When he’s frenetic, Sweeney talks aloud, repeating the orders back to himself. I want to help, because this is a really tough job to work, especially alone. Another bartender, also in a Hawaiian shirt, finally joins him and balance is restored. Also, guys, there’s a FEMALE BUSSER. Do you understand how rare this is!?!

Was I Hit On? No. As the bar filled up, there were more people than just dudes in dress shirts, but it was still predominately male. The guy next to me was alone, drinking a gin and tonic, not doing anything, just sitting with his head in his hands. Rough day, bud? By the time I asked for my cheque, it was like Frat Party 2.0 walked in — all the dudes of Alpha Sigma Phi and a select group of girls they were trying to get with. Sweeney wasn’t thrilled by this either, and I wished him good luck as I departed.

Should You Drink Alone Here? Absolutely. But since I left around 6:30 and it was getting packed, go when they first open or when they’re about to close. That way, the tropical paradise of the Happiest Hour will be all yours.

*Slowly Shirley is their speakeasy downstairs

WALLFLOWER

235 W. 12th St nr Greenwich Ave, West Village

wallflower

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The Place: A super cute n’ tiny French restaurant with a strong cocktail list that I discovered many moons ago. I can’t remember how.

The Time: Thursday May 26, 7pm. After a busy day filled with v. important things because I’m a v. important woman, I was meeting a friend for dinner and drinks after he got off work at his job where he has to wear a suit (don’t worry, he’s cool). I stopped in to Wallflower a bit early to decompress after running around the city on this hot, feels-like-summer day.

The Vibe: No false advertising here–Wallflower is indeed a sweet little French place. The bar area is certainly tiny, with four bar stools in front of the marble bar top, and a few that wrap around the side. Everyone who works here wears a different colored button down. There are a lot of people working and I don’t know what they all do. Maybe they all do everything? That’d be cool. There’s fun funky music playing that goes against “type” for this kind of place, and it works. Clearly Wallflower is a hot date spot because besides me, it’s nothing but heterosexual couples walking through the door (and one fabulous older gay couple dressed impeccably). Most have reservations, so I’m almost entirely alone at the bar except for the couple next to me. When asked if they want to see a dessert menu, they ask to take a shot with the bartender. He’s into it. But these cats want something “that goes straight to the head.” Ok, 7pm. Then the couple behind me keeps arguing about what they’re going to order. The man spends a good deal of time explaining to the server what his date would like. “She likes refreshing, not too sweet, maybe with lime.” She echoes, “yeah lime.” He says, “like with tequila.” She says to the server, “I like gin.” He says to her, “you want rum?” DUDE. LET THE WOMAN SPEAK FOR HERSELF.

The Drank: Little Deuce Coupe–Citadelle gin, cocchi rosa, watermelon, lime, chili bitters. It’s yummy, yet it could use a touch more spice and sweetness. But I feel great sipping this cold pink cocktail on a hot day. They have a very nice cocktail menu, but the names are a bit on the nose for my taste. Like, the Cornelia has corn in it? And the Blue Note has blueberries in it? And, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to drink something called Mother’s Milk, tbh. But they all sound good, so I’m probably just being an asshole.

The Bartender: Super nice guy named James who rocks this one-man bar. In response to the couple asking for something that goes straight to the head, he tells them it’s a little early for him to take one, but he pours them each a shot of coffee-infused cynar. Love this guy’s style.

Was I Hit On? No. They’re all on dates already.

Should You Drink Here Alone? Yeah. Wallflower is a lovely corner of the West Village to hang by yourself and drink a good cocktail. But it’s also apparently a hot spot to take a hot date, so next time you dare to ask that Tinder match to meet in person, suggest Wallflower. Everyone else did.