< topography - Soso

  

The Merc
Mercer, S of Houston
Soso
Manhattan
The tales one could tell about nights at The Merc, the first bar to be harassed by the Chef-Shorty Trouble Team. Rumor has it that the mortar between the bricks of this snooty Soso lounge is trouble itself. After a cocktail or two here, which involves considerable rubber-necking and skeptical glances at the kayak hanging from the ceiling, you will need a stiff drink. Unfortunately, you won't have enough cash left, unless you visit, say, the venerable Toad.

Pravda
Lafayette @ Prince
Soso
Manhattan
Pravda is closer to the top of the hip, with an extended up-down/once-over from the walkie-talkied doorman, who is already suspicious because you arrived on foot instead of by car or limo. Needless to say, I slipped in while he was called away momentarily to attend to some VIP's special needs. There is seating and food, it would seem, but it's so crowded that figuring out specifically what in the hell is going on proves impossible. The drinks are exorbitantly priced; a lame attempt at conciliation is the distribution, along the bar, of stylish racks of hard-boiled eggs. Incensed (my scotch/rocks at over $10) I stole a salt shaker. You have to go once in your life, so They say. [And four years later, "what a pleasant surprise": A friendly pair of doorpeople welcomed us in from the pouring rain. It was a Friday night, yet we were immediately seated and carried on like aristocrats, nibbling  pirozhkí and warm chocolate cake. Elmer T. Lee, neat, smoothed out the experience to such an extent that I almost forgot the what-ever-patrons milling, while our conversation danced us lightly to the check. "Ouch," I thought, as we floated away on waves of smiling thanks.] { Cassandra 6/6/01: It's like an early Soviet cave hideout, without any hint of the proletariat. A fetishization of communist decadence? The food and drinks were good, but then, at those prices, they'd better be. Walked in on a rainy night in dressy get-up. We had no problem getting a table and the place was not uncomfortably crowded. Flashes of people: ...The table of obviously underage girls sitting next to us who were glancing around them, desperately trying to pick up cues on how to act 'grown up'...The guy in front of me who was impressed with my 'guts' as I stood in line to use the men's room and let me go before him (not before I told him a whopper about being Russian)...The art/tech crowd of very consciously hip people sipping drinks worth enough to feed a third world village for a week. A toast to the traitors of the Revolution!}

Fanelli
Prince @ Mercer
Soso
Manhattan
You will never be entirely sure, upon reflection, why in fact Fanelli has survived since the late 19th-century, which is not to say that it lacks charm. [Fanelli's Cafe (since 1847—yeah, I don't know where that 'late 19th-century' came from) closes early, being a restaurant- type situation, but! in retrospect, Fanelli's is good shelter from the generalized silliness of Soso on a weekend...low noise, fairly low prices, and good service.]

Raoul's
Prince, Thompson/Sullivan
Soso
Manhattan
[As I approach the door, two tough guys boulder out; the long-haired alpha slows to size up a pitiless Friday street. "Tonight needs drugs!" he announces loudly enough for everyone on Prince to hear. His sidekick: "Yeah, whatever, man." Sure, boss. I squeeze between them into a hustling pile of New York City Human, shaking off the rain as I contort through the middle-aged crowd of didn't-know-where-else-to-go. Wrong way. Raoul's would be Absolute No sans its unbelievably steep spiral staircase, which I crawl up in order to rendezvous with H*****, PK1, and Cassandra, who have been accumulating an impressive tab. Of course I don't hesitate to vulture The Salmon Trilogy while throwing back a couple of bourbons. We end up closing the place after a few more rounds, many, many cigarettes, and a pair of tarot readings. Exceptional people watching, I must say...] { Cassandra 2/2/01: This is the second time I have given this place a chance and all I have to say is Phooey. The menu is faded French scribbling on an 8 1/2 x 11 chalkboard which must make the management think that it is OK to charge more than my hourly wage for a perfectly ordinary salad(e). Is that in Francs? This place is for Soho whores with too much money and too little brains. Our waiter was so pretentious and slow that I desperately wanted to stiff him on the tip, but was deterred by the good manners of PK1. To top it all off, the tarot card reader, for the second time, told me that my boyfriend was a good for nothing bad apple and that I should dump him and go out with PK1. I guess she didn't pick up on the fact that he and PK1 are already gay lovers.}

Red Bench
Sullivan, Spring/Prince
Soso
Manhattan
The little Red Bench features, it's true, a red, cushioned bench as part of its squat squishy-thing seating area. You used to be able to sneak in under the radar of Last Call and get locked in until the not-so-wee hours, but apparently times have changed (M**** used to seat you too). Yes, times they are a-changin'. The waitress, aka Perfect Tits (not my appellation, kittlings), perdures, as does the just too-loud electronic music and silly prices (e.g, no difference between a Budweiser and a well scotch), and for these and other reasons, if it's not a crammed weekend night, Red Bench endures as a nice after dinner spot. [Perfect Tits, as she is known by some, has moved on; she now works at the Vig—why this is important? I have no idea.] [At present RB is in peril, but this perilous moment is also pregnant with possibilities: while the staff can be heard (keep your ear to the ground, kittling!), bemoaning, for example, M****'s maintenance of his brother (?) to keep tabs, more or less,  on this staff, a particular nostalgia for headier days pervades the bar, at least on Thursdays, when R*****, experienced scotch/whiskey man, runs the show, in the highest style, and I am reminded of that time, long ago, as They say, when I, inadvertently, abandoned there my bag, which contained, only, my copy of WB's  Illuminations, my only copy, the copy that had been read, re-reread, scribbled in, that had been an almost constant companion since the early days of my undergraduate "career"; the unthinkably kind way in which, next morning, the bartender dealt with my hysterical, telephonic search for the bag, the sympathetic way in which, when I returned in the afternoon, it was returned to me,—all of this, together: an excellent omen.] [The Word On The Street has it that things are much worse than we supposed: routinely well liquors are substituted for name-brands, and what happened to R*****? Cf. Leopard Lounge.] { Cassandra 3/29/01: Holy God! What a thrilling surprise. After a horrendous Tuesday and a wonderful play, PK1, H***** and I found ourselves at this small bar lit with only candles. We sat at a cushy red velvet semi-circle booth at the back of the long, narrow bar and were served by Super Waitress. She remembered to bring me the glasses of water I order with every drink and rarely get. And then, somewhere in the midst of a cozy conversation, the bartender put on rambunctious Arabic music, which prompted much dancing. Eventually people of all cultural backgrounds began to climb on the bar to dance, at which point the bartender sprayed the inner lip of the bar with lighter fluid and lit it on fire. Well, this was too much for me to sit still and I had to take my turn on the bar with a little Middle Eastern I-know-you-like-it-but-you-can't-have-it dance. When I stepped down the bartender handed me a free drink. What a country!}

The Room
Sullivan, Spring/Prince
Soso
Manhattan
{ Eclipse the Gum 1/11/01: This is (I assume) the great-grandpappy of the "...Room" bars crowding up our fair burgh [cf. anotherroom & The Other Room -SYborg]. A very tranquil vibe is given off here. Perhaps due to the absence of hard liquor in this establishment and the atmosphere engendered by the time of day: night=candlelit, afternoon=diffused sunlight. The musical selection is 50/50; one bartender will fire up "Chair Is Missing," only to have it defrocked by "Pretty Hate Machine." Starting here always predestines an auspicious evening.} { Cassandra 4/26/01: The place is as ordinary as its name would indicate. About as mellow as a coma. It tries to be chic and hip but fails miserably. Not that I am into chic and hip, but I appreciate a successful attempt. Small, uncomfortable and way too fucking expensive shmansy beers in fancy glasses. Can you just give that to me in pint glass and charge me less? The furniture and music are all just slightly off. Actually the music is more than just slightly off. The snotty bartender seems to be responsible for this - Fiona Apple at 2AM on Saturday night? My only consolation was one of the hottest guys I have seen in months, who managed to flirt with me from across the room without saying a word. You'd have to pay me to talk to anyone else in there.}

NV
Spring, near the mini-storage
Soso
Manhattan
NV? N-O.

Emerald
Spring, E of Ear Inn
Soso
Manhattan
Absolutely average, in that too-well-lit-crappy-juke way, which is why Emerald shines: Sit in the window and snicker at all the fools desperately trying to get past the doorman at Sway ("Oh, but I do know Matt Damon! He's waiting for me inside!"), directly across the street.

Ear Inn Bar
Spring, way out west
Soso
Manhattan
Apparently "Est. 1817 A.D." (nice touch, that 'anno Domini'), Ear will strike you, kittlings, as seedy and rundown. Don't be fooled! It's an entirely random crowd of regulars, neighborhood-types, and lost tourists. Ms. Rumor claims the food is good, but it's the fact that you are permitted to drink outside on the sidewalk, in a cluster of benches and chairs, that makes Ear a marvelous stop, particularly if it's a sunny, Sunday afternoon. [Holy living f*#%!  last summer it might be "full," but...Don Hill's, Sway, NV, Emerald (which now has outdoor seating!), that tapas place, plus at least two spots totally new to me. This entire stretch has exploded in the worst possible way. That old car ad on the tube that presented the car as a carnival ride visually captures the nonstop taxi action: one group gets out, another gets in immediately. The Ear is still beautiful, baby, for outdoor drinking. Significant danger, though, inheres in the insanity of "west" Spring St. Pardon my French for a moment: Fuck all y'all shitting on my cherished haunts!]

Antarctica
Hudson, S of Spring
Soso
Manhattan
{ Eclipse the Gum 1/4/01: Uh, there's a pool table. And a top 100 juke geared toward mid-90's alternateens. And the Howdy-Doodie mofo behind the bar won't ever buyback. On the plus, the bench-tables seat 8 easily. If you have never heard of MVBMS or Saatchi and Saatchi and are unwilling to incent the deliverables or explore why SOV has toppled or swipe file Bill Bernbach's El Al campaign, there is positively no reason you would have heard of this bar.}

Veruka
Broome @ 6
Soso
Manhattan
After having twisted a mailed announcement to Tweezers into a spot on the guest list of Marky Mark's birthday, and after having cheated the line (and the list) by being acquainted with the doorman by way of the Certs commercial gig, and after having made, consequently, Veruka a Last Call rendezvous for a spell, I was flatly denied entrance two times running, which forced me to rethink the knowing grin that crossed my face when I read in Maxim that Veruka's "rope burn" was high. Who wants to hang out with Leonardo DiCrapprio anyway? [Veruka's Day In The Sun is going going gone, in the same manner that any spot fetching 7$ for a Corona is bound to go, though the Yanks still party there. The Word On The Street is that the partners are broke, having comped all those celebrities back in the Day (although N*** ******, for his part, seems to have had a hand in two affiliated spots, Metronome and 151; anyone flush out there want to report on these?).]

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L'orange bleue
Broome @ Crosby
Soso
Manhattan
My impression is mediated by the fact that when I went it was a private party (the drinks were free for the duration)—having to guess re normal carryings-on, I would say: too costly, too pretentious—still wondering, though, whether Eluard's celebrated "La terre est bleue comme une orange" is the inspiration for the name. [D'accord. The food  is good. But I object to taking my bourbon in a wine glass, and they really need to acquire ashtrays that can hold more than one or two butts. If you had come down to Soso from Mars, say, and had to write a report on French ex-pats, and if your only exposure was L'orange bleue, then you would be forced to conclude that French speakers working in The City were required to have long hair.] { Cassandra 10/27/00: This French restaurant, which wore its yearning for the exoticism of by-gone colonial days on its menu and interior, was the chosen dinner spot for me, a well dressed P.k-7 and Theo Nusyg. I was the first to arrive, wearing a burgundy dress. The three men standing at the entrance of the restaurant seemed to appreciate my appearance. "oh-la-la" one of them said to me, as I stood before them, waiting for common courtesy to nudge them aside. Another promptly blurted out, "Let me ask you a question, when you have an orgasm, do your nipples get hard?" The third, embarrassed by his friend's question, pushed the other two aside. "I don't know, I am usually paying attention to other things..." I said, brushing by. This was the beginning of a wonderful dinner. I went to the bar, which was manned by beautiful, brown, adorably scruffy French men. The house wine was a very smooth Pinot Noir. The ash trays were Moroccan style clay pots with deep flat-bottomed trays. I didn't find the number of butts they held problematic, but rather the depth of the actual ash try part—got my fingers smudged with ash before sitting down to eat. The food was unbelievably good, and they managed to get us out of there in time to race uptown...even though they are French.}

Broome Street
Broome @ West Broadway
Soso
Manhattan
Sure, so it's an old neighborhood establishment, but the smoking policy is utterly bogus, to start. To finish, I find myself pressed to remember anything lacking lack.

900 (Novecento)
West Broadway, Broome/Grand
Soso
Manhattan
[You didn't know, but there's an upstairs lounge here. How could you have known? You always had the good sense to avoid this place, this place and all its little kissing cousins on the south Soso strip. Fuck me running. I should have known.]

Chaos
Watts, West Broadway/Thompson
Soso
Manhattan
You should promise yourself to do what it takes to get in that one night of your short, miserable life. What awaits you inside packs this 'that one night' to the breaking point with significance. [As PK1 once said of another place, Jersey, baby, Jersey! (Chaos has moved its ass? over to the old "Bank" on Houston? ...causes me no pain, in fact improves my night-to-night.)]

Circa Tabac
Watts, Thompson/6 Ave
Soso
Manhattan
(212) 941-1781
Some establishments give in to the establishment, as They say. In spite of sitting in the left ventricle of Soso, Circa can hardly be numbered among such establishment establishments. Instead, L**, B****, and L**** have created an Art Deco space that, though bordering on the feel of a hotel lounge, is if anything too comfortable, with ample squishy furniture and as perfect a bar-to-stool ratio as you could hope to find. Drinks can be a touch on the steep side, but the pour is fantastic! while the seemingly infinite tobacco menu also distinguishes this already unique space at the level of "services." In These Dark Times, any bar that flagrantly promotes smoking, well, wins your approval. With delicious appetizers (my favorite is the spinach wontons), CT makes an excellent pre-/post-evening spot, especially if you're out on a, what do They call them, kittlings? a date.
[CT takes a more definitive—and positive—shape, as winter begins to run trailers across the screens of autumn, and the whiskey season sets in, an open-for-conversation group is settling into CT's new shape.] [Let us pray that this group does not give way, at least entirely, to a more typical Soso clientele. Recently CT employed, for the first time in this SYborg's memory, a doorman. "Where danger is, grows/ the saving power also" (H).] [On good authority I have it that CT is largely clear of the danger and remains, as much as a place like this can, a regular's bar.] [Free—and strange—stand-up comedy on Tuesday nights. Recently I've (re?)discovered the pleasures of sipping afternoons and early evenings in this back-laid lounge that has achieved stand-by status in the Soso zoo of silliness.] [Straight 4/4 in a punk tempo; scream it: "there's a place where we can go/ the drinks held high to say/ 'downtown's dull / life's full of intoxication games'..." You make the rest up as you go, but do swing through if pleasure is your aim.] [!] [!] [!] [!] [!] [!] [!] [!] [Pleasure should not be, merely, absence of pain. The only pain at CT is price, which is outweighed by so many other lovely things that it is easily overlooked, especially if you've "had a few." And against all odds, at least as far as this hood is concerned, CT  is a regulars' bar.] [!] [!] [!] [!] [!] [!] [Oh, my.] [!] [!] [!] [!] [!] [!] [!] [!] [Thursdays are nice nights to visit Circa Tabac, a.k.a. circle of crack, jerk off my back, etc.] [CT is really comfortable; there's just no way around it (although, ouch, I recently read a piece on Paul Sevigny, the interview portions of which take place at "Tabac, a dark lounge on the outskirts [sic] of SoHo"...well, at least L**, B****, and L**** are making money?). And I finally figured out the spicy spinach dip problem (running out of dip): if two (not one, not three, etc.) people are eating it, then the chip/dip ratio is perfect.] [Will the party/parties responsible for drunkenly absconding with my black jacket—single-breasted, silver buttons, toilet paper (I had a bloody nose earlier) and post-its in left pocket, "How to Teach the History of Communism to Mental Patients" program in the right pocket—please email The SYborg to arrange for its safe return? Thank you.] [AND THANK YOU! The jacket is on its way home from California.] [Yep.] [!] [!] [!] [!] [!] [Circle Of Crack: bar of choice for those flirting with the perverted logic of "Sure, why not? One drink can't hurt."] [!] [|!|] [!] [!] [This winter poverty has kept me away, but I must say that floundering through for a deep after-work liver massage, and all the Thursday faux pas this entails, squeezes another song to my lips: "My mother and father say, 'Whiskey's a curse, but to get caught on codeine is a million times worse'" (The Monkeywrench), which reminds me that someday I want to write  The Queen's Throat of grunge..."flat out fucked," yeah.] [!] [!] { Cassandra 3/24/01: I love this place. The owners are fantastic, there is almost always a seat, the lighting is perfect. I have fantasies about stealing the sheer silvery curtains with these palm leaf patterns in them. It's a wee bit pricey, but after a couple of their strong drinks, just give them your credit card and try to forget about it. It's a perfect place to go with one or two other people and drink until you don't know who you are. On the down side, the last time I was in there, my wallet was stolen right out of my purse, so be careful.} [!] [Overheard at the bar: "Circa Tabac is my Bermuda Triangle!"] [!] [ If my parents were to drink and smoke, I would take them here too.] [...home again, home again, jiggidy jog.] { namenskid 6/25/01: Whatever.} ["Should I stay or should I go now?" la la la...five fat bad scotch rocks rolling out the door later I can't remember. And is considering leaving NYC a necessary precondition for staying?]

Naked Lunch
Grand @ Thompson
Soso
Manhattan
A brief chat in another bar reminds me that, hey, I've been to Naked Lunch. Went to meet some people. Apparently, in no way memorable...dark, costly, crowded, and with a doorman. Oh, well,come to Soso.

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Toad Hall
Grand @ West Broadway
Soso
Manhattan
(212) 431-8145
Toad Hall, the venerable Toad, metonymically speaking the source and solution of all of life's problems: S****, R****, G***, R**, B****, E*****, G*****, K****, R**, M***, etc.—it's like a second living room to me, so don't knock this Soso eccentricity, kittlings. The drinks are priced reasonably. The pour is above average. The pool table is sometimes unoccupied. A world of Toads can be found, in a variety of attitudes, behind the bar. [And to date, I should like to add, Toad Hall remains  the best Soso standby, with decent seating, a comfy feel, and great tenders.] { some dumb joe 1/20/00: This place [g]lows with alarming regularity consistency ferocity
(any or all the above).} [Perhaps my fade-out as a regular at Toad reflected an unconscious augury. But then, bars change in much the same way as schools: the buildings remain standing while "classes" make their course from Fresh to Grad.—Does this make me an alumnus? Whatever the case, there have been some changes at 'the venerable Toad' (A***  behind the bar and not boozing on the patron-side?), but it's still inexpensive, comfortable, and as friendly as any bar in The City.] [!] [!] { gray-Neo and e-Lux 10/7/00: Hey, even when there's a lot of suits practically yelling at each other, Toad Hall is rockin'...you've got really good nice people running the show! For what it's worth, right, when you're in Soho on a Friday night, you want to put up with some suits or a bunch of fakeass hipsters at a lame joint like 900?} [!] [!] [!] [!] [Toad Hole: the "roaches" check in...] { Jakeed 1/24/01: Mark Arm sings in this old Green River tune if I remember right that "misery loves company baby and I love you" but I don't think that really has too much to do with  me at Toad Hall and more to do with what I've seen around me a few times there like falling over drunk middle aged people discussing deep deep stuff and the push aways and the long gaps of silence and then there's the from time to time woman alone at the bar scanning the horizon for hope and finding it in her next drink plus a bit of notebook scribbling with a man who's asked for a light while the kids in the back exclaim over pool and the hipsters on the bench carry on about dotcom money and who's dating who and the others minding their own biz or mulling over the point spread for the big game and I look around at this collage of human and for a brief moment I am happy} [Where else can you get robust service and a pour like a Big Gulp? And where else can you openly cry, without too much embarrassment, as you stir memories of your two brothers around in your mind like ice cubes? It is your own heart that melts.] [!] [!] [!] [Duh dut du du du du dah dut: TEQUILA!] [!] [Overheard: "Ladies, we're not scoops of ice cream." "Yes, you are."] [!] [service perfecto] { Cassandra 6/13/01: Love it here. While it's not that cheap, the buy back is consistently good. And although the crowd can be obnoxious at times, a girl can drink in peace and read her book. Not a small luxury.} [!]

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Void
Howard @ Mercer
Soso
Manhattan
[After many a "drive"-by, after many a walk-in-and-out-sans-drinking, after many a so-I'll-check-it-out-but-What?-closed? ...I finally belly up to the bar in the darkest of Soso lounges, only to be swiftly removed at around 2, which explains why I've passed by Void, over and over, to find it closed (I'm sure on the weekends, though, it pushes on to Last Call). Computer, screens of various sizes screening "psychedelia," odd b/w flicks, etc., beautiful little tables in front of the sofas, all the individual features of Void seem interesting alone, but taken together the sum is flat. And the prices are truly Soso. All of the evidence against the defendant, however, works in reverse, since time and time again, it has driven me on to much more interesting, albeit self-destructive, discoveries...guilty as charged.] [My generalized ambivalence about Void makes nonsense of the number of times I've visited lately. What gives? Let's take the question literally. Void does not give, directly: it pushes you on, sets you along the way. Pulling me in to squeeze me out into another dimension, Void gives its name: nothing.—Thus its burning, this black hole in the Soso galaxy. I walk out into the night, a new star on the make.]

Wax Bar
error 404
Soso
Manhattan
If I wanted to empty my pockets for a disgraceful pour and a herd of wide-eyed Eurotrash, I would go to the bar on top of the World Trade Center.

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