On Saturday afternoon, my husband and I thought we would have a nice afternoon, brunch at our favorite neighborhood spot, Parlor ($27 gets you breakfast and 5 brunch cocktails). We grabbed seats at the bar and took in the NCAA game, Michigan was playing for the first time in forever so we were both psyched! We won the game and were feeling energized by the victory, it was sunny (albeit still freezing) and as we pondered what we should do, I remembered I had Thrillist’s List of its top 47 places to eat and drink in the city. I figured, today was as good a day as any to get out there and start checking some of these places off my list. So down we headed to the Lower East Side.
Our first stop was Two Bit’s Retro Arcade. We stepped back in time into an awesome 80s arcade. The bar itself serves up craft beer, wine and even forties. (FYI, the wine selection is surprisingly sophisticated and affordable since the owner worked in the restaurant business for years.) The bar itself contained a mural done by a local artist, think gaming characters like Mario and Ms. Pac Man gone bad. Further setting the mood, 1980s cult-classics like Revenge of the Nerds are projected on the back wall. Patrons can go to an old-school change machine and get quarters so they can play originally priced arcade classics like Street Fighter, Donkey Kong, Paperboy and more. There is also a fab selection of pinball machines like Indiana Jones and the Addams Family (my personal fave). After a few rounds and experiencing the thrill of buying my own quarters sans having to beg my parents for more, we decided to move on to our next spot.
Leah Tinari Painting on Display at the Kupersmith
Never able to stick to a plan, we dropped my dream of visiting every location on the Thrillist and we just decided to wander. We made our way over to Clinton Street where we found the coolest store ever. JNRL x STR It’s pronounced General Store but it’s anything but general. It’s a gallery and retail shop that showcases beautiful yet practical everyday objects. The shop focuses on one color at a time, which rotates each month. They sell everything from beauty products to artwork to right now, a hot pink crowbar (which I really wanted but couldn’t figure out a reason to spend $75). The store also hocks artwork by the whimsical, Leah Tinari, also the owner of another Clinton Street establishment, Fatta Cuckoo, which was our next stop on our Clinton Street tour.
The first time we walked by Fatta Cuckoo, there appeared to be a dance party of some sort and we thought, cool. We went inside and unfortunately it appeared to be a private party. We came back though on our way to find Clinton Street Baking Co. and found that the party had ended and that the restaurant appeared to be open for business. Hooray. We headed to the bar to try a creative cocktail and a small plate of something. The small menu has affordable American classics in an adorably, cozy environment that screams neighborhood favorite. The cocktail menu was creative and different, which is what I look. I tried a Barnstormer, which consists of Bourbon, spicy honey syrup and fresh squeezed lemon juice. My husband had a concoction of jalapeno tequila and cilantro. I can’t remember exactly but it was the most unique wonderful flavor I have ever tasted. We just had a little side of potato puffs, which were perfectly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. I can’t wait to come back here for dinner and try the buttermilk fried chicken, served with gorgonzola pickled celery.
And then we were off to our next and final stop, the Kupersmith, what I will call the most perfect neighborhood bar. When my husband and I arrived, we were one of only a few in the space. We grabbed a beer at the bar, for me a hefferveisen and my husband a lager. We began chatting with the lovely bartender about the neighborhood. We also happened to mention how brilliant the painting was in the front. We noticed that it appeared to look like the artwork from both JNRL x STR and Fatta Cuckoo. She told us of course that they were all friends and that the artist in fact was the owner of Fatta Cuckoo and that the street was a kind of one, big, happy family. The entire street, I hear actually throws block parties together sometimes. And that is why this is the coolest street in the world.
As other patrons began to arrive, we started chatting with them, as our friends met us we introduced everybody and the entire bar seemed to turn into one giant mixer. Instead of remaining as separate parties, we somehow merged about five different groups and all became friends. I’m sorry but when does that ever happen? This is New York, not exactly the friendliest place. The evening devolved into complete debauchery as we sipped and swapped stories–many of which were told by me in an appalling British accent. After the bar closed, I ended up behind the bar doling out shots of Jim Beam to all of my new friends. It was a night that will not soon be forgotten on Clinton Street–decidedly the street with the most character in Manhattan.