The Best-Ever Theme Bars in New York City

The Best-Ever Theme Bars in New York City

New York is a mix of cultural influences and has seen the rise and fall of many creative eras. The best theme bars either retain an element of old New York and make it the focal point, or transport the bar hopper to another place entirely. Here are some of the best places for a night out on the town, though you might forget where you are.

Beauty Bar

231 East 14th St

Salons are a place for gossip, and so are bars, so the proprietors of this chain put the two concepts together for a successful bar/beauty parlor. For $10 the manicure and martini special is just that. Open since 1995, the bar has comedy nights and other shows. It is especially popular for women having bachelorette parties. Now with locations across the river in Brooklyn and across the US including San Francisco, Las Vegas, Chicago, Denver, and Dallas.

Reunion Surf Bar

357 West 44th St  

Named for the island Ile de la Réunion off the coast of Madagascar, the space is full of surf influence and island drinks. Christmas lights adorn the ceiling, pineapple slices adorn the drinks, and surfboards are posed as decoration in every nook. The owners include a musician and a former handyman, but both their business profiles start with their favorite surf breaks. The sister restaurant Playa Betty’s (320 Amsterdam Avenue) serves California style tacos and beach food.

Slaughtered Lamb Pub

182 West 4th St

A werewolf themed bar…spooky! Complete with a werewolf lounge and dungeon, this English style pub is named after the historic London pub of the same name where allegedly werewolves roamed.

Trailer Park Lounge & Grill

271 West 23rd St

The Trailer Park Lounge announces proudly that it was voted one of the top five kitschiest restaurants in America by the Food Network. It serves hamburgers, fries, and other staples of the American diet. Every wall is decorated with vintage items that would fit in not only in a trailer park but also in the 1950s. The burger & beer lunch special is just under $14.

The Rusty Knot

412 West St

Water surrounds New York City, so it’s only fitting to include a couple of maritime themed bars. Drinks on the limited menu are fit for a sailor, with a pickle back, dark & stormy, mai tai, singapore sling…you get the idea. Food is basic chips and tacos, because food is not the point.

The Ship

158 Lafayette St

A cocktail lounge with a different nautical theme, this space is all sleek metal and quiet booths made from sails, ideal for small groups. The menu includes chicken liver foie gras, homemade ricotta, and vegetable tartine. Drinks are sophisticated with one called the Bartender’s Choice, a surprise drink for those in the mood for adventure at sea.

The Way Station

683 Washington Ave

A Doctor Who themed bar and self-described “nerdvana.” The scene is complete with a blue TARDIS in the back and a small stage. Performances include musical guests and karaoke. Drinks include Sonic Screwdrivers named after various incarnations of the Doctor as well as other characters.

Gotham City Lounge

1293 Myrtle Ave

A comic book themed bar with a secretive lack of web presence. Their Twitter is the best way to find out about movie nights, discounts for voting, and other community events.

Otto’s Shrunken Head

538 East 14th St

This tiki bar points out on their website, “Manhattan is after all, an island.” They serve rum drinks and no food, except for the occasional BBQ or food contest. The signature drink comes in a custom tiki mug, and other beverages include a flaming bowl and a selection of drinks served in tiki glasses that can be taken home for an extra charge.

Burp Castle

41 East 7th St

A “temple of beer worship” and place for fans of Belgian and other beers to find unusual favorites. The tap list changes frequently and the best way to find out what is being served is to ask. Free pomme frites are served during happy hours. It’s a community environment, with meetings of the New York City Home Brewers Guild held here, but it’s not for parties. Bartenders are known for shushing the crowds to encourage more focus on the beer.

What to Watch Instead of Shakespeare in the Park

What to Watch Instead of Shakespeare in the Park

New York City’s Shakespeare in the Park is an annual (and massively popular) event at Central Park’s Public Theater, where two of Shakespeare’s classics are performed every summer. This year, the event made waves when the title character of Julius Caesar was portrayed in the likeness of President Trump, causing protests and the withdrawal of several corporate sponsors. Nonetheless, the event retained its notoriety, with tickets as difficult to come by as ever.

Julius Caesar closed on June 18, but A Midsummer’s Night Dream is hot on its tails. The second show premiered on July 11 and will run through August 13, but only the most determined will snag a seat. Luckily, New York City is a theater juggernaut. Those that know where to look will find dozens of other free, outdoor performances to fill the Shakespeare-shaped hole in their parks.

Theater at Bryant Park

On Thursdays around lunchtime, Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan previews Broadway shows by bringing casts on stage to perform signature numbers. But if you’re in the mood for more than a sneak peek, Bryant Park also hosts complete performances during the summer, including Twelfth Night (July 28 to July 30) and The Tempest (August 25 to September 9).

Theater at Riverside Park

At the Upper West Side’s Riverside Park, The Hudson Warehouse reprises their 2013 production of the swashbuckling classic The The Three Musketeers through July 23. Starting July 27, they will perform Henry V, a dramatic Shakespearean gem.

Shakespeare in the Parking Lot

Why watch Shakespeare in the park when you can watch it in a parking lot in the Lower East Side? In the lot behind the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center, Shakespeare’s comedic All’s Well That Ends Well will run through July 22. Starting on July 27, Henry VI Part 3 will pick up and run through August 12.

Macbeth in South Brooklyn and Brooklyn Bridge Park

Want to watch one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies, if not the greatest? Luckily, you have options. Macbeth will be performed by South Brooklyn Shakespeare from July 15 to August 5 at their outdoor venue in South Slope. At Battery Park in the Financial District, another rendition will begin on July 21 before moving to Brooklyn Bridge Park in its last week and concluding on August 7.

Hip to Hip Theater, All Around Town

Lastly, if you’d rather the show come to you, Hip to Hip Theater never performs in the same location twice. Henry VI Part 1 will tour through 12 different parks spanning every borough, plus some of New Jersey, from June 25 to August 20. Hip to Hip will also tour Shakespeare’s lesser known (and rather creepy) play Measure by Measure from July 26 to August 18.  

For the savvy theater nerd, there’s clearly no shortage of free shows this summer. Happy viewing!

Where to Find the Best Public Art in NYC

Where to Find the Best Public Art in NYC

New York City is an amazing place for art, artists and art lovers. Not just because of the amazing museums, but also because of the art that’s available every time someone walks out their front door.

So, where to find the best public art in New York City? The answer, everywhere! But, more specifically…

Start with the subway

From whimsical, curious political statues to tile mosaics that can be charming, informative (the actual name of the station!) or both, the subway is an underground gold mine of art.

Two of the best? First, get to the 14th St./Eighth Ave. station (the intersection of the A,C,E, and L lines) for Life Underground by artist Tom Otterness.

The permanent installation features a small bronze alligator eating a well-heeled, corrupt, politician. A woman reading a book sits on a similarly rich businessman.

The statuary is based, in part, on the work of 19th-century political cartoonist Thomas Nast. Otterness told the New York Daily News, in 2016, “I thought not that much has changed in 100 years.”

On the lighter side is the Subway Art Safari, a series of tile mosaics (along the N, Q and R train routes) depicting fun animal families.

Flocks of parrots fly over stairs at the Fifth Avenue and 59th Street stop. Penguins can be found by the exit stairs, also at 59th Street (Central Park South) and Fifth Avenue, as can a troop of monkeys. Not coincidentally, the Central Park Zoo is only a few blocks away from these entertaining images.

Above ground, there’s both a permanent and ever-changing landscape of art to explore.

Fearless Girl, by artist Kristen Visbal was unveiled in the Financial District in March, to both praise and skepticism. It put a distinct new spin on the art in that corner of New York (Broadway and Morris) because of the exact location—facing down the iconic Charging Bull statue. Fearless Girl is currently scheduled to stay in place only through 2018.

New Yorkers being who they are, someone recently put a Wonder Woman diadem on the statue, further reinforcing the strength of the piece.

Speaking of strength and iconic images, south of the Financial District at the tip of Manhattan is Battery Park. A trip there earns art lovers a view of perhaps the most iconic of all New York art, The Statue of Liberty.

Dedicated in 1886 and renovated in 2000, the statue is unique (to say the least) for both its meaning, and its colossal size.

Most recently, four Paparazzi Dogs have appeared in Greenwich Village. The work of Gillie and Marc, who are a husband and wife team, the demands-a-selfie art is on the traffic island at of Sixth Avenue, Greenwich Avenue, and Christopher Street.  

There is no end date set for the display.

For further proof that New Yorkers love art, head to the upper west side to see an original Banksys, lovingly preserved by the Zabar family.

That’s right, the founders of the family-owned for three generations market, Zabar’s, preserved a Banksy by putting plexiglass over it several years ago.

The piece, a boy taking a carnival-style hammer to a fire standpipe, is at 79th and Broadway. Incidentally (or not) that’s also the location of the market, which means there’s great food and drink options available to refuel for more public art touring.

Finally, keep an eye out for random acts of art.

Being New York, in addition to temporary and permanent installations, there’s also straight-up street art.

The blog worleygig.com features all things New York, but has a “street-art” tag that highlights the near-graffiti, colorful, often political, art that pops up on walls, posts and construction sites around the city.  

A recent post points out face relief sculptures by French street artist Gregos that adorn the facades of buildings and other random objects all along 14th Street.

Worley also keeps an eye on art that could easily fall prey to graffiti, refurbishment, or the elements. According to the blog, Nick Walker’s mural of his signature Love Vandal character in a parking lot at the southwest corner of 17th Street and 6th Avenue, painted in the fall of 2014, “still looks great!”

In short, there’s art around every corner in New York City, and you don’t need to pay for museum entry to see it. One might say the city in itself is a gallery, and given the scale of art it holds, we’re inclined to agree.

The Most Popular Dog Names in New York City (And Which Dogs Have Them)

The Most Popular Dog Names in New York City (And Which Dogs Have Them)

The dog owners of New York City have spoken and, once again, it is their opinion that Bella and Max are best names for their beloved pets.

This is, according to The New York Post, the second year in a row that Bella (“beautiful in Italian) and Max (often, in humans, short for “Maximilian” meaning “greatest”) top the list of popular canine names.

The Post gets its data from the Health Department’s dog license records each year. New York state law requires dog owners to license their dogs, and the city requires the tags be attached to the dog’s collar.

In 2016, according to the records, there were 1,358 Bellas and 1,268 Maxes.  The 868 Charlies, 872 Lolas and 867 Rockys completed the top-five-names list.  

In all, there were 87,031 dogs registered in 2016.

Of course, this being New York, every borough and neighborhood has its own idea about what pup names are best.

Once again, the Health Department is there to help with a map that shows the most popular name, based on neighborhood.

In the Upper West Side, Hudson and Theodore seem to be the thing. But just across Central Park Tiny and Nellie are the “It List” monikers.

Head for Harlem and the dog owners seem to want their pets to toughen up with names like Rocky and Boomer.

What’s even more fascinating is taking a look at popular breeds of dogs, and giving them the popular name.

According to the American Kennel Club, the French bulldog, described in this article as “adorable and squishy” has been the most popular breed in the city for three years.

Labrador retrievers were the second most popular, and was particularly beloved on the Upper West Side.

So, apparently, to be trendy, the best idea would be to adopt a French bulldog and name it Max, or Bella. Unless it’s an Upper West Side pooch, in which case a Lab named Hudson would be the way to go.

Or, like a truly independent New Yorker, folks could get a mutt at the shelter, name it Fluffy (which ranked 93rd overall in the city) and live in whichever neighborhood they chose, proudly walking their pet, daily, on the sidewalks they call home.

The Islands You Haven’t Heard of in New York City

The Islands You Haven’t Heard of in New York City

Manhattan, Staten, Riker’s, Governor’s. New York is a city of islands, with only The Bronx connected to the U.S. mainland. The rest of us are in good company, however, as there are dozens of little-known or visited islands around NYC, each (well, most of them) with rich stories of their own. Here are just a few:

City Island

City Island is somewhat of an anachronism in NYC and residents are happy to keep it that way. Located northeast of the Bronx and accessible by a small private bridge, this island is home to a New England-like oceanfront community of around 4,000 (fewer than some blocks in the rest of the city). City Islanders, or “clamdiggers,” consider the place an oasis apart from the rest of the city and can be somewhat insular. If you hope to visit the City Island Nautical Museum or try some of their famous seafood, your best bet to past the security gates is the Bx29 bus.

Hart Island

A stone’s throw from City Island, Hart Island has attained some notoriety in recent years for its burial grounds of unclaimed people and prisoners. Formerly home to a boy’s prison and Civil War POW camps, more than 1 million people have been laid to rest here since it was converted to a municipal cemetery in 1869. Not a hotspot for vacationers, Hart Island visitation is strictly limited to twice per month ferry trips for relatives of the dead and morbidly curious tourists who have requested spots ahead of time.

Hoffman and Swinburne Islands

It might seem farfetched now, but as nearby Fort Wadsworth serves to remind us, New York has historically been a vitally important port during wartime. Hoffman and Swinburne Island, originally created as quarantine stations for immigrants arriving at nearby Ellis Island, also served as training grounds for Merchant Marines during WWII, and more integrally, were designated anchor points for anti-submarine nets to keep the city’s harbors safe. Thankfully, they were never called into duty for this use, and are currently protected lands as part of the Gateway National Recreation Area managed by the U.S. Park Service.

U Thant/Belmont Island

For a spot of land measuring just 100 by 200 feet, this tiny island on the East River has had a colorful history. Made up of materials from the digging of the 7 train tunnels connecting Manhattan and Queens, Belmont Island (named for the tunnels’ financier) became U Thant Island when the land was leased by devout followers of the Indian meditation guru Sri Chinmoy and designated a Buddhist shrine. The island sat quietly until 2004, when in protest of the then-ongoing Republican National Convention, artist and island-hopper Duke Reilly rowed out to the island and declared it a sovereign nation, hanging a homemade flag from the island’s navigation tower. He was taken home by the Coast Guard, and U Thant Island continues to sit peacefully.

North Brother Island

North Brother Island sits southeast of the Bronx and has been the site of some of the more harrowing stories of New York City history. It sat uninhabited until 1885 when the city designated it the site of Riverside Hospital, a place where highly contagious patients could be treated safely away from the rest of the city. It was the home to perhaps the most famous such patient, Typhoid Mary, who notoriously spread the disease around the city as a cook for several wealthy families. Less famously (but more destructively), the island was also the beaching point of the doomed passenger ship the General Slocum, which ran aground on North Brother Island after catching fire in the East River. A memorial to those who lost their lives currently stands in Tompkins Square Park in Manhattan.

Shooter’s Island

An uninformed observer would never guess that this unassuming bird habitat, nestled between Staten Island and New Jersey, was once the dominion of spies fighting the American Revolution. Originally a hunting preserve (hence the name), quiet and isolated Shooter’s Island was designated by George Washington as a drop-off point for top-secret missives used to help topple the British. In post-war years, the island belonged to industry as the home of refineries and shipyards, and was the site of the 1902 launch of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany’s private yacht, attended by President Theodore Roosevelt and filmed for posterity by Thomas Edison. Returning to its calm and isolated roots, Shooter’s Island is currently a bird sanctuary.

Will the M.T.A.’s Plan to Combat Subway Delays Succeed?

Will the M.T.A.’s Plan to Combat Subway Delays Succeed?

Delays in New York City are getting worse, and the M.T.A. has rolled out several initiatives to fix things. Will it work?

Opened in 1904, covering 236 miles of routes, praised in songs like “Take the A Train” and movies from “The Money Train” to “The Warriors,” the New York Subway is legendary, huge and iconic.

But right now, it’s a tarnished icon as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (M.T.A.) struggles to fix problems ranging from overcrowding to signal malfunctions—all of which are causing train delays and passenger frustration.

A recent New York Times article describes the M.T.A.’s recently released plan to address the worst of the problems, starting with the 8th Avenue line– which experiences line car equipment breakdowns about 25 times per month, that last 19 minutes on average, and cause delays not only to the affected train but to all trains along the line.

So, what’s their plan?

It starts at the top, literally, with reorganizing the leadership structure so that the position of Chairman (big picture leader) and CEO (day-to-day management) are separate.

There will be new subway cars and improved maintenance on old cars.

Improving tracks and signals, especially via preventative maintenance that targets signals most prone to failure, is a key point. As a safety measure, the New York subway was built to be “fail-safe.” That means when a sensor is tripped all lights go red, everything stops and delays occur.  The M.T.A. also will also increase the number of rapid response teams available.

Likewise, the authority plans to have EMT’s at five specific stations to speed the response to sick passengers (who are often hard to locate) and coordinate better with the NYPD so that when issues that require police intervention arise, police arrive faster.

Finally, the plan calls for streamlining passenger loading and unloading and dealing with system bottlenecks.  

This all looks good on paper, but will it work?

Fixing and maintaining the New York subway is always a balancing act of meeting short-term needs, addressing long-term needs and dealing with budget constraints.

Unfortunately, the M.T.A. has a long history of money running out before the subway problems are fixed.

According to the Times the 1970’s illustrate the multi-level problem the best.  In May, an article published by the paper begins, “Nearly four decades ago, New York City’s subway system hit rock bottom: track fires, graffiti-covered cars and crime came to symbolize that era.

An intervention was required. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, under the leadership of Richard Ravitch, persuaded the governor and legislative leaders to allow the agency to issue bonds — clearing the way for a $7.2 billion, five-year capital program.”

The money wasn’t enough, certainly not enough to address all the bridges, tunnels, commuter railroads, bus systems and the specific-to-the-subway problems that the M.T.A. oversees.  

New train cars were added, and much of the fleet refurbished, but long-term goals, including the Second Avenue subway line project, were abandoned.

It was only in January of this year that the first section of the proposed Second Avenue line opened.

Given that it took 40 years to achieve one goal, and that funding continues to be limited, what are the chances that the goal of fewer delays and easier commutes will be met?

It’s hard to say. There are a few things in play that indicate the M.T.A. will step up. First, the press and the public outcry, including on social media. The M.T.A. has already responded with educational campaigns (for instance, don’t pull the emergency break for a sick passenger) and that alone- public outreach- is a step.

The outcry has also resulted in the formation of an advocacy group, the Riders Alliance, which can organize outcry into action.

Finally, there is a plan in place. As the saying goes, the first step to solving a problem is to admit you have one. The M.T.A. has clearly admitted there’s a problem and the plan to address it is, at least, a good first step.