I've been going to the Barrow Street Alehouse since 1998, when I moved to New York City. Back then, Greg and I would go, Wall Street Rookies, not yet making the big bucks, and enjoy the low stools, sawdust on the floor, cheap drinks, house cat, and chunky waitress who gave us every other round for free. We'd tip her 50% and feel like the kings of the world - you can never get enough freeroll.
Now, eight years later, Barrow Street is still my favorite bar, and I once again live right around the corner from it. They've since replaced the sawdust and 2 foot stools with 4 1/2 foot high tables and high backless bar stools, but the downstairs area with darts, a pool table, and a love seat that I'm pretty sure is harboring more diseases than the CDC, is still untouched. Most importantly, BS Alehouse still serves top notch bar food, and the best Buffalo Chicken sandwich in the City.
So this afternoon when Greg IM'ed me "Where are we meeting?" I replied, naturally, "Barrow Street." Greg's only reply was a contented smiley face. Greg called me later to tell me that he was at Barrow Street, and I threw some food down for Oscar and headed over to meet him. Barrow Street is about 200 yards from my apartment, and I've been there countless times, but this time, as I walked through the doors, I was confused.
The walls were paneled in richly grained wood, and the scuffed floor was now pristine and coated with 1/8th of an inch of shiny polyurethane. The table and backless bar stools had been replaced by high end booths made of real wood and dark high quality leather. I walked in, and blinked 3 times. Greg was in a booth right by the door, and pointed at me, laughing at my confusion. I looked up, walked around in a circle 3 times, and looked at him: "What the fuck is THIS?" I asked.
Greg laughed "I know - they've gone high end - sit down," he urged me, but I had some business to attend to. I walked down the bar, like a kid who just found out that Hanukkah Harry doesn't really exist.
I approached the bartender: "When did THIS happen?" I asked, waving my arms.
"The booths came in last Thursday," he explained, as I looked for the old standby chalkboard which showed the list of draught beers - GONE. The tube tv's were replaced by an army of plasma screens, and the ladies room sported a nice new neon sign advertising it's location. There was only one question: what was downstairs? Would I find a lounge with blacklights, and 2 foot square velvet stools? Would there be waitresses in short black cocktail dresses, and flickering candles? I stumbled down the stairs, as if in a dream, and found some solace in seeing that the dungeon was still untouched: same dartboards, same pool table, same crappy concrete floor, same used-by-NYU-kids-for-heavy-petting loveseat stained by 1000 beer spills.
I slouched back up the stairs to find Greg, slumping into the booth, telling him "This sucks."
Our waitress comes over to take my order, as Greg is already enjoying a 12oz plastic cup of Oktoberfest: college style. When we're 1/2way through our first beer, we ask the waitress (who failed her test mightily when she took 5 minutes to bring me my first round) for another round. "You have to finish that round first - you use the same cup," she explained. No problem - do you know who the fuck we are? We've been coming here since you were in diapers, sugartits. We pound our beers, and I jokingly turn mine over my head and pretend to "flip cup" it, as Greg tells her, "Now, THAT is his cup, and THIS is mine."
"You aren't going to get the same cup back," she tells us.
"No problem, as long as we don't get someone else's," Greg answers, thinking we'll get new cups.
"No - you might get someone else's cup," she deadpans. And she's not kidding.
I interrupt: "Wait a second: he just wants to make sure he doesn't get someone else's cooties...or herpes... or chlamydia," and flash her a smile.
"You might get someone else's cup - we have no control of it," she is getting annoyed, not smiling.
"What do you mean - do you have a magic marker? I'll put my name on this one - I don't want someone else's cup." I mean seriously, I'm all for the college-throwback-refill-the-plastic-cup-all-you-can-drink gig, but I don't want some NYU whoo-hah's cup.
"I'm really busy - I have a lot of other tables to take care of - do you guys want another round?" She's legitimately pissed now.
"Look, can we go to the bar and get our own refills?" I try diplomacy.
"Sure, I mean, it's better for me if you order from me, but you can do that," she bargains.
"We'll take care of you, don't worry," and I mutter under my breath to Greg: "I'll pay you 20% to leave us the fuck alone."
Greg cackles out loud, and she shrugs and goes on to her other tables. Greg proceeds to make beer runs to the bar for the next two hours, ensuring that our cups are not tainted by the young blood in the bar.
I order a Blue Moon Belgian White, which comes with a lemon wedge on it. Greg laughs at me, but I gloat, "ah HAH! Lemon Wedge Cup Marker! Suck it!" and do a sitting dance in the booth. After a Magic Hat #9 and buffalo chicken sandwich for me, Greg, I think 3 beers ahead of me at this point, has to take off to meet his fiance uptown. He'd already put her off with a text message constructed on the fly, after I told him to make sure he avoided the MTV VMA awards in Rock Center when he took a cab uptown.
"IN A CAB, STUCK IN TRAFFIC" he enunciated word by word to me, as he typed into his phone. "MTV VMA AWARDS - GRIDLOCK" he mouthed, and shrugged, laughing. "SEND." I laughed hysterically, as Greg pondered "I have to remember not to answer the phone or she'll hear I'm in a bar."
I get the check, smile at the evolution of the Barrow Street Alehouse, and promise to myself: If they put a bouncer and a velvet rope out front, I'm finding a new home bar.
Until then, I'll meet you at Barrow Street.