Well I'll tell you my friend.
The fact is I have spent a lot of time visiting bars, saloons, taverns and pubs. I've been in front of the bar, on top of a bar and behind the bar. When I say behind the bar, I don't just mean sticking my head under a tap when the bar keep wasn't watching but rather, I tended bar during college.
Throughout my years frequenting bars I developed the following list of requirements and considerations, which I employ when evaluating a drinking establishment. If a place can provide most of my list then I then pass that info on to you in the form of a half-assed review here on pop-o-matic.
1. The establishment must serve booze! Before you leave this page in disgust over what seems like such an obvious requirement that the rest of this list will probably suck, let me explain. I don't know about you, but I can't claim to have visited every bar in the world. Its a big world and I'm sure there are some places where the people may define an establishment, such as a coffee house, as a bar. I imagine in other parts of the world, perhaps Utah, there are even bars that serve nothing buy soft drinks. Rest assured, if I ever find myself in one of these frightening locations, you will not read about it in the pop-o-matic Bar Report.
2. Does the libation location poses ample seating or at least enough room to claim an area with plenty of leaning options while not getting bounced about by crowds. I'll admit it, I'm lazy. I like to sit while I drink. If I can't sit, I at least want to be able to lean on something or put my foot up on the rung of somebodies chair, as long as that somebody is part of my party. If I have to stand around without support of any kind, you can bet I won't be staying for more than two beers.
3. What does the bar look like? I can have fun at any drinking establishment from the diveiest hole in the wall to the latest Schragar hotel lobby concept but there better be something for me to look at. I don't care if the drinking room has a collection of dust that began settling before prohibition or a diving tank mounted behind the bar with people in mermaid costumes swimming under water, there better be something interesting about the bar's decor.
4. Aside from me and my drunken friends, what sort of entertainment does the place provide? Juke-boxes are ideal, especially if it's like the one at Yogi's on the Upper West Side. Bands are great, TVs are nice, and even the bartender's iPod plugged into the speaker system will do. There just has to be some sort of background noise other than the people in the bar.
5. What's the crowd like? I certainly wouldn't want to limit my going out experiences to places that strictly serve a clientele of me clones. However, I would no sooner willingly enter a bar full of neo-Nazis as I would a bar packed with bankers. I like a good mix of people who are all out with the same goal - to have a good time without interfering in anyone elses good time. I rarely, if ever, strike up a conversation with strangers but some of the best times I've had in bars have been when when my group ends up hanging out with another fun group or person at the bar.
Now that you know my criteria, I'd like to introduce a new section of the pop-o-matic Bar Report, where I will tell you about a bar you should never go to. This was actually Jenni B's idea and it was born after a particularly terrible happy hour last week.
The bar is the Bryant Park Cafe located in Bryant Park. Yes, the establishment serves booze but that's about all it has to offer of my requirements. This place was packed to the gills last Tuesday, which resulted in a complete lack of seating or leaning, unless you include being propped up by the crowd as leaning (I don't). If there was music I couldn't hear it over the crowd and that's where the bar received it's biggest strike in my book. There seemed to be two main factions of people here - giudos and Wall St. types. In all my years of public drinking, I've never experienced an odder dichotomy of people or larger gap between myself and the rest of the crowd.
So for all these reasons and more, I have to advise you to steer clear of the Bryant Park Cafe.