Sun-Thu, 5pm-2am; Fri-Sat, 5pm-4am
F at Second Ave.; 6 at Astor Pl.
The East Village has changed a lot since 1990, when Big Bar opened, but the passage of time and gentrification seem to have stopped at the borders of the bar's cool little red-lit room. As old blues tunes play, five black vinyl booths (Big Bar is actually tiny) fill early in the evening with conversation-minded patrons who like the lights low and the vibe mellow. Ten stools surround the miniature bar where, as often as not, the bartender with brown-plaited hair serves drinks with a "no fuss, no muss" philosophy. Neither a dive nor a lounge, it is a pleasant little spot with a solid selection of scotch, a single beer on tap (currently Sam Adams), and music set at a volume that you can easily hear what your date just whispered in the dark.
Picnics with a view, roller-skating nostalgia, and a party for gay headbangers.