If you had to whack a mob boss, you'd probably take him to this Little Italy gem. At least that's the popular wisdom: Donnie Brasco, The Sopranos, and Law & Order have all set scenes in this bar, and plenty of photos capture the moment, among them one of Frank Sinatra from Contract on Cherry Street. Formerly called Mare Chiaro, the place has a social club décor that's barely changed since it opened in 1908: a towering, ornate wooden back bar with inset mirrors at the top, a subway tile floor, and swaths of pressed tin along the ceiling and walls. When its previous owner moved to Florida in 2003, Little Italy native Ed Welsh bought it because, he says, he always wanted a place to drink for free. He's nudged it up to date by installing three plasma screen TVs and adding beer on tap, a full menu (pastas, burgers, pizzas), and weekend karaoke, but kept the soulful jukebox, filled with the Four Tops, Connie Francis, Elvis, and of course Old Blue Eyes. The bartender mixes a lively mango cosmo and tops a dirty martini with nice, fat olives as he serves the enduring gold-necklaced regulars, sports fans, and yuppie sightseers among the eclectic clientele.
Picnics with a view, roller-skating nostalgia, and a party for gay headbangers.