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East Houston Street Pub Crawl

Coarse and utilitarian Houston is looking a bit shinier these days, if a little more coldly corporate. Joining the luxury apartments and soon-to-open Whole Foods at Avalon Chrystie Place are a handful of new bars that are almost upscale.

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Illustration by Kanika Rehani.

Nolita House
Does Nolita House aspire to Soho House’s level of sophisticated debauchery or mock it? The curated wine list and artisanal cheese plates—introductory, intermediate and adventurous—suggest a certain level of urbanity; rock-themed cocktails and the blare of Lynyrd Skynyrd suggest otherwise. But whether sipping a glass of Rioja ($7) or slurping a London Calling (a flavorful clash of champagne, brandy, and maraschino cherries for $9), each habitue is as well-behaved as the Shaker-inspired schoolhouse furniture. A space which once housed the rule-breaking Knitting Factory is now attracting a well-scrubbed crowd and keeping genteel closing hours.
•47 E. Houston St., between Mulberry and Mott Sts.; 212-625-1712; Mon-Thu, 5 p.m.-11 p.m.; Fri, 5 p.m.-1 a.m.; Sat, noon-1 a.m.; Sun, noon-11 p.m.


White Rabbit
With its spotless, sleekly minimalist interior, White Rabbit offers a bit of welcome relief from the grime and bustle of Houston Street. On the pan-Latin/pan-Asian menu, otherwise ordinary grilled shrimp ($7) benefits from a dab of hot Sriracha sauce and even more from a Ginger Spice Martini ($9), while Cuban sandwiches ($7) find a worthy complement in the Paradise Cocktail (rum, coconut rum, mango and lime; $9-$10). If the art exhibits, house DJs, and occasional films (on flat screen, naturally) never quite attain the magic of Alice’s wonderland, the bar’s unique Manhattan ($9-$11), with its sweet southern synergy of Kentucky bourbon and Georgia peaches, will have you smiling like a Cheshire cat nevertheless.
•145 E. Houston St., between Forsyth and Eldridge Sts.; 212-477-5005; Sun-Thu, 6 p.m.-2 a.m.; Fri-Sat, 6 p.m.-4 a.m.

Martignetti Liquors
Martignetti Liquors shares its name with a large New England liquor distributor, but if you’re looking to do some hard drinking in a bar with the timeworn appeal of the North End, look elsewhere. Palm-leaf wallpaper and Japanese lanterns reference the tropics more than Boston, and the background music bypasses the nostalgic appeal of Bobby Darin or Bing Crosby for a blend of hip hop and retro rock. The cumulative effect can feel like hanging out in your friend’s parents’ half-heartedly decorated rec room. A rum and coke ($6) may warm you up to its appeal.
•159 E. Houston St., between Eldridge and Allen Sts.; 212-995-0330; Tue-Sat, 9 p.m.-4 a.m.

Vasmay Lounge
Lesbian hotspot Meow Mix has gone to kitty heaven. In its place is the reincarnated Vasmay Lounge. Having formerly anchored this corner of Houston back in the Lower East Side’s bad old days, this divey bar—spruced up with country-kitchen touches—is neither as gritty as its former self nor as girl-powered as its one-time replacement. But it’s a welcome guys-night-out spot for listening to the rock and punk jukebox (or sometimes live music) while chugging Bass ($6), Sam Adams ($5) and PBR ($3).
•269 E. Houston St. At Suffolk St. 212-228-0820; daily, noon-4 a.m.


Related:

  • Archive: “Bar Buzz
  • From the Mar 15, 2005 issue of New York
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