Two Irish enclaves that offer
plenty of off-the-beaten-path pub-hopping.
Delancey and 125th Sts.
Both are main arteries that run parallel in historically
rich districts of Manhattan. Both end in bridges. And both are gentrifying
rapidly. But uptown, you'll find jazz, dreadlocks and Bill Clinton;
while downtown, it's java, drinking haunts and Clinton Street.
BY RAVEN SNOOK
PHOTOGRAPHED BY KATE APPLETON
Meat market: The shops of the Essex Street Market.
Spaced out: The tiny Progressive Unlimited is packed.
Seductive smells of incense and oils beckon passersby into
this unmarked sliver of a store, which is jam-packed with
African-influenced art, clothing, jewelry and home accessories.
Owner Chink Pope makes sure her boutique appeals to long-time
area residentsbut she's also trying to attract affluent
transplants and visiting tourists. She hand picks every item
herself and carries a large selection of low-priced works
crafted by local artists, including trendy wall sconces shaped
like trees and sophisticated silk suits stenciled with tribal
(14 E. 125th St. between Fifth and Madison
Aves.; 212-427-7084; Hours: Mon.-Sat. 12:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.)
Pull up a chair: The Zebra Room at Lenox.
Sharply dressed patrons devour Southern-styled soul food along
with jazz in this legendary supper club. Billie Holiday, Miles
Davis and John Coltrane all played here. From the vibrant
multicolored tile floor in the front bar to the Art Deco-appointed
Zebra Room in the back, this classic club is rich in music
history. Of course, all this vintage glamour comes at a very
modern price: Entrees and music cover charges start at $15
(288 Lenox Ave. between 124th and 125th
Sts.; 212-427-0253; lenoxlounge.com)
The Studio Museum
Featuring works by contemporary artists of color, The Studio
Museum, in its new digs since 2001, is continuing to expand
its two floors of galleries, artist studios and outdoor sculpture
garden. The museum storewith art by Harlem Renaissance
photographer James Van Der Zeeis one of the best museum
gift shops in the city.
(144 W. 125th St. between Lenox Ave.
and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.; 212-864-4500, studiomuseum.org;
Hours: Wed.-Fri. noon - 6 p.m.; Sat. 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Sun.
noon - 6 p.m.; closed Mon. - Tue.)
The Apollo Theater
You can't write about 125th Street without mentioning the
Apollo. Since opening in 1934, this stately theater has attracted
performers of all creeds and colorsfrom Ella Fitzgerald
to The Beatles. Now in its 70th year, it's home to performers
like Lauryn Hill, The Strokes, the American Ballet, and the
theater's signature amateur night (Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m.).
The Apollo is in the final stages of a much-needed facelift.
(253 W. 125th St. between Adam Clayton
Powell, Jr. and Frederick Douglass Blvds.; 212-531-5301; apollotheater.com)
You'll want to kiss the grits at this gloriously greasy old-school
soul food haven, just prepare to enter a time warp: the counters
are Formica, the walls are wood paneling, the waitresses wear
hairnets and the jukebox doesn't play any tunes post-1970.
Fried whitefish, meatloaf smothered in gravy, buttery collard
greens and artery-clogging macaroni and cheese scare the Atkins'
crowd, and office neighbor Bill Clinton reportedly loves the
(383 W. 125th St. between Morningside
and St. Nicholas Aves.; 212-864-7326; Mon.-Fri. open 24 hours, Sat. and Sun until 11 p.m.)
Essex Street Market
So many pushcart peddlers littered the Lower East Side in
the 1930s that Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia created this indoor
market to get them off the narrow streets. Following a recent
$1.5 million renovation, this multiculti mall is still bustling
with 24 food, clothing and tchotchke stands reflecting the
'hood's primarily Latino population. Looking for spices and
canned goods? Drop by Batista Grocery, which specializes in
hard-to-find ethnic items. Luis's Meat Market proffers choice
cuts of protein, including more esoteric selections like rabbit,
goat, duck and oxtail. If you prefer making reservations to
making a meal, we recommend the "Liquid Brunch" at Essex Restaurantit
comes with three complimentary cocktails. Finally, fill up
on culture at the Cuchifritos Art Gallery, which features
the work of local artists.
(120 Essex St. between Rivington and
Delancey Sts.; 212-312-3603 or 212-388-0449; essexstreetmarket.com;
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. although individual vendor
hours may vary.)
Don't let the leftover Ratner's sign hanging above the Delancey
door fool you; this ain't your grandmother's old-time kosher
restaurant. Lansky's owners gave the place a swanky makeover,
moved the official entrance to Norfolk Street and now mix
milk with meat. Every night, flush hipsters of all creeds
fill up on rib-eye steak and drinks named after famous Jewish
mobsters before heading to the basement for an underground
DJ party that would make your grandma plotz.
(104 Norfolk St. between Rivington and
Delancey Sts.; 212-677-9489; lanskylounge.com)
Buzzed: The coffee bar at Alchemy 106
Alchemy 106 / Lan Labs
Forget those old-school, hole-in-the-wall arcades packed with
prepubescent boys playing Pac-Man. This ultra-mod, two-story
cyber café caters to 21st-century gamers with multiple Xbox
and GameCube consoles hooked up to plasma TV screens, and
caffeinated concoctions guaranteed to triple your heart rate.
Downstairs, troglodytes sip espressos while checking their
e-mail. Upstairs, hardcore geeks do virtual combat in a darkened
room blasting techno. If you think Halo is something saints
have over their heads, you're best off sticking to the ground
(106 Delancey St. between Essex and
Ludlow Sts.; 212-358-8574; Hours: Mon.-Wed. 8a.m. - midnight;
Thu.-Fri. 8 a.m. -3 a.m., Sat. 9 a.m. - 3 a.m., Sun. 10 a.m.
- 10 p.m.)
Motor City Bar
This Detroit-themed dive attracts leather-clad hipsters with
its hardcore jukebox, cheap drinks and laid-back attitude.
Unlike the trendier haunts popping up in the LES, the watering
hole boasts a gritty, rebellious vibe reminiscent of the district's
days as an immigrant haven. Of course, today's neighborhood
newbies are more likely to hail from Pennsylvania than Poland.
(127 Ludlow St. between Rivington and
Delancey Sts.; 212-358-1595)
Table talk: Upstairs balcony at the Bowery
Completed in 1929 just weeks before Black Tuesday sparked
the Great Depression, this Beaux-Arts building was home to
a haberdashery, jewelry boutique and shoe store before being
reinvented as a state-of-the-art concert venue in the late
1990s. With superior sight lines, impeccable acoustics and
two impressively well-stocked bars, Bowery Ballroom hosts
some of the hottest concert gigs in town: indie up-and-comers
like The Raveonettes, legends like Patti Smith and bigwigs
like Metallica looking for street cred. But, if you know music, you knew that
(6 Delancey St. at Bowery; 212-533-2111;