Where can you have a drink in peace? Even taverns like Pete’s, the Old Town, and Molly’s – all cozy-looking and dripping with history – are noisy with loud drinkers, TVs, and blaring music. “That’s the thing that’s lost with a lot of places,” says a perturbed Denis Leary, who favors the Dublin House (225 West 79th Street; 874-9528) for a quiet Jamesons and beer. “You can’t sit and have a conversation.” Fellow actor and gentleman drinker Chris Eigeman agrees. “I’m really over the whole screaming-at-the-person-you’re-sitting-next-to stuff,” he says. He’ll only drink at establishments that can provide him with a stool. “Listen, if the question is ‘What’s the best bar to have a conversation in?’ my answer is Windows on the World,” Eigeman says. “If the question is ‘What’s the best bar to overhear a conversation in?’ then it’s the Corner Bistro 331 West 4th Street; 242-9502.” Eigeman even recommends Windows (1 World Trade Center; 524-7011) on Saturday night: “It’s totally pleasant. It’s the polar opposite of the Old Town or the Ear Inn, but you can always find a seat, the bartenders are great, and you have a nice view.”
Former Lion’s Head bartender Paul Schiffman never bothered to find another hangout when the Lion’s Head closed in 1996. But there is one place both the 72-year-old former Merchant Marine captain and New York Magazine have fallen for: the International Bar (120 1/2 First Avenue; 777-9244). It has the right vibe: long, narrow bar; no TV; jukebox at a pleasant volume; no pretension among the regulars, whose faces glow in the Christmas lights strung up behind the bar. On a recent visit, Schiffman greets his shot with uncharacteristic glee: “Look at the size of that! It’s a triple! Well, a good double, anyway!” Then he takes a window seat, lights a Lucky, and starts talking.