Queens has been using diversity as its chief selling point for years, and there isn’t a more diverse bar than Network Cafe (108-02 72nd Avenue, Forest Hills; 718-263-5700). In the French Provençal-styled main room, the bartender’s KLA key chain jingles as she pours Courvoisier for two middle-aged Serbs sitting across from a guy on leave from a Swiss anti-armor division, while a table of Russians sing along to “Just Like a Woman.” In the downstairs lounge are Indians, Greeks, Koreans, more Russians, even a few Wasps. It’s the U.N. – if Kofi Annan served mixers that could stun a delegate. There’s free jazz Thursdays and Saturdays. Extra amusement: watching the intoxicated try to navigate the spiral staircase.
Brooks 1890 (24-28 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City; 718-937-1890) has actually been there only since 1905; the current owner has preserved the turn-of-the-century-saloon feeling with such Victorian trimmings as a 1904 Tiffany back bar, etched-glass lamps, and a 1903 oak bar. Unfortunately, the area is almost entirely commercial, and most of Brooks’s business comes from the looming Citicorp building across the street, so the place closes by eight (nine on Fridays) – after the last groggy Citihuman has cleared out – and it’s not open on weekends. But try it at happy hour or for that sweet vacation from reality that is afternoon drinking.
Rapper Lil’ Mo hits Proper Cafe (217-01 Linden Boulevard, St. Albans; 718-341-2233) for its Thursday and Sunday karaoke nights, but there’s action to be found every evening of the week. Daymond John, an owner of Fubu, suggests Proper’s Tuesday-night comedy showcase, something of a warm-up for Def Comedy Jam and Showtime at the Apollo. The pink walls and elegant glassed-in bar area take on a decidedly masculine atmosphere on Monday’s sports night. Wednesdays are for live jazz, and it’s live R&B on the weekends, when you’re expected to leave your jeans and sneakers at home.