By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
On the classic game show Beat the Clock, couples raced against time to accomplish feats of balance and dexterity. With all-you-can-drink happy hours, the idea is similar—except motor skills deteriorate in the process. The ground rules at this lively Lower East Side tapas joint are as follows: On weekends, for $20 you get toast, a salad or home fries, and an entrée (like an omelet, eggs Benedict, or whole-wheat pancakes), along with a two-hour window of an opportunity to mainline mimosas, Bloody Marys, and screwdrivers. Throngs of patrons may necessitate sitting at the bar, but you ventured into this Iberian den of exposed brick and velvet drapery to drink. Remember how the triumphant couple on the TV show entered the "Swirling Whirlwind of Cash and Prizes"? You'll get sucked into the "Swirling Whirlwind of Afternoon Intoxication," while potentially losing your cell phone.
Well before the enormously popular Habana Outpost turned warm-weather weekends on the corner of Fulton and South Portland into an Afro-chic Mardi Gras, Moe's was a nightlife crucible for the colliding worlds of old-school Fort Greene, urban bohemianism, and yuppification. Sociological interests notwithstanding, it's a standard neighborhood watering hole: polished wooden bar, compact dance floor in the back, and plenty of eccentric but familiar local faces. Moe's can become a teeming Earth, Wind & Fire–fueled meat market in the evenings, but during the day, patrons leisurely sip two-for-one drafts and $5 frozen drinks—making it an ideal jumping-off point from which to stagger toward the Brooklyn Flea in search of kimchee-laced wieners and friendly people to copulate with.
304 East 6th Street (at Second Avenue), New York, NY 10003, 212-253-5888, mayahuelny.com
Mezcal may have been last year's "it" spirit, but the smoky, complex liquor remains eminently more interesting than Patrón in almost any incarnation. The closest thing New York has to an upscale mezcalaria, this sultry two-level East Village haunt, from the creators of Death & Co., does the whole "painstakingly crafted cocktail" thing with a Mexican shake (the "Stone Raft," for example, blends jalapeño-infused tequila, mezcal, sherry, nectar, and celery bitters). On Sundays, from 2 p.m. until midnight, such concoctions cost 10 bucks—that's $3 or $4 cheaper than normal—and tacos are just a dollar. For learning the language of mezcal, this is an ideal immersion program.
Lower East Side
158 Ludlow Street (between Rivington and Stanton), New York, NY 10002, 212-505-3733, pianosnyc.com
On Friday nights, an influx of jerks wearing Oxford shirts and glassy-eyed jerkettes wearing tiaras turns the intersection of Ludlow and Stanton into Beelzebub's anus. Piano's, caught in the undertow of this wretched bowel movement, can be an unbearable mess. But during the afternoon, the bar, restaurant, and performance venue is a winner: Scruffy skaters, LES artistes, and hooky-playing yuppies slam $4 frozen margaritas until 7 p.m.—making it a reasonable surrogate for the mythically rad but now-banned portable beverages from nearby El Sombrero. "No one would expect me to be here," says frequent visitor Jah-Jah, a vocalist from electro-punk outfit Ninjasonik. "But all the staff are derelicts like me, and I can bag hot Midtown babes." Put down a cheeseburger with a $3 pint of beer and escape, Persephone-style, before things descend into hellishness.
51 East Houston Street (at Mott), New York, NY 10012, 212-226-8844
Despite a name reminiscent of an Italian trattoria (or Pepperidge Farm cookies), Milano's is a proudly Celtic establishment—just peep the prominently displayed poster of Liam Neeson brandishing a rifle in Michael Collins behind the bar. Black-and-white photos of boxers, racehorses, and baseball teams of yore clutter the walls of this narrow LES dive, but the spirit of antiquity applies to the staff and eccentric cast of regulars, too. "I always have a box of wine at home," says a man eating a sandwich at the bar. Later, the matronly bartender rants about a skinflint custie: "Fuck 'em," she says in an Irish lilt. "If you can't tip the bartender, you can't drink here. Go back to your miserable little home and drink alone." Fair enough. Those who know how to behave in a classic bar can knock a buck off every drink from 4 to 7 p.m. on weekdays.
With a rounded bar of polished wood, dark blue booths, and circular port windows, Lure is a luxury liner moored beneath the Soho sidewalk. Accordingly, the reasons to visit are oceanic: From 5 to 7 p.m., oysters and littleneck clams—served magnificently on tundras of crushed ice—are a dollar a pop. The mollusks are the clear price-point winner, but the drinks are reasonable ($5 Kirin, Brooklyn Lager, and Corona; $7 lime-spiked grapefruit margaritas; $6 wine). It's a button-down, business-class crowd here, and one that gloms up most of the available seating by roughly 5:30. "They know the happy hour because they come every day," the bartender says of his regulars. By Great Poseidon's trident, make reservations to ensure crustaceans.