Ah, Passover. A time for remembrance and contemplation. A time for finding a stray hair in Aunt Julie’s matzo balls and wondering if it’s the “secret ingredient” she’s always bragging about. And best of all, a time for drinking four glasses of wine at dinner in front of your parents and getting away with it (hey, the Haggadah said to). Let us now consider the less fortunate members of the Liquid City family, those bars which are, so to speak, “passed over” by the drinkerati in favor of more chic, more sleek, more populated saloons. What’s wrong with these woefully unchosen bars, you ask, which get but little custom? Why must they swallow the bitter herbs of rejection night after night?
It’s time to change all that. I say, let my people go . . . to the WHISKEY WARD (121 Essex Street, 477-2998). There’s always an empty chair for Elijah in this sizable, stylish boozerie, equipped with pool table, ace jukebox, and enough complimentary peanuts to feed an army of martini quaffers (not to mention Stampy the Elephant). I’m a convert because it’s the only nightspot where I can afford to guzzle champagne (Veuve du Vernay Brut, $6), yet the Ward welcomes worshipers of all faiths, even tawny-port fanciers ($7) and boutique-bourbon fiends (13 brands). Presiding over all is a dude who looks like a member of Korn but is sweet as a glass of Manischewitz—just the sort to tend to one’s spirit (if not spiritual) needs.
The Exodus has already occurred at LOUNGE 179 (179 Essex Street, 260-5515), which was deserted last I visited, apart from a bartender playing Nintendo. Despite its hospitable red interior and velvet love seats, passersby avoid 179 like the plague, possibly because it lacks a hard-liquor license. Besides beer and wine, the lounge serves sake cocktails such as the “saquiri” ($6) and the fruity “sake breeze” ($6). Sadly, tonight’s high point is watching video games on the TV. Angel of Death, take me now!
Passed over in favor of the better-known Scratcher down the block, FISH BAR (237 East 5th Street, 475-4949) continues to ply its trade—not to grizzled old tars returning with the day’s catch, but to landlubbers like me and my mates (who appropriately drink like the proverbial fish). An anchor dangles overhead, while marine blue banquettes, walls, and ceiling surround us: It’s like being under the sea, only dryer and more alcoholic. As you’d expect, the place is adorned with all manner of aquatic life-forms, except for gefilte fish. Inspired by the net draped over the window and festooned with barnacles (OK, colored lights), we say a blessing over that traditional libation of sailor folk, whiskey (Jameson’s, $5.50). It might not be kosher, but it still tastes divine.