What’s more disturbing: down-on-their-luck transients passed out drunk in the middle of the sidewalk, pants pissed, baking in the afternoon sun? Or young, attractive scenesters, shaking hands with clipboard-wielding doormen, slapping down gold cards, and partying like it’s 1985? If you prefer saccharine and excessive over seedy and depressing, then the Bowery of today is the perfect place to cut loose and pretend that all’s well with the world.
One of the area’s latest additions is the upscale and trendy MISSION (217 Bowery, 212-473-3113), not to be confused with the Bowery Mission—one serves expensive vodka martinis ($10) with pitted olives on the side (at least it did on a recent Tuesday night), and the other provides food and shelter to some of the city’s homeless. The club’s main level offers thumping hip-hop to a mixed crowd of blingin’ twenty- and thirtysomethings, who seem to glow in the purplish lights emanating from dark wood pillars. “It’s getting hot in here,” I said to an attractive woman within earshot. Yet she was too busy eyeing a more commanding gentleman sipping champagne in front of a fiery orange and red screen (reminiscent of an OP T-shirt sunset) in the elevated V.I.P. section. In the dark, candlelit basement, I felt like a dad busting into a high school kegger. The crowd was Vice magazine come to life—all trucker hats and skate wear—and the kids were too cool to dance, despite the ’80s punk and new wave the DJ was spinning. The party was called “Get Your Rocks Off,” but my rocks didn’t even tingle until I downed a few shots of Sauza ($7) and a couple of Heinekens ($6)—I guess that’s what it takes for a bitter old fuck to get into the spirit of the Bowery. —Ken Switzer
The color orange is said to stimulate the appetite, which may be the reason that neighborhood newcomer ORANGE VALVE (355 Bowery, 212-979-1818) has paid homage to this hungriest of shades. It backs up the ploy with an array of yummy dishes, like crab cakes ($6) and drumsticks ($5), which range from American to Japanese to Italian(?!). Order one of the bar’s inspired cocktails: The OV house drink (amaretto, sloe gin, vodka, and orange juice; $6.50) is a fruity concoction that the bartender was very happy to hear we liked, and Christopher’s Lichee Martini ($7.50) is also a sweet little number. Recessed lighting, dark wood, and faux-bronze tables add to the warming effect. There’s even a countrified round table with a mixed-fruit basket and a hidden cove for secret lovers. Now, if only they’d forgo the Canadian-esque club music and show their true colors; after all, they have an address to live up to. —Grace Bastidas
Now that the Bowery is the destination for slumming hipsters, real estate prices are getting scarier than a night spent at one of the avenue’s notorious flophouses. Leave it to MARION’S CONTINENTAL (354 Bowery, 212-475-7621)—the longtime purveyor of ’40s glamour and well-shaken dry martinis—to buck the trend with two new spaces evocative of illicit Prohibition-era speakeasies. There’s nothing like bans on smoking and dancing to turn commoners into criminals, and both downstairs gay bar the SLIDE (354 Bowery) and upstairs cabaret room the MARQUEE (356 Bowery) conjure a heady New York symptomatic of these drunker times. In other words, we haven’t had this much fun in ages! The dark, narrow basement quarters of the divey Slide, with its male go-go dancers, healthy beer selection ($3-$5), and communal urinal troughs, epitomize old-fashioned sleaze. The Marquee doesn’t fare badly in the anything-goes department, either: Bombshells in tittie tassels, midgets in full Kiss regalia, and hunks in the buff have all graced the glitter-strewn stage, providing the night’s eye-popping entertainment in exchange for a nominal cover charge. Now, that’s what we call down-and-out! —C. Spartos