When it comes to decent food and drink and a little light social intercourse, New York is all about options. Happily, with the 462 zillion establishments serving up refreshment of varying sorts, there’s no need for residents to favor ever encroaching chains such as TGI Friday’s, Olive Garden, and Applebee’s over the homegrown and unique. Though tourists may find their way to
Prohibition (503 Columbus Avenue) and be welcomed with open arms, it’s unlikely that they’ll ever edge out the languorous, well-heeled Upper West Siders who frequent this spot. First off, it’s too obscure and unfabulous to attract seekers of “real New York” nightlife; in fact, its worn wide-plank floors, slightly shabby faux-deco decor, and nightly roster of uninspiring musical acts (’80s hair-metal cover bands, tame singer-songwriters) seem almost calculated to keep the ersatz glitterati away (though rumor has it this spot is a post-taping hangout for certain soap stars). The back room features a large, red-felted pool table—the clatter from which surely renders intimate dining unlikely.
But these minor annoyances, planned or not, are eclipsed by the bar’s excellent service, food that’s a notch or two better than it needs to be, and very reasonable prices. Locals come to savor Prohibition’s funky (given its posh location) atmosphere, graze on the bar’s delicious mini-cheeseburgers and other snacks, and occasionally sing along with the generic rock bands that grace the small stage.
Recently, we spent an early evening lounging at the bar’s coveted front tables, enjoying a delicious spring breeze as it slithered through the French windows that open onto bright, busy Columbus Avenue. I was in the mood for something sweet and slightly absurd, so the “signature” mango mojito ($11) appealed—its minty, opalescent orange tint a perfect reflection of the gathering sunset; the more prudent in my party opted for favorites from the well-stocked imported-beer menu (Stella Artois, etc., $6–$7) and wine list. After this I moved on to the potent frozen strawberry margarita, which resembled the gory remnants of a slasher movie, stuffed in a prettily frosted glass—it tasted like heaven. With a few of these under my proverbial belt, even the surreal, oversize print of Jazz Age diva Josephine Baker—sporting only a perfectly shingled bob and a skirt of voluptuous bananas—looked perfectly natural.
Other low-key bars to shoot some 8-ball at