End of Days

Seems like all the cool kids are hanging out in Bushwick and Ridgewood (and, I predict, Glendale soon enough) these days. It’s almost more than your South Brooklyn correspondent can handle. Luckily, I am an intrepid and dedicated reporter.

The Bad Old Days (whose name I must confess I don’t really care for (better than Good Old Days, I guess; glamorizing crime and grime isn’t really my thing)) is a solid new entry to the bar scene. Located just a couple blocks from Myrtle-Wyckoff’s junction of the L and M trains, it’s got a cozy living room atmosphere (with entertaining bathroom wallpaper for the urban-history-inclined of us), reasonable prices and, most importantly, damn tasty drinks.

I especially liked the Winter Vixen, with its mix of rosemary-infused gin, cranberry, and Lillet. It struck just the right note of holiday cheer while remaining light and refreshing, appropriate for our apocalyptically hot December. I also enjoyed the Manhattan Special. Its mixture of rye and maple reminded me of the day I really got into cocktails in the first place, dragging my then-pretty-new boyfriend on a mad trek across Williamsburg and Greenpoint to Dutch Kills after reading about a similar concoction in a magazine. Four years later, we are cocktail experts, while rye and maple (and a coffee ice cube!) remain as winning a combination as ever.

Not so far away from Bad Old Days, in a very different sort of atmosphere, is the tasty Amaranto (recently acclaimed by the New York Times). Though I was drawn in by the tamale mentioned by Ms. Mishan, what really won me over was the tostada, a perfect mix of textures with crab, avocado, fennel, radish, and tortilla crunch. The stuffed avocado was less beautiful to behold but just as tasty. My elote and mezcal cocktail, garnished with a corncob, was an enjoyable foray into savory drinks; while the blackberry flan we had for dessert was creamy and delicious. I look forward to more trips back up to the Brooklyn/Queens border.

The Bad Old Days, 1684 Woodbine Street, Ridgewood

Amaranto, 887 Hart Street, Bushwick




Shifting alliances

The Upper East Side is not exactly my favorite neighborhood. If you know me, you will know the extent to which that’s an understatement. But sometimes an intriguing establishment will induce me to make the trek uptown; and sometimes it’s worth it.

I recently experienced one such success when I stopped by Eli’s Night Shift, the new bar from Eli Zabar (the new Za-bar?). Unlike so many places in Manhattan, the atmosphere is inviting, with a ton of windows; and the service is friendly–my bartender immediately inquired about my reading material (These Shallow Graves, if you’re interested), and it turned out he’d just read another book with the same setting.

The list of drinks is similarly approachable, but still intriguing. The bar features beers from New York City-area brewers, including my favorite, Transmitter, and other good options like Gun Hill and Grimm. (And there was nary an Other Half in sight, at least when I visited; in my opinion, Other Half is the most wildly overrated brewery around. More about that another time, perhaps.) Prices are somewhat high (do fairly straightforward beers really merit an $8 price tag? I guess things are more expensive in NYC’s frozen northlands) though the selection is top-notch.

But I came for cocktails, and I was not disappointed. The Last Shift was an elixir of such comforts as bourbon, pumpkin, and milk; the Blue Vest, a beautiful concoction of gin and prickly pear shrub. While I don’t usually like cucumber, the garnish was resplendent, and played well with the botanical flavors of the gin.

I also don’t usually care for potato chips, but the free ones on offer at the Night Shift were so tasty that I may have to reconsider my position. The rest of the food menu looked good as well, but was obviated by the heaping basket of chips.

Luckily, once you just can’t stand being above 23rd Street anymore, you can make a quick exit: the Night Shift is just a short hop away from the 6 train and the Lexington Avenue buses, so you can easily head home, taking your grudgingly positive feelings about the Upper East Side with you.

Eli’s Night Shift, 189 East 79th Street, Upper East Side