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By Sacha Phillip

Caracas Arepa Bar

An East Village staple expands across the bridge

Caracas Arepa Bar is charting nuevo NYC-nightlife territory, with its Williamsburg “Roneria”. Boasting thirty-plus Caribbean/Latin American sipping rums, a ron-based cocktail menu, and beach shack-chic décor, Caracas brings a little bit of paradise, and a lot of warm energy, to Brooklyn.


The Roneria’s cocktails, created by mixologist Orson Salicetti, were inspired by the (fairly recent) proliferation of date-aged rums.  This refinement has elevated rum to the pantheon of “gentleman’s spirits”, and opened the door for mixologists’ artisanal experimentation. Traditionalists will enjoy the Roneria’s Rum Manhattan, while patrons who prefer the sweeter things in life may favor the fragrant Flores Daiquiri.  For an enjoyable, educational experience, connoisseurs and novices alike should try one of the rum flights.


Beyond the bar, Caracas’ Brooklyn outpost retains the essence of the East Village original. Executive Chef Iilse Parra a “Roots Reggae Authority”, embeds the rock steady origins of her favorite genre into the traditional Venezuelan dishes.  This food isn’t meant to be fast, but rather steadily savored.


There’s a Venezuelan proverb that states: “he who doesn't look ahead gets left behind.”  Caracas is in no danger of suffering that fate, as it surges past the trends.

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By Emily White

East Side Company Bar

Chinatown cocktail den
Frequently referred to as Plan B for those with sights set originally for Milk and Honey, the mellow East Side Company Bar nonetheless stands on its own.

Though the “unmarked speakeasy” has been done to death, the ESCB somehow manages to keep its edge. A small, brass nameplate on the windowless, boarded façade gleams faintly from the light of the kosher pickle shop next door. Behind a heavy curtain lies a dimly lit space hushed by the soft, haunting sounds of Massive Attack, remixed Nina Simone classics, or the DJ’s choice on weekend evenings.

A friendly bartender motions to grab a seat at the bar or follow the string of candles to the small leather booths in the back. Pressed tin walls and low ceilings reflect flickering candlelight for an intimate, cozy ambiance; the long, narrow space evokes the interior of a railcar.

In mixologist Sasha Petraske’s signature style that pays attention to fresh ingredients and tradition rather than gimmicks, bartenders pour cocktails such as Manhattans with Old Overholt rye whiskey, instead of bourbon. A list of stiff drinks off the menu or by request take time to craft, but by the last drop no one remembers the holdup that was actually the sign of a cocktail chef at work.
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The Gutter

Introducing the retro dive bowling alley

Bowling and drinking go together like Wii and weed, so when Paul Kermizian and Jon Miller, the duo behind Barcade, announced that they were bringing a retro-dive-bowling alley to Greenpoint it wasn’t hard to guess that success would follow. What’s truly impressive is the lengths they’ve gone to evoke another era. There are monochrome score trackers, injection molded seating, vintage bowling bags, and old fashioned beer lamps hanging over the bar. There’s even a 60’s era candy machine replete with Rollos and Mike & Ike’s. It’s just really comfortable. Nothing gleams, or shines, or flashes at you. No design elements are so chic they scream for attention. And there’s real comfort in knowing that if you drop a slice of pizza on your chair it’ll wipe clean. It just makes it easy to relax.

 

There’s a certain togetherness to The Gutter. It’s a fully realized idea with a balance between both the era it seeks to evoke, and the neighborhood it makes home. The music seems invariably to be that ideal blend of indie classics (Fugazi, Pixies, Sonic Youth) and bowling alley jams (Rush, Springsteen, Van Halen). The beer menu is wide ranging and craft heavy, but it comes in big bowling style pitchers. And while everything else in the entire place is vintage, the bowling shoes are brand spanking new. By carefully selecting the good from both the old and the new you get something more than just nostalgia — you get a classic.

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Pocha 32

Sochu and pojang macha in Koreatown
Tucked away above a cell phone shop in the heart of K-town, the exterior of Pocha 32 blends so readily into its surrounding that you could easily walk by it a dozen times without noticing it was there. Inside, the décor is sparse to the point it could almost be described as industrial, luckily the warmth of a cheery crowd overwhelms the ambience. This isn’t the kind of place for a quiet tête-à-tête. It’s a place where big groups of friends come to celebrate and get very, very, very drunk.

Pocha is short for pojang macha, Korean street carts which serve small and tasty dishes in endless varieties. As the English have come to understand of curry, Germans of wurst, and Americans of White Castle, Koreans appreciate the fact that the enjoyment derived from the consumption of pojang macha increases at a rate more or less equal to the square of the number of units of alcohol consumed. The proof of this dangles over your head as you dine at Pocha 32 beneath a veritable sea of sochu caps fastened to nets hanging from the ceiling.

Sochu, has no fixed recipe, it’s distilled from sources as diverse as sweet potato, rice, barley and wheat. Its name roughly translates to: made of something burning, which is as ample and unambiguous a warning as you could hope for. To take the edge off that fire, it’s mixed with everything from lemonade to yoghurt. At Pocha 32 these concoctions are served in unassuming stainless steel kettles, or in the case of watermelon sochu in the halved fruit and then portioned into cups with a ladle.

A night out at Pocha should follow a simple pattern. Drink. Eat. Drink more. Repeat until you can’t bear the thought of eating another thing. Start simple – perhaps the Dak Gok Ji (chicken skewers) or the Kimchi pancake. Match with a giant bowl of watermelon sochu. Then move onto something a little more challenging and a lot tastier, perhaps the samgyupsal ojinga (Korean style bacon and octopus). If all goes well by the time you're finished you’ll end up as one patron did at the table next to us – smiling blissfully, eyes closed, forehead resting on the table, out cold.
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Campbell Apartment

Tycoon's office to commuter's haven
In 1923 John W. Campbell – financier, captain of industry, Renaissance man, acquired a lease on one very exclusive piece of New York City real state, a 3,500 square foot room nestled into the west wing of Grand Central Station. He took the raw space and renovated it in a manner befitting the grandeur of its location. He lined the floor with Persian carpets, had artisans craft elaborate inlays into the woodwork, and artists hand paint the ceilings. And at the end of the room he placed a desk with such grand proportions and stately presence that the whims of the man behind it would engender the gravitas of royal edict.

In 1999 the Campbell apartment was renovated as a bar and by virtue of its history and opulence achieved immediate classic status. It’s the kind of bar where ordering a drink mixed with anything sweeter than soda water is viewed with suspicion, and where the dress code (collared shirts and dress shoes) is rigidly enforced even when the bar is all but empty. This is rarely the case on weekdays when between 5pm and 9pm it’s deluged with commuters from the many nearby investment banks grabbing a few stiff drinks before heading home. But come here on a weekend, and you can frequently find yourself alone with the bartender. Take a seat at the bar in front of the enormous windows overlooking Vanderbilt Avenue. Place an order befitting the space, something richly textured, classic and more than a bit indulgent, perhaps a measure of Oban or Laphroaig. Now hold the heavy glass in your hand and let the immediate luxury of your current circumstance dissolve the tensions of the day precisely as John W. Campbell did almost a century ago.
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