The Boot n’ Rally Rally: One Man, One Night, Every Bar in Morningside
Written by Bwog Staff
Last night before classes start–what’s a first-year to do? Venturing out of the neighborhood is expensive and spooky, and the West End is shut down for Cubanization. It’s time for a guide to the nightlife in Morningside Heights, or as Bwog contributor Addison Anderson calls it, the M.H., or as he also calls it, The Meh. Read on for the bangingest bar crawl ever recorded!
On Friday night, I went on a bar-burning tour of every Columbia watering hole, roughly from south to north. I named this epic pub crawl the Boot n’ Rally Rally. Here’s how it works: I review my experience at the bar and assign a score using the facial expression I would make if you asked me, “Hey, Addison, you wanna go to [the bar in question]?” Then I give an explanatory quote that comes out of that face. These pictures were taken in order, so make a flipbook and watch me get faced. And no, I didn’t have a drink at every bar because I would have died. I’m lil’, and the doctor doesn’t tell me my weight in pounds; he says I weigh a hundred and one gumdrops and half a lollipop. Now let’s rally!
Here I am at the start of the night, with one black hoodie and negative one shower, the perfect look and smell for drinking a lot and alone. My adventures start after the jump!
Underground Lounge – West End Ave. between 106th and 107th
The Underground Lounge’s two rooms are full of leg-and-elbow room and easy conversation. Its got something for everyone: there’s a jukebox with Bob Marley and Lou Reed in rotation, a TV for sports, a late night kitchen serving personal pizzas, a covered nook for smokers, and comedy shows in the second room. Filling out the “everyone” side of the equation, the bar pulls in a wide range of genial people, equal parts undergrads, grad students, and local residents. The older folks seemed settled and secure, and decidedly lecher-free. Prices were okay: a vodka tonic was four bucks, you can get five Rolling Rocks for $10, and the comedy shows have a two drink minimum but no cover charge. It could use some 1020-style booths, but as is it’s great for groups, long visits, and laid back fun. And the bouncer is cool.
Hey Addison, you wanna go to the Underground Lounge?
“Oh my, what a rare choice for an undergrad! I’m pleasantly surprised by your adventurousness and lack of pretense, and pleasantlier surprised-ier by this wonderful establishment! How novel!”
O’Connell’s Pub, corner of 108th and Broadway
O’Connell’s is the sports bar for ex-high school athletes and the college athletes they want to hang out with. It’s packed with weekend warriors and women who would be very attractive if they didn’t look so simultaneously annoyed yet forgiving. This place is good for a guys’ night out, if you want to try to live out that “Guys’ Night Out!!!” ad campaign from a few levels of cultural dignity ago. There are way too many faded, buckle-adjusted baseball hats worn inside O’Connell’s, but thinning hair sucks so bad, especially for ex-second string quarterbacks. I wouldn’t drink here, but if you come, get pitchers of Coors, Bud Lite, or Black & Tan for $8. That’s cheap, and that’s the one bright spot I found. Go State!
Hey Addison, you wanna go to O’Connell’s Pub?
“I am mad at you, and at myself. That bar is a stereotype, but by not liking it, I am also a stereotype. I’m going to go eat bread and read.”
Roadhouse, and I don’t feel like saying where it is
Okay, it’s next to Mona and owned by Mona’s owner, but perhaps only as a bizarre yet effective way to encourage people to go to Mona. No one was there, no one’s ever there. It’s a big, empty, red plywood shack. A handful of old guys tried to flirt with the good-natured lady tending the barren bar. I got a PBR for two bucks and let the sad, slow early eighties love songs on the jukebox roll over me, thinking that maybe, just maybe, Roadhouse is the place for the loners and the broken-hearted, the down-and-out in this sick brawl we call life. I was all ready to sulk and ponder my lost loves, when one of the old guys says, “Hey, do y’all remember when that albino black guy peed on the bar?” Sometimes awful isn’t edgy or romantic but just awful.
Hey Addison, you wanna go to Roadhouse?
“Whoa, let’s talk. Do you want to talk? What happened to you? It’s okay to tell me. She left you? And she took your DVDs? You want to kill yourself in the bathroom of Roadhouse?! No! No. Listen, I’m your friend. I am your friend and I want you to live. I want you to live.”
1020, corner of 110th and Amsterdam
1020 is a family-friendly pub, but just for the family you make in college. Try to get a booth or stake out the front table or back mezzanine with your friends, since the narrowness of the place makes for quite a few bumps and near-spills. Meeting your friends here and adding to your party as the night goes on is a typical experience, not because I’m Captain Friends-a lot but because a lot of people I know use 1020 as a sort of home base for their night in The Meh, and all my friends love to drink. The crowd is almost all undergrads and bouncer is usually a lovably bewildered old man. The bartenders are fast and very nice, but don’t expect them to make that one somewhat rare drink you really like. Peter Mende-Siedlecki CC 07 says he loves 1020: “I’m here all the time.” I suggest you take a good long look at Peter Mende-Siedlecki and decide whether or not you want to go there, too.
Hey Addison, you wanna go to 1020?
“Hell yeah, I want to go to 1020! Oh wait, I don’t have blazer-hoodie combo menswear, will I fit in? But oh yeah, I go to Columbia! Let’s go have fun now.”
Suite, corner of 109th and Amsterdam
Suite is a gay karaoke bar with an Indian fast food counter attached to it. Thursday night is karaoke night— expect the hot hostess to wow the crowd with her better-than-average voice. Bombay Frankie’s offers the best drunk food ever, frankies, which are tasty meat or potato thingamajigs. But back inside the bar for my Wacky Hetero-Out-of-Water Adventures! Suite’s bartenders perform exceptionally well considering the stifling tightness of their tank-tops. Pop and hip hop are playing at a good volume, and their corresponding videos are on the flatscreen TVs. Whoa, music and the video at the same time! Am I still even uptown?!? Come with a group and some songs in mind and kill your vocal cords on the mic and at the bar. Yes, Jimmy, a guy might check you out, so if you’re afraid of that, don’t go to Suite. Or O’Connell’s. The crowd consists of almost all guys in their mid twenties to forties, one of whom tells me that Suite is “the nicest, friendliest gay bar in the area.” The bartenders are also nice and friendly with the vodka, and totally bigoted against the tonic. Sweet.
Hey Addison, you wanna go to Suite?
“Why the hell not? Guy’s Night Out! Conspicuous acceptance is totally hot right now, too.”
Sip, Amsterdam between 109th and 110
I always walk by Sip. Almost everyone walks by Sip. But tonight I sit down on one of their really comfy ottoman things and discover that the music always sounded good when I walked by because there’s a DJ in a little booth near the ceiling. A bar this tiny in a city this anti-dancing, with a DJ? Sip isn’t playing around. Sip is the only place in The Meh that serves mojitos, the only place that asks what kind of vodka you want in your vodka tonic, and the only place that charges $7.50 for that maddeningly delicious drink. Intimidating yet intimate, Sip might be a nice last spot to visit while on a date before finding somewhere even more intimate. Good god, am I channeling Cosmo? Maybe it’s time to boot.
Hey Addison, you wanna go to Sip?
“Oooooooo. I am at once intrigued and distressed. Do you think I have the money or the cheekbones for such a sexy and pricey place? Oh, but I give you sexy brows anyway!”
Lion’s Head, corner of Amsterdam and 109th
Lion’s Head is the right way to do a bar. If the School of Athens painting were a bar, Plato and Aristotle would be descending from the back mezzanine of Lion’s Head. Ladies and gentlemen, come here for Your Respective Gender’s Night Out. Pitchers start at $9, a pint of Harpoon is $4, and the beer selection is impressive. The bartenders are aces and the bouncers aren’t enforcers as much as they are big friendly dart safety guards. Yes, Lion’s Head is a sports bar, but it knows what’s really important: good times for the people, and really good cheese fries. These melted jack and cheddar cheese fries absolutely destroy that pile of starch and plastic they serve at Tom’s. I also recommend the Buffalo wings, coming in five levels of spiciness, the top being “After You Eat This It Will Come Alive In Your Stomach And Eat Your Soul.” Happy hour is 5 to 8 every weekday, with $3 well drinks and $2 beers: beats the Heights in my book, because I get tired of fruity brain freezes. I love Lion’s Head, this temple of flawed humanity where we argue, flirt, and play tabletop Pac-Man. I’m going to propose here, and yes, to my first wife.
Hey Addison, you wanna go to Lion’s Head?
“All of a sudden I am compelled to say that I deeply respect your spirit. Go to Lion’s Head even once, and my journey shall not have been in vain.”
Mona, Amsterdam between 108th and 109th
Mona is like the West End if the West End got drunk and confessed what a slob it really was. There are a lot of girls here on busy nights, but tonight two tell me that Mona makes them “feel bad.” Huh, women! This is one of the not so busy nights, when guys stand around and get annoyed at the jukebox’s newly constrained selection. In the back of the very large room there’s an isolated, beat-up pool table for which usage in porno films might somehow be a step up. At least Mona has room for dancing in its fairly wide corridors and on its comfy mezzanine. But the bartenders are slow, your feet often get caught on the super-sticky floor and your mind jumps back to pornography and all of a sudden, it’s a bad night. Mona will rev up as we get into the semester and more student groups hold parties here. The prices are about the same as 1020, sometimes randomly more expensive. All in all, this place has a lot of potential, but you know how that goes.
Hey Addison, you wanna go to Mona?
“Ehhhhh, geez. Alright, but…uhhh…okay. Let’s go. It really could be awesome. I like to dance, so…hey, just be safe. Don’t touch the floor. And keep your phone on.”
Heights Bar & Grill, Broadway between 111th and 112th
I ogre-sprinted to the Heights only to find, who would’ve guessed, a big line up the stairs. The Heights is small, fills up fast, and stays cramped for the whole night. They have a late night happy hour from 11:00 PM to midnight if you can make it. The clientele is undergrad and sexy, but sexy in that way where you think “Hmm, you meet the stated requirements of sexiness. Good show, miss/sir.” But if that’s what you’re into, the Heights can be a fun, loud little triangular room where everyone rubs up against everyone else. Try the margaritas. If you go during the afternoon, try the Vancouver fries. They aren’t as good as Lion’s Head’s, but they come with gravy. The prices usually feel a buck too high, and dealing with the bartenders inevitably entails someone yelling over someone. Tonight I stand in line alone and listen to someone complain about the line, and then leave. Bah.
Hey Addison, you wanna go to the Heights?
“The Heights has three corners. There were three crazy alien villains in Superman II. This face is how I react to both the Heights and General Zod.”
Nacho’s, Broadway between 112th and 113th
On the way to Nacho’s I realize I need another drink so that when I do boot, I can convince myself it’s from the alcohol rather than from sheer disgust. But to Nacho’s: this place is actually a lot of fun on slower nights when the sitcom-worthy mid-twentysomething bartenders make fun of each other, you, and innocent passers-by out the window, and you have the leisure to browse the big selection of beers on tap. Some lady who was on America’s Next Top Model works here supposedly. Tonight I stand in the empty middle of the place, between the crowded bar with its patrons walled in by a big partition and the tables way over on the opposite wall. Put the O’Connell’s and Heights crowds and prices together, you’ve got Nacho’s. These people have room to dance here and yet they don’t, and I don’t know if I should fault them, Bloomberg, or both.
Hey Addison, you wanna go to Nacho’s?
Soundz Lounge, Broadway between 123rd and 124th
Nothing like walking past Union Theological Seminary shouting “Boot n Rally Rally Boot n Rally Rally” over and over along with the opening chords of “Saturday in the Park.” Yes, the walk to Soundz Lounge is part of the experience. Make it a group experience, not because it’s dangerous alone (a grad student’s potted plant might fall on you but that’s probably it) but because bars far away are an adventure, and adventures are better with friends. The crowd is grad students and locals in a uptown room where Columbia types can drown their complicity in the Manhattanville affair in cheap rum and cokes. The lounge downstairs—“Free entry with CUID!”— is sparsely populated tonight. I walk in and one of five likely sophomores looks around the empty room before pushing his friend’s shoulder a little, and I walk back upstairs. The basement lounge has a stage, plush seating and its own bar, and you can rent it out and throw a great party, provided enough people like you enough to walk there.
Hey Addison, you wanna go to Soundz Lounge?
“Gee, way to be hip and off-the-beaten-track there, Captain Hipster. You’re so cool. Oh hey, McDonald’s. I’ll end my eye roll.”
I thought the Rally ended there, but then I realized I’d forgotten about Casbah Rouge and drunk-flew there on a magical, winged goat of dreams.
Casbah Rouge, Broadway and 110th
Wow. Looking at it from outside, I always thought Casbah Rouge was small, a simple equation of Heights plus hookah. Oh was I wrong. There are two big rooms around back with tables for as big a group as you’ve got. I don’t smoke hookah, but if I did (and didn’t want to feel like a dork doing it in someone’s room or on Low Plaza), I’d do it here. Because then I could smoke and DANCE! The second I walked in, the live DJ asked me, via his music, “Why waste your time? You know you’re gonna be mine!” I’m yours, Casbah. Except now I have to dance-fight all these creepy old guys away. Yikes. Plus, a vodka tonic was seven dollars. Yikes yikes. Still, this would be a great place to finish a night of bar-hopping with some sock- or shoe-hopping on the mid-sized dance floor.
Hey Addison, you wanna go to Casbah Rouge?
“You wanna dance? We’re allowed to dance again?! Yeah! I don’t even need an overpriced drink, I just wanna dance! I’m so excited, I—Unh, unnnhhh! Uh-oh, clean up on aisle eight!”
That didn’t really happen, but at the end of the first ever Boot ‘n Rally Rally, I was indeed spent and content. And broke and drunk. And alone and un-showered. And sleeping on a friend’s futon for the third night in a row. And as you can see from the smile made by my cotton mouth and my unbrushed, vodka-and-beer-smelly teeth, I was happy. The Meh is big and weird and fun and lame and loud at night, and I hope you explore as much of the surrounding neighborhood as you can in the next four years. Or Crobar.
Hey Addison, you forgot to go the Abbey. You wanna go?
Yeah, I realized the next day that I skipped the Abbey on 105th off Broadway. The fact that I forgot to go is all you really need to know.