When doing a pub crawl, the most important decisions are the first pub and the last one. The first one because you want to get the pub crawl off to a good start. And the last one because you want to avoid going to “One bar too many”, which is a common problem for our group.
Earl’s Beer and Cheese
The January pub crawl was on the Upper East Side, a NYC neighborhood known more for apartment high-rises then interesting bars. But the pub crawl got off to a great start with Earl’s Beer and Cheese at 79th Street and Park Avenue in New York City. A charming little hole-in-the-wall joint that opened in 2011 that you could easily pass by as there is no real signage. My drinking buddies went for the Southern Tier Old Man Winter Ale and the Upstate Common Sense Kentucky Style Ale. I took a different route. Not only is Earl’s famous for their local beers & cheese, but they have one of the best bread puddings on the planet. “Dumb good” is what they say. So, I hit Dough Loco, the tiny coffee shop next door affiliated with Earl’s and brought back a chai latte that was perfect with their bread pudding. You could see into the kitchen and they were actually preparing the bread pudding on the spot. No microwave heated-up airplane-style bread pudding here!
And yes, starting a pub crawl with a chai latte could open me up for ridicule among pub crawl purists. And yes, the Keuka Imperial Chocolate Stout would also have been a nice accompaniment with the bread pudding. But personally I like starting my pub crawl with a nice hot beverage, especially on a winter pub crawl when the weather is bitterly cold & there’s snow in the air. (Can you say Polar Vortex?) And besides there are only a few hard & fast rules on our pub crawls, most notably is “what is said on the pub crawl stays on the pub crawl”. Surprisingly having a beer at each stop is not one of them. (At least for me.) Our pub crawls are more than just drinking beer. It’s about good food, the exploration of different neighborhoods and most of all a bunch of guys just hanging out complaining about life. While we usually drink beer at each stop, wine, hard cider, bloody marys, shots of Glenlivet and even the occasional chai latte are perfectly acceptable.
We then walked to 2nd Avenue and 95th Street were we stopped at Merrion Square a dive bar with a pool table, a couple of skeeball machines and a huge selection of craft beers. We went with the Anderson Valley Oatmeal Stout (bottle only), the Humboldt Hemp Brown Ale and the Jai Alai India Pale Ale while snacking on the humus platter (which was a bit too much like a nacho platter for my taste.)
Next up were The Penrose at 1590 2nd Avenue at 83rd Street where we had Orval, Kelso Nut Brown and their cheese platter h(fantastic apple chutney, but a little stingy on the bread) and The B. Café at 75th Street, where we ordered a few beer paddle samplers of various Belgium beers and a couple of Croque Monsieurs. My favorites were the Kwak (Liquorice overtones) and La Chouffe (a coriander spice beer).
We ended the pub crawl on a high note at Hudson Malone on 53rd Street, a friendly old-world saloon with an above-average menu. Don’t be fooled by the sign that says “Eva’s Dress Shop” at 218 East 53rd Street, this is it. And while the bar is relatively new, there is a sense of history about the place. Hudson Malone was started by Doug Quinn, the beloved bartender who worked at PJ Clarke’s for many years. This is the kind of place where not only does everybody know your name, but they also know your drink. While the number of draft beers was not overwhelming, we had no trouble going with a German Kolsch. I also had their Slow Roasted Tomato Soup (delicious!) And yes, I’m basically a foodie at heart, so I like to eat when I drink! Hudson Malone is definitely worth a return visit, if for nothing else to check out the Hudson Malone Burger, which gets some great reviews.
And in the end it was a perfect day: Four bars, 5 1/2 miles of walking (it is a pub crawl after all) and a bunch of interesting beers. Not too tired, not overly drunk, definitely not “one bar too many” and the memory of that bread pudding still lingering on my palate. Not too shabby a day!