5 Bar Crawl: Subway Inn

5 Bar Crawl

Out of the blue and for no reason at all other than it would give me the opportunity to see more of the city I love and live in, and also to have an excuse to drink more alcohol I decided to do a bar review. No ordinary bar review. I planned to pick five of New York’s worst bars, go to each of them and review them at my own leisure. How did I define worst? I didn’t.  I simply wanted to visit bars that are any of the following:

1) Bars I’ve never been to before.
2) Dives.
3) Unsafe or have an element of danger.
4) Unusual / Unclean and/or unfriendly.
5) In some way interesting. 

Bar #2: Subway Inn 

Photo by me walking in sober.

The second bar I chose was the Subway Inn on 143 East 61st Street (corner of 3rd Ave & Lexington Ave). This dive bar is located right across from the prestigious Bloomingdales. I heard that a woman once bought a brasier there for $900 and her husband divorced her, I’m just saying. The bar probably feels the same way I do when I sit across from a skinny glazed eyed model on the subway when I’m all gaseous and bloated and playing Tetris on my cheap android cell phone holding in farts.

I didn’t think a stink hole like this could possibly exist in such a fancy pants part of town but it does. My mate Sean suggested the place so I begrudgingly had to invite him along. Sean is the same loud guy from the previous review. He more than met his match in the loud and annoying department this time, more about that later. As of late, Sean has been doing quite well in New York and now hangs out with lots of second rate stand up comedians. This has resulted in him developing an incredibly annoying habit in which he thinks that loudly complaining about things in a heightened state of incredulation is funny. It isn’t. This is his all time favorite comedy album. I rest my case. 

He also likes to tweet about pointless shit such as him sitting beside Janeane Garofalo or that he can buy a cake at four in the morning unlike his midwestern friends and that’s why he loves New York so much. His baseless confidence is now well displayed in his unshifting swagger when ordering a screwdriver. He even twists his two fingers around indicating the craftsman’s tool itself. But as we say in Ireland: Sure he has a heart of gold, heart of gold. Translation: He is harmless retarded.  
The calm before the storm

The walk up to the bar is one of the least interesting walks in New York. The streets are littered with over priced clothing stores managed by twats who serve over-entitled douche bags, a multitude of Gyms filled with stupid frightened people terrified of tomorrow or upscale eateries filled with a combination of all of the above. Outside a homeless man begged for changed as jocks texted on their iPhones and smoked. I walked in and my first impression was how loud the place was. Seriously loud, the last bastion of culture and the most basic human joy, The Conversation, was truly being beaten with the progress stick in here. In other words, y’know that thing that makes us all feel a little less lonely, well you wont be able to partake in it in here.

The bar was to the left and ran most of the length of the building. To the right were several booths, the first Sean had already occupied. At the back lay the toilets and trash cans. The light was low, the bar was lightly populated with regulars and the bar tenders very welcoming. The latter makes a bar, pure and simple.

Noise, Noise and Noise

To my pleasant surprise Sean had invited the talented Hattiesburg routed, Mississippi transplant Sharon Spell to join us along with his Brother David and his old school friend Meg. This was a relief as although Sean is like nails on a chalk board sometimes he does have lovely friends/family. It also meant I had other people to talk to.

Excellent & Attentive Bar Keeps. 
By the time I grabbed an extra chair for our table in which the bar tenders were very helpful in helping me scout for, said my hello’s and walked to the bar it had already started to fill up. I ordered a Gin & Tonic. Without asking they poured me a Tanquery on ice with a dash of tonic. It was strong pre-tip and even stronger post-tip. I normally drink beer but all they had was domestic in bottles and nothing of interest on tap. Not that you never drink from tap in a dive bar. 
Sean & Sharon
Sean introduced me to his brother David and friend Meg both visiting for a week from Kansas. David is a baker although he had the demeanor and aesthetic of a bisexual jazz musician who travels from place to place to run from the guilt of killing a prostitute in a grappa soaked sex game gone wrong. He’ll never get caught but his conscious just might. In the eighties they could have made a TV series about him.  
Meg works in a bank and confessed within minutes of us meeting that she doesn’t know what the hell  she’s doing half the time. She has considered stealing money and eloping with her boyfriend who is a former delivery man with anger management issues. All the photo’s of him on her iPhone look like Dave Grohl which means that even though I’ve never met him, I like him. Meg has an art degree and sometimes makes elaborate paper airplanes with $100 bills when the manager is out for lunch. 
Dave & Meg
The main compaint about the bar was the music. Both the choice although I realize it was jukebox decided, a clear indication that democracy doesn’t work all of the time, most of the time. It was also freakishly loud. The speaker was right above our heads shooting us with a laser of lazy rap and sudo-tough hip hop. 
Yeah, oh yeah, cuz i’m gonna someting something, cuz my bitches be something and such and what not, 
I’m a mutha fucking something or some such, N-word, Whoot up? Yo’ 
Dreadful shite.
It was so loud and annoying in fact that I actively tried to block it out so I could listen to what Sean was rambling on about. Yeah, it was that bloody bad.  
Screwdriver Please
By pure coincidence local comedienne and all round good egg Katrin Hier stopped by. Katrin works in fashion by day and was at a nearby fashion thingy and decided to stop by for a quick beer before her subway ride home. Our dive bar was a logical stop. We made sure she stayed for more than just the one she wanted. 
Hier she is.

Loud and crowded

Sharon & Katrin

The toilets: For a dive bar they were quite functional. A complimentary beer was left on the toilet.

 On the house.
The graffiti, the true indicator of a classic dive bar was somewhat lacking. I neither learnt nor unlearned something. What a shame. 

Good? I wouldn’t Bansky on it.

Strangely enough behind the shitter was a double over hand paper roll ass wipe apparatus. I guess sometimes you need both hands.

Let’s fucking do this.
The Menu – All food cooked in noise.

Bling – Sean thought this was hilarious. 

Food came in styrofoam boxes.

Four screwdrivers in.

Who caused the 2008 banking crisis?
Guys, you gotta listen to the notes I’m not playing, Jaaaazzz!

Screwdriver #6
Have you heard of my band Depeche Mixolydian Mode?
Peter Moses later joined us for two beers. Peter is also a New York based stand up comic who I always refer to as Lil’ Don Draper. No one else calls him this but then again no one else calls me Mr. Super-Fantastic but that doesn’t make it not true. Peter at about 5′- 9″ is a fun size Jon Hamm.  

Lil’ Don Draper/Fun Size Jon Hamm
Actual Don Draper / Big Jon Hamm
Photo by me walking out drunk.

We all staggered out for the subway home although I don’t recall much of it. Jazzman apparently spent the following day getting sick as he turned out to be a teetotaler that I pressured into drinking. Sean, Jazzman and Meg went back to Inwood, Katrin dashed back to Brooklyn and Lil’ Don Draper, Sharon and I got the N train home. My last memory is of trying to speak without slurring on the train which always looks terrible regardless. Overall a fun night out, this is New York after all.


Credit cards accepted. The bar is wheelchair assessable but the toilets are not. The jukebox is hogged by brainless tone deaf thugs and way too loud. Friendly bartenders. The regulars leave you alone while the irregulars pad out the place and get in your way, even on a week night it got very crowded. Most people there were more into getting hammered than conversing which alway gives a bar a desperate feel. The food was alright, nothing you would eat sober but not terrible. It’s not a real dive bar just a lesser regular bar in a fancy neighborhood. Drinks were standard price. They do serve screwdrivers. If the person you are with is loud and annoying there will be music to drown them out and beat them at their own game.  

The bar opened in 1937, Charlie the 97 year old owner is still on the scene and according to what I heard has no trouble chasing trouble makers from the place himself. The bar won the 2004 Dive Bar of NYC award. I can’t help but feel it was a different bar back then. If I could make just one suggestion it would be to turn the music down. Then we could talk and discover what bars are really for. In the words of an old friend – A bar is the beach for people who cannot swim.   

Where is it again?:
Subway Inn

143 East 60th Street, New York, NY10022

How do I get here via the subway?:
Lexington Ave/59th Street – N/Q/R Trains *60th street entrance in front of bar 
Lexington Ave/63rd Street – F Train
59 Street Station – 4/5/6/6X Train

*Side Note: 
If you’re in the area I recommend a good Irish bar called Murphy’s on 2nd Ave between 51st & 52nd. It is the very first bar I drank in when I moved to New York. 

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