I Drink Alone So You Don't Have To: Clandestino

I'm currently on a self-imposed dating hiatus, an extended break that didn't start out quite so self-imposed, but which I'm now quite comfortably settling into. Other than the occasional half-assed attempts at expressing interest in members of the opposite sex, I'm rather enjoying just hanging out with friends, indulging in carafes of nice dry southern Italian white wines, and catching up on all the television I swore I wouldn't bother giving a second chance. (Top Chef, you inexplicably have my summer heart. It's been a slow build with The Wire, but I'm beginning to understand your genius. And Friday Night Lights, dear god, I can't wait to see your second season.) That said, I recognize the inescapable reality that, for all intents and purposes, I am a single woman in New York. And you know what? I hate that. I don't hate being unattached; I hate being associated with a particular stereotype of prowl and desire that I'm sure existed long before Sex and the City, but which that series turned into a laughable, pathetically narcissistic Thing In The World. It doesn't matter that I'm actually not looking to find anyone right now; my unattached status and my thirtysomethingness leaves me vulnerable to unpleasant snap judgments about what I may or may not be after the minute I, say, walk into a bar. Alone. I decided to combat this by, well, walking into bars alone -- and seeing what unfolds. Is it possible, as a woman, to sit at a bar alone, and have a good time -- and, most importantly, not feel compelled to look like one is after anything? Probably not. It might, in fact, just be sort of awkward. And so I present to you, dear readers, a new weekly series in which I document my adventures, so that you (especially the uncoupled among you) might feel alright stepping into a NYC drinking establishment, William T. Vollman's Europe Central in hand*, and not feel completely ridiculous. So: Clandestino. IB had introduced me to the place last fall; it's located on a lonely stretch of east Canal street, next to the perennially crowded and maybe-too-hip-for-me Les Enfants Terribles. And while I was at Clandestino with IB, I never had to pay for a drink; IB insisted on covering everything (the Welsh, so very genteel). So for a while I actually had no idea if Clandestino was an expensive bar or not, or if they did buybacks. But I was determined to find out. Alone. As it turns out, C-bar is a spectacularly great bar. I had already noticed that its interiors were very low-key -- brick walls, low-lights, quiet britpop from the late-90s -- but it was only after I spent a bit of time there on my own that its glories truly emerged. For one thing: pretty generous whisky pours. And another: the barkeeps will pretty consistently do buybacks on the third round. Consistently. When's the last time that's happened -- consistently? Beyond the structural pluses, you've got some great barkeeps and generally un-prowl-y locals, and a wee back patio to boot. And they do little plates of cheese and sausages (try the Cantal -- it's superb). There's something about the place that is decidedly un-Manhattan ... but also very un-Brooklyn; I can't pinpoint it, but it really does feel like a neighborhood bar in a vision of a livable, manageable New York City that I hold very dearly in my head as an ideal. I went there tonight on my own, finally, but on the first truly rainy night of the season. The place was empty at first. I was not only the only single woman at the bar -- I was the only person, period, at the bar. The whiskey pours were still amazing generous, and the barkeep affable and lovely. I cracked open Europe Central, pulled a tea light closer to me, and delved in. When the bar finally filled up (relatively speaking), the barkeep was still attentive and chatty, and I got no funny looks for my un-light reading (or for my reading, period). As I left, two very full glasses of whisky and a plate of brie and pain Poilâne later, a gentleman at the bar reached out his hand to introduce himself; turns out his wife, sitting next to him, was the owner of the bar. We all spoke for a minute and they insisted I return soon; with that, I ducked back out into the rain and headed home. It was kind of awesome. Maybe even perfect. Not at all awkward. To be sure, I've wandered in there very briefly on weekend nights, and the place fills up a bit more, presumably with some Les Enfants Terribles spillover. And on those sorts of nights, any bar can get a bit harried. But on any other night, I say go out. If you find yourself over on east Canal, near the East Broadway F stop, wander into the bar. I'll probably be there, indulging in the A/C and studiously making my way through Europe Central a nice big glass of turkey on the rocks. * It's a big book. 752 pages, not including footnotes (it's a work, nominally, of fiction). People tend to look at me funny when I'm reading it on the subway. Though, to be sure, the looks I get now are a bit less pained than when I was reading a Pol Pot biography last fall; people looked at me as if I were reading it for useful tips, as if it were an instruction manual.


Carson said...

According to Gawker/Time Out, you're "crazy."

ht said...

yeah, i read the gawker piece (i refuse to read the entire time out article), and it made me think that i needed to move out of the city. pronto.

Anonymous said...

The owners are nice, live nearby and have day-jobs (at least he does) Buybacks! Remember bars used to do that???!! Welcome to the world of alcoholism!