Monday, September 12, 2011

The Emperor's New Bar

There's a fine line between a stripped down, edgy, no frills bar and just a crap bar, as we discovered this weekend in the West Village.

The very hip Little Branch straddles that line. Which side it ultimately lands on probably depends on whether you're a jazz-shoe-and-braces-wearing 20 something or, um, not. We are not. We are in our late 30s, and perhaps not truly hip. Sorry TLOML, just saying... Also, we are bar snobs. If we wait in line, as we reluctantly did, by an unmarked door, we expect that once we pass through that door we will be in a beautifully (or at least wittily) decorated space with fabulous cocktails and impeccable service.

I know, I know, we're a tough crowd. But come on! This is New York! Blame the likes of Employees Only and Weather Up for spoiling us. Even Bathtub Gin, though it's not our scene, has that brilliant 'secret entrance, fantastic interior' thing down pat.

Little Branch certainly does the secret entrance, unmarked door thing well. The door is so skanky looking - and the wait to get in so long - that I was sure the interior would be a veritable palace.

Sadly not. The NY Magazine review describes the decor as 'a warm color scheme of mustard-painted walls and low ceilings made from orange-painted sheets of corrugated steel'. I think they're being generous. I'm pretty sure the space hasn't been repainted since its former life as a dank, damp basement. That corrugated steel just happened to be there. As for the cocktails, I'm sure they're excellent - Little Branch is from the same family as Milk and Honey - but our patience wore out too quickly for us to order.

Anyway, no harm done. We bailed and headed to our favourite West Village bar: Fedora. The neon sign is visible from a block away, and there's no line to get in. But don't let that put you off: it's just a good old fashioned bar, with a killer cocktail list. A bar that has a cocktail named after the Honey Badger is one which does not take itself too seriously, and for that, Fedora, we salute you.


  1. "No one goes there's too crowded." -Yogi Berra. gotta love a reviewer who unabashedly admits to not having tried the drinks at an establishment that places drinks, not decor, first. I think you missed the whole point.

  2. Oh, people do go there still. (Just not me.) That's why it's crowded.

    I would have loved to have tried the drinks. But when the crowd at the (understaffed) bar is 4 deep, I can't imagine they'd be worth the wait...

  3. PS If Yogi Berra was a football player I'd totally have him on my fantasy team - despite his advanced years. The name is enough.