Five days in the nation’s biggest playground (sorry Vegas, giving away my money for a gambling “thrill” has worn thin). New York, even with its cold grit and crumbling skeleton, is a place I love visiting. And so faced with a weekend to play we managed to sample the sights and sounds (and food and drink, of course) of three very unique neighborhoods. The Village. Bellmore. Williamsburg. And away we go…Our adventure begins with a trek down to Greenwich Village. I’ll skip the shopping along the way and start the story as we climbed up some stairs to make our way along the famous Highline. What is the Highline, you ask? It’s this. And it’s run by Friends of the Highline.
The purpose of our trek along the Highline was both to experience a great example of adaptive reuse of a historic structure and to embrace interesting and creative uses of public space. Heck, it even has this cool viewing area.
Which allowed me to take this interesting photo
As we strolled down the Highline I thought about the needs in San Diego for more public space. And I thought about how this project was and is a great example of the public and private interests working together to do something cool. In San Diego we scarcely have enough money to fix the things we already have, let alone start dreaming of the massive structures or parks we might hope to have in the future. But for at least the length of this thought-provoking stroll it was nice to let my mind wander about the possibilities for the future once we’ve taken proper care of the present.
The Highline was a place full of couples and families and people just contemplating the day. It was a nice break from the hustle of the city and proof that a rooftop style park–whether on the top of a parking garage or here on an old rail line–can work. Winding down near the end of our Highline experience, it was time to make our way quickly to our ultimate destination–Greenwich Village of a stop at one of the best craft beer bars in NYC. This place
Blind Tiger was a must visit, not only because it came up highly regarded in my search of craft beer spots and not just because of its cool naming history. I had to go because two of my favorite San Diego watering holes – owned by the same four businesspeople – are Tiger!Tiger! at 30th Street/El Cajon Blvd in North Park and Blind Lady Ale House on Adams at 34th in Normal Heights. The 8 blocks we had to cover between the end of the Highline and the front door of Blind Tiger wasn’t very far, but it was filled with old, unattractive, empty buildings and it reminded me that people might still walk the three blocks from the trolley stop in San Diego to the Public Market once it’s in full swing, even if it means tromping through a brief section of underdeveloped industrial space. Still, it would be great if the city revised the Land Development Code in the area to foster growth of interesting, pedestrian-friendly development between the trolley and the market. I digress. Back to the bar.
We popped in to Blind Tiger at about 3:00pm and it was full without being crowded. At first, there were no available seats. That is, until yet another friendly New Yorker opened up the end of her table to us! All that urban “hiking” had worked us up quite a thirst and even a bit of an appetite, so the timing was great. A quick look at the menu and we were all set. As with many craft beer bars, the available ‘handles’ are written in chalk on a big board behind the bar. Also consistent with their brethren bars, Blind Tiger had just enough light not to bump into each other without being able to easily read anything. I know, this is evidence of my aging eyes and confirmation that I am, indeed, getting older. When I start carrying around my very own old personal flashlight I want to hear not a peep out of anyone. One last, very helpful similarity between Blind Tiger and the many other such purveyors of fine craft beverage I’ve visited–knowledgeable people behind the bar! Fan-freakin-tastic. There is something less than thrilling about sitting down to eat or drink and having the server/tender look at me like I have two heads when I ask about the options or to taste something or for the location of the brewery of a given beer. I care who brews my beer. I want to know what they are known for, if the brewery is local and even what the bartender or server thinks about the beer. It adds to the experience. And Blind Tiger did this right. The other big thing it did right was make us one of these
I know how silly it sounds to talk about a grilled cheese being among the best foods I’ve eaten on this trip. It sounds odd to revel in something so straightforward hat it’s usually the first food we are all allowed to make that involves heat. But this one? I could describe how they didn’t go overboard on the butter, turning it into a soggy mess. A simple, but well-made grill cheese complete with spicy salami and tomato. I can’t remember the first beer I had, not because I had so many but because it wasn’t memorable. Second up, at the suggestion of my new friend behind the bar, was an Allagash Bam. It was a tiny pour of a Belgian Strong Ale, but I didn’t mind getting 8 ounces of something very good. I’ll leave it up to the West Coaster’s of the world to give you the specific flavor profile. My reviews are generally simple: I liked it, I loved it, it bored me, it was terrible. This was in the first category. One small oddity of my Blind Tiger experience was my attempt at ordering an ‘old reliable.’ An old reliable is a beer I know to be good that I can default to when in a foreign land. My go-to selections tend to come from Green Flash, Stone and Alesmith. Reliably good beers by all three brewers. So this next bit left me a little strained. I have had Stone Brewing Co.’s Arrogant Bastard Ale in at least six cities, out of barrels, on cask, etc. etc. It always tastes about the same and I’m always thankful to have it on my safe list. So I was surprised when I pulled the lever for a 12-oz pour of the good stuff and it came back tasting like no version of a Stone beer I’d ever had. I wouldn’t say that it was bad, just very different. It lacked that signature flavor that you get in the finish for an Arrogant Bastard. I wondered if that was the impact of traveling so far from Escondido or just my tastebuds being shot by one of the other beers I didn’t much care for. Whatever the case, I was a bit surprised. I meant to ask the folks at Stone Brewing Co about this and may do so when I get home. Just the same, great beer, solid food and a nice atmosphere. Blind Tiger is well worth the trip. I’ll be writing about the other two legs of this weekend odyssey – to Bellmore on Long Island and Williamsburg in Brooklyn – in separate posts. The tales of flea markets, pizza, stouts and Italian grampas will have to wait a couple days. Thanks for dropping by, let me know if you’ve been to Blind Tiger and what you thought.