We tried it again on a Saturday afternoon and a Sunday night, and found that the Gym has indeed found its footing. With classic brick walls, about a dozen flat screen TVs broadcasting different sports, and a room full of men, this is a *real* gay sports bar. Older guys, a softball team still in uniform fresh from the diamond, college guys, and bears all comfortably intermingled. The Owner/managers Erich and Rick were outgoing and upbeat, and their bartender - Jerry, the "Cele-Bear-ty" - was adorable. The lights were low enough to make it a 'bar,' and the music perfect: loud enough to make it a party, but not so loud you couldn't talk to the guy on the next bar stool. 4 WOOFS
[MARCH UPDATE: in a casualty of gentrification, the rent on Rawhide was increased to $25,000/month, and the bar closed at the end of March 2013. There is an empty place in my soul.]
Now, I’ll be the first to say that as a general rule, I’m not partial to drag. But in the next breath, I’ll admit that we had a great time at Barracuda.
The crowd defied pigeon-holing. It was was amazingly mixed: young college guys, middle-aged bears , drag queens, muscle boys, average joes – you name it. An older man sat at one end of the bar, and it was clear that he was just as welcome and a ‘part of the bar’ as any young flamer bouncing across the room. My partner and I were the only ones decked out in leather, but in this mixed crowd we did not seem or feel out of place. In fact, everyone was incredibly welcoming. The bartenders poured decent drinks and were efficient and friendly. The Drag Queens were some of the best we’d ever seen. And the crowd was, overall, in very good spirits. We were pleasantly surprised, and will definitely return. 3 WOOFS
After our initial rating ("We give it ZERO WOOFS for Bears like us, but highly recommend it as an East Village stop for the younger crowd. And the bartenders *were* adorable :-)"), we received an email from "Damien C.," who wrote,
"I've been throwing a weekly Bear Party at Nowhere every Tuesday called "Buddies" for four years. It's really popular. Most nights there are plenty of Bear-types there, too, even Fridays. Were you there on the 17th by chance? [As a matter of fact, we were!] I was spinning at The Eagle and just about everyone who might have gone to Nowhere was with me."
Many Thanks to Damien for his response. Since we haven't witnessed his "Buddies" night, we feel we should hold off assigning any rating until we see what Tuesdays are like...but either way, we liked the place!
Barrage, 401 West 47th Street (nr. Corner of 9th Avenue). Stayed for one drink, and fled. This place is about as far removed from a neighborhood named "Hell's Kitchen" as you can imagine. It is really a "lounge," where you expect people to order martinis, barely loosen their ties, and bring their fag hags from the office with them to enjoy the over-the-top pastel lighting and bohemian sitting areas. The only thing we enjoyed were the amazingly hot bartenders....but the place, overall, made this guy's skin crawl. (Now, if you could take the bartenders from Barrage, and put them to work in the labor-lacking 9th Avenue Saloon, you could possibly have the newest, bestest hot spot on Manhattan's west side. but until then...) ZERO WOOFS
Billing itself as New York's Gay Country Bar, and using all sorts of cowboy-motifs and jargon, one would think that this was a real meat-and-potatoes, rodeo-man's home. We should have read the Yelp reviews that called this a real "Cunt-try" bar for a clue.
First off, we walked in and the efficient, and very nice but oh-so- twinky-boi bartenders were dancing on the bar (Couldn't grab a beer until they were done.) In fact, I have since learned that Flaming Saddles actually posted a help-wanted ad for "bartenders who can dance, and dancers who can bartend." The only patrons who were 'regular guys' were clustered at a back table just drinking their beers, while a young, loud, mixed-gender crowd were playing quarters up front. Several lesbian couples hung around the bar, and some young guys played the jukebox - which ran from hard core country to 1980s rock and roll. The red, flocked wallpaper covering the place was more reminiscent of a 1970s long island suburban living room than a country-western bar. For some people, this would be a fun location (and the group playing quarters was clearly enjoying themselves) - but in terms of looking for Bear - well, we give this ONE WOOF.
UPPER EAST SIDE/YORKVILLE
Then came our 6-month revisit in January, and some serious disappointment. With a sparse and self-absorbed crowd and a new pretty-boi bartender who couldn't be bothered pouring drinks or giving patrons a second thought, we shook our heads. There were three signs posted about a new coat check, and when we asked about it, the bartender literally blew us off because he couldn't be bothered. If this had been our first time, we would have given it a ZERO or ONE WOOF rating. So, we tried again this June, hoping that we had just run into a bad night. And fortunately, that appears to be the case: We arrived on a Saturday night, and Rockbar was back to normal. An event called "Body Rock 6" (BR6) was taking place, with a DJ projecting his eclectic and wonderfully weird video montage, and the place was FULL of some of the best-looking, beariest men in NYC. Many seemed to know each other, and it was clear that Rockbar was "home base." We'll overlook one bad night: An emphatic 5 WOOFS!
JACKSON HEIGHTS (Unlike the above neighborhoods, all of which are located in Manhattan, Jackson Heights is a neighborhood in the Borough of Queens. One of the newest and growing 'gayborhoods,' there are a number of gay bars opening up along Roosevelt Avenue, easily accessible from the L line, in a heavily trafficked, upbeat Latino neighborhood)
True Colors, 7915 Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Hgts, nr. 79th Street From the outside, there is little that appears exciting: just another fairly dark, small store front, tucked in among bodegas and salons and food stores that post signs that are bilingual....or solely in Spanish. Up and down the street (which is under the L tracks), Columbian, Dominican, Ecadorean, and other flags from various Latin American nations were flapping in the wind.
Then we entered....and felt right at home. This bar is still a neighborhood bar, with a complete spectrum of men, women, older, younger, latino, and anglo customers mingling together well. The lights were low enough to make it a bar atmosphere, but light enough so you could see what you were doing. The music and videos playing were loud enough to create atmosphere...but not so loud that you couldn't have a conversation. The place was already decked out for Valentines Day (we visited Jan 23), the bar very well stocked, the prices very reasonable, and the bartender (Anthony) was friendly, efficient, attentive, and hot as hell. (His black T-shirt was stretched across his pecs and you had to wonder if it would just rip in half if he moved the wrong way...) We stopped in for one drink, and stayed for six. Nice place, fun neighborhood, well done! 3 WOOFS.