Bars of the Bizarre – Curio Bars in New York City
Read the original article from the New Yorker Magazine here.
Bars of the Bizarre
Step right up! For a drink, that is. You’ll need one after viewing these Ripley’s-worthy curiosity collections.
28 N. 3rd St., at Kent Ave., Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-302-0411
If this idiosyncratic assemblage of music, religious, and just plain strange objets d’art looks vaguely familiar, that’s because you’ve already admired it through slanted eyes at the old Bellevue Bar in Hell’s Kitchen. Fans of that late dive may lament the disappearance of the H.R. Giger light box, but owner Jimmy Duff has transported a goodly number of the beloved curios to his new space: the platinum record of Willie Nelson’s “Honeysuckle Rose,” a signed movie poster for Species, a coffin-cum-hot rod worthy of Grandpa Munster, even an antique carnival wheel that can be spun to win a ride in the souped-up hearse outside.
End of Freeman Alley, nr. Rivington St.; 212-420-0012
Taavo Somer’s taxidermy hobby started seven years ago when an antique-collector friend gave him a couple of deer mounts. Since then, he’s become quite the enthusiast, traveling all the way to Cornwall, England, to secure a collection of Victorian bird boxes, the oldest of which dates back to 1812. A couple of the specimens stay true to the popular British ballad: male and female nightingales found in London’s Berkeley Square.
Goodbye Blue Monday
1087 Broadway, nr. Lawton St., Bushwick, Brooklyn; 718-453-6343
Estate liquidator Steve Trimboli initially acquired this former Jamaican bakery and nightclub to store his 6,000 records, 3,000 books, 700 reel-to-reels, and 4,000 items of ephemera. Now he serves coffee, beer, and wine as an array of bands play amid his turn-of-the-century photos. He also has Star Wars toys (for sale) and an 1880s Brooklyn Dodgers bicycle and a McCarthy “Peace” sign (not for sale). Perhaps the latter items will make an appearance when Trimboli lends several of his pieces to an exhibit at Black and White Gallery in early February.
Home Sweet Home
131 Chrystie St., nr. Delancey St.; 212-226-5708
Rest assured, that’s not man’s best friend standing at the end of the bar. It’s actually a stuffed coyote—one of the many items Christen Vincent and Nadia Koch have wrangled for their walls and the display cabinet that’s literally inside the bar. Other novelties include a ceramic “jackalope” (the mythical rabbit-antelope hybrid), seventies driftwood candles, and a bobcat bought off eBay. Vincent gets a kick out of the dental moulds that belonged to a girl whose last name was Gross, but she isn’t sure she’s ready to display the donated lion’s head or to accept the horse’s skull offered by an upstairs neighbor.
Red Hook Bait & Tackle
320 Van Brunt St., at Pioneer St., Red Hook, Brooklyn; 718-797-4892
The owners of this former bait shop, Edie Stone and Barry O’Meara, started their collection with a stuffed bear purchased in Indiana; that acquisition has since been joined by a stuffed duck from O’Meara’s parents’ Irish pub, a 40-year-old zebra pelt, and an upside-down dead coyote. Loyal customers have also contributed conversation pieces—like the carcass of a Costa Rican turtle—but the prized possession has come from bartender Erin Norris, who commissioned a taxidermist to prepare a horse’s head for the bar top with a secret compartment for storing drunken doodles from bygone nights.
702 Union St., at Fifth Ave., Park Slope, Brooklyn; 718-638-4400
When they decided to model their new bar after a Masonic lodge, Jim Carden and Andy Templer knew they’d need a cabinet to hold the booty of their “field expeditions.” That armoire of oddities now holds a taxidermied Australian chicken, an ostrich egg, and replicas of an allosaurus claw and early humanoid skulls. Though the owners didn’t keep the winners of the bar’s annual taxidermy contest, fresh bounty is on the way: The Minnesota Association of Rogue Taxidermists is creating a faux Fiji mermaid and a nine-foot-tall sloth. Until these orders arrive, ask the staff to break out the too-scary-to-display rumpape: a Styrofoam wig dummy covered Sasquatch style with a deer pelt.