Thursday, November 20, 2008

Giving thanks one week early: Port 41 edition

Thank God that dingy little corners of New York City still exist that house the likes of Port 41.

To hear some people describe Port 41, you'd think they had been hanging out upstairs with Dean Stockwell and Dennis Hopper at This Is It in Blue Velvet. Hardly. C'mon, the place has a Web site and flat-screen TVs showing sports, mind you. But! Depending on what time of day (they open at 10 a.m.!) you hit Port 41, conveniently located underneath the Port Authority bus ramp on the north side of 41st Street near Ninth Avenue, you may sense a menacing undercurrent. Which I find comforting. Anyway, any place located 100 feet from Port Authority will attract a variety of interesting characters. Like the hustlers with some great "I-just-got-out-of-prison-can-you-loan-me-$50-I'll-pay-you-back-next-week" stories. Or the people who wander in and stay a suspiciously long time in the men's room.

So there are plenty of attractions here. The beer is mostly reasonable. And, like Rudy's, there are free hot dogs. Which I've never actually tried. Not to mention the bartenders wear bikinis. (Yes, yes -- a few other places in Manhattan have bikini-clad bartenders...)

Has the place has been spruced up a little bit? There are now three 42-inch flat-screen TVs strategically placed around the bar. And weren't there more pool tables in that huge back room? And has there always been a neon coat check sign? (Usually not in a bar-reviewing mode when I'm here.) That's OK. Despite the newish additions, Port 41 still looks on the, uh, rundown side. Which I also find comforting. I'm sticking to one of the booths, by the way. The stuffed hippopotamus is still mounted on the wall. And hey, where did that MP3 juke come from? Ohh! Van Halen! Slayer! Perfect! Now if I could only see.

I hesitated writing about Port 41, which took over the space that once housed Tobacco Road and Savoy Road. But I want to appreciate this place while it's around. In any event, given my most frequent visits, it's hardly a secret. The after-work crowd was split between construction workers and back-slapping chuckleheads in shirts and ties. (And several women in office attire.) Everyone got along just fine, too.

Oh, there's this. My failed attempt at capturing a little slice of the evening, and the people singing along to Van Halen's "Unchained."

[The bikini photos are via Dive In New York City. It was too dark for my shots. Of the bartender]

Reviews of Port 41 by the always entertaining yelpers at Yelp:

I think I have officially found the shadiest bar in New York.. Death Metal blaring, the waitress looked like a meth head, was wearing a bikini top.. Another girl in a bikini top sat there getting felt up by this disgusting guy.. And when I say being felt up, it was close to nudity.. All the while he kept saying "I am the devil, you are an angel, do you want to f*ck the devil" He kept saying this over and over again.. He eventually slammed a bottle of beer on the ground and thats when I left.. This was at 4 pm mind you..
The place was completely dark, it was so weird.. If you are looking for trouble, I think you can find it there.. Its directly across the street from Port Authority, I couldnt imagine this place after dark..

One star? Jesus! This sounds like a rare six-out-of-five-star review!

Here's a more reasonable three-star review:

Probably one of the crappiest dive bars left in Midtown. So crappy it was entertaining. Some homeless guy was passed out in the booth behind us. The bartender was wearing a bikini top, and the crowd was entirely men and some looked like they were on drugs. Drink prices were on the cheap side.

And FIVE stars:

As you read my review of Port 41, please imagine that I am speaking these words to you in a heavy German accent and it is 1925 and the Velvet Underground's "Sister Ray" is playing on the jukebox.

I realize that this request is as strange as it is impossible, but that is Port 41: strange and impossible. You see, Port 41 should not be. Port 41 is the giant hippo head hanging on the wall. It is missing an eye, and it wants you to stay for another round. Port 41 is the homeless kid, who says he is a marine. He has dirty finger nails,and says he has a Polynesian wife he married on the telephone whom he has never seen.

This doesn't even begin to explain Port 41. Go there and you might find dullness, you might find horror, or you might find magic. Anything is possible.


Jeremiah Moss said...

dear god, that sounds way better than i ever imagined. great post! one question: is that girl washing her foot in the bar sink?

Anonymous said...

I think she's compacting the trash the old-fashioned way.

You can never find a good barback when you need one...

Ken Mac said...

some adorable skank!

Colonnade Row said...

Love that place! My friend, who was partial to Port Authority 'trade', used to take me there to conduct his 'business' back in the late 80's/early 90's when it was Savoy Road -- I was one scared white boy, but it was always hypnotically alluring. Dangerous, skanky, sexy, illicit, and an old school 42nd street vibe. Glad to know it's still there! Imagine what it's like at Sat night/3am..

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comment, Kirby.

"hypnotically alluring" is a good way to describe P41 in the off hours!

esquared™ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

nice work Grieve. a true "restaurant quality" post. i assume you stick with the bottled beer when you go into the field......

Anonymous said...

I was actually surprised, Esquared, how many yuppie types were at the P41 my last visit. It must be the Big Buck Hunter.

Yes, HG! I stick to the bottles -- or cans! I think the 16oz. PBRs are $3.