GIN MILLS| Travel back to your grandparents’ basement at 169 Bar

169BarInside 169 Bar, an ancient Chinatown dive explored earlier this week.

The great Erik Shilling, one of my best friends from the 10-month beat at Columbia, arrived in town on his Gannett-sponsored furlough this week. This warranted a couple of drinks, even if they weren’t the standard Scotches and Bourbons we’re used to. Instead of 1020, the Morningside icon where we spent a good deal of time wallowing in misery, we met downtown.

169Bar2Our destination was 169 Bar, an ancient Chinatown dive that boasts a decidedly basement feel. The Falstaff line — Pabst, Schlitz, Schmidt’s, Stroh’s, et. al — are on hand for $2 a can during happy hour. On flat screens on either side of the bar, Dean-o was doing his damndest as Matt Helm in “The Silencers” of 1966 and “The Ambushers” of 1967. Dinah Washington “TV is the Thing This Year” and other lounge standards spun on the sound system. A collection of thankfully low-key hipsters were heavily involved in a pool game. Neighborhood types nursed their shots and beers at the bar. Among a few gnarled booths were pieces of furniture that looked like they emerged from somebody’s 1970s basement. There were cups of matchbooks on the bar. The place faintly smelled like a toilet. In short, it approached glorious.

169 Bar is no contrived spring-chicken, though. The place is at least 80 years old, having been a favorite among the late lamented Bowery Bums and earned the nickname of the “Bloody Bucket” before it was purchased by New Orleans transplant in 2006. I suspect that, despite the addition of the vintage vibe, the place hasn’t changed much in 30 or 40 years.

It’s well worth a gander.

169 Bar
169 East Broadway (between Jefferson and Rutgers streets)
Chinatown/Little Italy

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