I've had my gripes with the leading cocktail lounges in this City from time to time. But one thing I've almost never found myself complaining about is service. Pegu Club, Little Branch, Death & Co., PDT, Milk & Honey—they may be hard to get in sometimes, but once you're in, you are promptly served. A bartender will see you without a drink in your hand and ask you your pleasure.
Not so at Angel's Share. In my travels about the metropolis, I have thus far failed to pay the hidden, second-story, Stuyvesant Street bar in the East Village a call. Last night, I found myself standing in front of it and thought "Why not?" There is no sign on the street. One must know it's there. You climb a flight of stairs and find yourself in a nondescript Japanese restaurant. To the left is a plain wooden door. Pass through it and you'll enter a snug little cocktail haven with a lovely view of street down below.
The place appeared packed. I asked if there was room for one anywhere. The waiter asked me if I would wait for 10 minutes. I agreed. Soon enough, a place at the bar appeared. I plunked myself down, to no great notice from anyone behind the bar. After five minutes, I was handed the cocktail menu. Fine. But I had already browsed through it during my wait (a few too many things with vodka in them for my taste) and was ready to order. I waited for the bartender to return. He didn't. Another did and promptly began cleaning glasses, right in front of me. He did not ask me if I cared to order. He did not in fact look at anyone who was seated at the bar.
He left. A third bartender arrived and promptly began to clean glasses, again right in front of me. No eye contract. No inquiry as to whether I had been served, though it was clear as day that I hadn't been served. No napkin, no water glass, no nothing was before me. 15 minutes had passed. Then, suddenly, all three bartenders were behind the bar. CLEANING GLASSES. No one was making cocktails. At all. I began to wonder if I was wearing a cloaking device. What's more, the bartenders were cheerless and unsmiling, and staring at some distant point past the heads of their customers. I usually get into a conversation with most of the barkeeps I encounter. Not this time, mainly because I did not encounter them.
I could have, I suppose, snapped my fingers, or waved a hand and said "May I order, please?" But my point it, that shouldn't be necessary. Asking the order of a person sitting at your bar is rule one of being a bartender, more important than knowing how to make great cocktails, because, who cares if you're a superb mixologist if you don't ask anyone if they want a drink. At all the other cocktail places I mentioned above, I have never had to hail down a bartender like he was a cab. They are professionals. They are dedicated. They recognize and acknowledge and look out for their customers.
I left and walked a couple blocks to McSorley's on E. 7th. I bellied up to the bar, ordered two dark and had them in front of me, all within a minute. Now, that's a bar.