Friday, October 16, 2009

A Beer at...Limerick House

The latest column for Eater:

Limerick House—this Chelsea tavern's name despite the big sign saying just Limerick's outside—is a friendly bar situated on W. 23rd Street, just steps from the F train, a good place for a quick one before heading off to wherever you're heading. Nobody seems to pay much attention to it despite the fact that it's just off a hugely busy intersection. Its anonymity may have something to do with the dark, rather severe two-story brick facade, which belies the rather narrow and cozy space inside. It kind of disappears before your eyes. Take away the neon beer signs and it would look as drab and bunker-like as a labor union's headquarters.

Inside, the back bar looks 50 years old if it's a day. There's plastic over the tables. The many mirrored beer signs are covered with Halloween cobwebs. A sign says there's a $5 charge for whining. The second floor is occupied by a private party room which, as is the case with many of these Irish pubs, looks forlorn and far less inviting than the bar room proper.

Mikey, the old bartender, has the mussed gray hair of a man who just came in out of a gale and a whinnying Irish accent that sounds like it's about to break into song. The language most often spoken by the staff, however, seems to be Spanish. That includes a vivacious Venezuelan waitress who is obviously popular with the male workers. She wasn't on duty one recent night but was sitting at the bar anyway, with her visiting sister, because "I drink for free." And what she drinks is rum and coke. "I'm from Venezuela. I drink rum." What she eats is arepas, which she makes from scratch at home in Astoria. She speaks perfect, and rapid, English—the result of a year abroad in England and summers spent at English camps in Minnesota. In the U.S. for two years, she still brims with enthusiasm for the city and its possibilities. Like every other barmaid in New York, she wants to be an actress. Musical comedy, specifically. She just graduated from Stella Adler. The call of Broadway resounds all the way down to South America.

How was business last night, she asked Mikey. Busy. The Masons from the century-old hall next door came by after their weekly Tuesday meeting. They are regulars. The waitress is upset. "Aw, I lost money." Masons, we are informed, tip big.
—Robert Simonson

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