With an overcast sky, I begin my tour through Murray Hill a few blocks south of the neighborhood in Madison Square Park. I meet my co-conspirator — let’s call him Cool C — where we wait beneath a half-necessary umbrella, appreciating the interaction of trees in bloom, soaring buildings and setting sun. And we’re off!
Starting north on Madison Avenue, C and I are on the lookout for a watering hole to pass some time. We debate crossing the street to sample the atmosphere in Whiskey Rebel, but C expresses a natural concern, and we walk on. Only getting thirstier, we duck into what seems a promising dive — Mercury Bar. A riot of noise later, we hop out and up another couple shops into Patrick Kavanagh’s, a friendly Irish-ish pub that serves up two quick brews and a comfortable atmosphere. Mission accomplished. Time for dinner.
Sailing to Italy
Marcony is definitely a little upscale for us — in all the best ways. This modern Italian “ristorante” served dish after dish of pure delights. Based in the aesthetics of Capri, the menu is peppered with various seafoods and pastas. The sea bass was delicious, but the antipasti were particularly impressive, from the cheese tortellini (explosive) to the grilled octopus (not chewy) and especially the risotto (grilled and paired in anti-flavor with some bitter cabbage).
For a bit of culture shock, we cross the street to Brother Jimmy’s, the popular barbecue chain/sports bar — a sort of Hooters with self-respect. Decorated with all the touchings of quaint Southern culture and boasting an anglo-centric musical aesthetic, we ease our full bellies with mason jars full of sweet, hard liquor. With menu options including “Red Neck Shots” and “Trashcan Punch,” you know nobody here is judging you for drinking an entire fishbowl of grain alcohol.
Kings of the world
We end our night by sidling up to the newly opened The Empire Room at the base of the Empire State Building. This retro-iconic establishment steeps itself in a thick vibe of cool with soft-edged, art-deco furniture and velvet abounding. A comfortable classiness pervades, making even a couple self-described schleps feel delightfully well-to-do. This is not a place to take your wife — more like a new girlfriend, or someone who’d never otherwise date you. Take my word for it, this place makes you want to do two things: smoke and poke.