169 Bar. I remember when it was a pleasant dive where I’d catch friends’ bands playing for peanuts. I remember when Flight of the Conchords was shot there. They eventually switched over to acoustic acts due to noise complaints. Somewhere around that time, 169 dropped off my radar. The acts I was going to see were playing Rockwood Music Hall or the Living Room. So I missed 169 Bar’s reinvention as New Orleans style bar, complete with a menu and oysters on the half shell. I had some catching up to do.
169 still feels like the middle ground between a dive bar and a lounge. They still have beer and a shot specials. The decor has been slightly upgraded with plenty of hanging colored lights – it is evocative of New Orleans. An oyster shucking station between the bar and the pool table offers a selection of East and West Coast examples. The beer choice ranges from PBR to Spaten. The mostly retro music selection is played a little on the loud side, but not annoyingly so. This adds up to 169 being a comfortable place to settle into on a warm evening.
Then there’s the po’ boys. They’ve got fried oyster and BBQ pork, sometimes offering a fried shrimp special. The $6 sandwiches are snack size; it’d take two of them to make a meal. Pickled okra figures prominently. The oyster version is dressed with a sharp nutmeg remoulade. The BBQ pork comes swimming in sauce – a bit much for my taste, but great for fans of BBQ sauce. In a proper restaurant sandwiches like these might be a little bit of a disappointment, but they’re pretty darn good for pub grub. They go perfectly with a cold beer, and 169 is enticing enough that you’ll be tempted to stay for more than one.
JP Bowersock is a professional musician and music producer who has toured the world repeatedly, eating at top restaurants and hole-in-the-wall joints. He is a serious home cook with over two decades’ experience cooking for family, friends and fellow rock and rollers. Mr Bowersock keeps a toe in the wine business as well, consulting for the wine lists of several neighborhood establishments, including Clandestino, 35 Canal St. When not on tour or in the recording studio he’s scouring the neighborhood for frugal food finds.
I was in Seward Park Liquors with the owner John and a wine sales rep. We ended up tasting the M. Chapoutier, Belleruche, Côtes du Rhône Rosé, 2011. Though the style is a little more in a Tavel direction than Provence the wine is still on the light side. (Tavel can sometimes be heavy). There’s a hint of strawberry, a roundness (not quite oiliness) in the mouth, then a gentle acid finish that invites another sip. A perfect wine for casual warm weather quaffing, at $11 bucks a bottle. John just put the order in today, so look for it this weekend.