His: I was really proud to bring Gretchen to, arguably, the oldest tavern in New York City. There is some debate about that, but I am a Queens boy, and a bit biased. Neir’s is one of those mainstays of Queens culture, especially if you live in the Richmond Hill/Woodhaven area.
Her: I loved the fact that Mae West used to sing in this-the real oldest bar in NYC (1810). Neirs has a King of Queensy-guy feel and celebrates the fact that scenes of Goodfellas were filmed there (I could never watch that film all the way through—and when they start laying out plastic tarp, I’m out). But, despite the testosterone-rich environment (or perhaps because of it) I could definitely imagine Mae strutting in and doing her “Come up and see me sometime, fellas” routine while locals sipped their bathtub gin and backdoor whiskey.
His: Well, since I used to live in Woodhaven, I feel a certain nostalgia for Neir’s (even though I was only there once before). Maybe, since I did sit through Goodfellas all the way through, I feel it substitutes for going there. Nonetheless, I really like the old-fashioned look of the place, the tin ceilings, mahogany wood and steel bar, equipped with an ice box built into the bar and festooned with a rainbow of liquors in their illuminated bottles.
Her: We ordered their signature drink—a “Mae West” (see the recipe in our First Round Fridays section. It was big and blowsy, just like its namesake, and lipstick red from a deep splash of grenadine and varieties of intoxicants. The owner, Loycent Gordon, came over, and it was actually moving to hear him talk about why he saved the place from imminent destruction and transformation into a bodega. Loycent is a working fireman (so cool) and said his love of what the city means to him, its history and culture deepened after 9/11, and that love and feeling was what led him to spring for the bar and the money it took to restore it. But don’t think you’ll be getting a “reinvented” experience here. The place looks very much like it must have appeared to Mae back in the day. There’s even a big sort of die-cut image of Mae West on the wall that looks like it must have gone up just after she appeared in “She Done Him Wrong” back in the 1930s.
His: Another thing that was cool was that we competed in a trivia contest that was going on as we were sitting there. Gretchen and I really know our stuff, except when it comes to the finer details of recent pop culture…there we saw a chink in our armor and started to fall behind the younger crowd. But we still made it competitive, and you can’t win them all, right?
Her: OK, Michael…don’t sign us up for AARP yet. The trivia quiz reminded me of London’s ubiquitous pub quizzes. It made me a little sad because it reminded me of my former (jerk) boyfriend who would never miss one. Happily, I had a giant pulled pork sandwich and some nicely done sweet potato fries into which I could drown my sorrows. Yum.