For the last couple of years, Tenth Avenue in the 40s and lower 50s has been undergoing a sort of renaissance. Every time I walk through the stretch that was once primarily bodegas, empty storefronts, and wholesale Latin music sellers, there's another new bar, restaurant, or shop. I'm happy: it looks great, is keeping the indie Hell's Kitchen vibe alive, and offers us affordable, out-of-the-way options in the face of Ninth Avenue's growing popularity.
Two new after work discoveries: The Pony Bar and 123 Burger Shot Beer.
The Pony Bar, on the corner of 45th (next to the ginormous Hess station) is a fairly new addition to 10th Avenue's newly almost-fashionable look. While the happy hour is lame (only 4:20 to 5:20), the normal charge for all of the craft beers on the lengthy list is $5, so it's actually a pretty good deal. There were also signs last week noting the future kitchen completion, so hopefully the food will be acceptable as well.
The place's scary challenge, though, is The Pony Bar All American. Customers keep track of and rate each consumed beer on a card (which they provide and stash for you), and when you've reached 100, they put your name on a plaque. Kind of a tempting feat, but when you realize it'll be a sign that says, "Hey--I've spent $500 on beer here!"...I'm not so sure I want to go down that road...
Last night I finally checked out 123 Burger Shot Beer, further up Tenth between 50th and 51st. I expected a dive bar, but it's surprisingly clean and modern and has an outdoor space in the back. The $1 sliders are super-teeny but good, and the onion rings and waffle and yucca fries (all $3) are flavorful and kind of spicy. The big surprise, though, was the $3 beer menu. I'd expected Bud, PBR, and the like, but the selection is decent, moderately upscale, and varied.
Definitely an acceptable recession hangout.