During my last meal at Gino, a topic of conversation around the bar, among the regulars, was "Where do we go now?" Until Michael of Gino's opens up, someone suggested Bill's Gay 90s, not too far away on 54th between Park and Madison.
It's a good suggestion. Bill's has been around even longer than Gino, since 1924 when it began as a speakeasy. It's so old, Tallulah Bankhead drank there. Like "21," it's even got a jockey at the door.
I stepped through the hand-carved, stained-glass swinging doors for a drink at Bill's Silver Dollar Bar and mentioned to the bartender that Gino's displaced regulars might give Bill's a try as their new home. He welcomed them, and said to a woman at the bar, "Hey, the people from Gino's might be coming over here."
"Well, alright," she said, "bring 'em in." And then, "Did you hear they're making it into a cupcake place? Can you fucking believe it?"
Good people at Bill's.
Says Bill's website, "this jewel in the crown of Roaring Twenties nightlife continues to defy the powers that be (progress now and development) while holding its sacred ground for a clientele, in some cases, four generations old. You’ll find everything just as it was in Bill’s, unchanged and unspoiled."
It's true. Not much has changed since the place first opened. It's still got the comfortable, brown air of a very old bar. On the walls are ancient pictures of boxers and racehorses, along with lovely Ziegfeld girls, all long dead and gone. There's also a wooden telephone booth with an accordion door, and an upright piano inviting you to sing along.
And the feeling inside is right. It was surprisingly quiet when I was there. It wasn't touristy, like I thought it might be, and it lacked the typical bar-crawly crowds that mass in other good, old bars like McSorley's, Pete McManus, the Corner Bistro, or Chumley's when it was still standing.
So go to Bill's, but go soon--you never know where cupcakes will attack next.
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