The Second Avenue Subway Bar Crawl | Tracy's New York Life | A New York City Lifestyle + Travel Blog Tracy's New York Life | Best Lifestyle, Culture, and Travel Blog in NYC

The Second Avenue Subway Bar Crawl

by Michelle Carol

The Stumble Inn at Second Avenue and 76th Street--photo courtesy of the The Stumbled Inn

With Thanksgiving on Thursday, this is the ideal week with even more ideal weather to do a bar crawl in NYC. We're taking you up Second Avenue in Yorkville, where the subway construction is noisy, messy, and dreaded by most everyone living East of Third. Still, our very own Michelle Carol decided to dive into the thick of it and guzzle a few brews amid the vibrations and rebar. After a drink or two, the noise and mess didn't matter nearly as much.

Do you live in a cute little apartment on the far Upper East Side of Manhattan, yet none of your friends have seen it? Does the shoemaker know you as ‘the girl who gets taps put on once a month?’ Have you ever taken a taxi from your apartment on York to the 68th St. station? If you’re so lucky to live in a rent-stabilized apartment, my advice to you is --- STAY! Soon enough, another train line will save your shoes and friendships. A solution to your travel woes is coming --- in December, 2016. 

Enthusiastic native New Yorkers might tell you that they've been waiting their whole lives for a Second Avenue subway to arrive. It’s been a conversation for over 80 years. What will the future generations of Yorkville residents complain about? Hopefully, instead of whining about the packed 6 train, they’ll bitch the bars are too crowded instead.

The SAS saga resumed in the East 90s in 2007, and since then, has expanded south down into the 70s. Businesses have closed due to the overwhelming construction on the east side of the street on Second Avenue. White and blue tarps curtain the storefronts, and spell out ‘Duane Reade’ and other business names in a brand-less, logo-less font to mark locations. As the area has become loud and at sometimes confusing to travel through, happy hours in Second Avenue bars have only gotten better (and less crowded!).

Beers are better on a Saturday afternoon. Photo courtesy of Swig
It's never been a challenge for me to convince my friends to drink. Believe me, I’ve suggested going out on the Upper East Side, but 10 times out of 10, I’ve ended up drunk in the East Village. What’s it going to take for them to come here to my hood? I’ve asked myself this time and time again. With the help of Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Brownie Mix and Pinot Noir, I lured Kate and Marah to my place for a bar crawl up Second Avenue through the construction chaos.

I wouldn’t say we “stumbled into” The Stumble Inn on the corner of East 76th Street, but had it been a Monday, we'd have stumbled out after pounding $1 drafts. It was a Saturday afternoon and we grabbed a wooden booth to sip our half-price Leffe Blonds. As some college kids walked in for the football game and mentioned “beer pong”, we decided it was time for our next bar.

We walked up to Swig just before 85th street. There weren’t too many people inside, but it was surprisingly loud. We moved to a different table so we could hear ourselves talk about the hot bartender. I wouldn’t write it off as a dive like some Yelpers did. I stayed safe with a New Castle, but soon regretted not ordering the Bluepoint Toasted Lager after having a sip of Kate’s. The bathroom reminded me of 90s street art. The following Tuesday, I went back to Swig with Marah for Trivia Night (8:30pm) and happy $4 beers (until 8pm). One point for going out on the Upper East!

Swig has happy hour until 8! Photo courtesy of Swig

 Just across 85th Street is Molly Pitcher’s Ale House, an Irish sports bar that reminded me of every Irish sports bar that I’d ever been to. I was underwhelmed with their beer selection compared with the previous two bars. We ignored the sports games on the collection of flat screens, and squeezed our way up to the Irish lady bartender. She called me “honey,” and quickly served me a Sam Adams Pumpkin. 

The crowd there was a bit older than Swig, and pleasantly lower key. It turned out to be a fun place for our third drink of the day. My friends (both UGA alum) saw a girl wearing a Georgia State shirt, and our groups instantly became BFFLs. I wasn't long before I was speaking in a southern accent too. We ordered another drink before we left Molly’s with our new friends from UGA.

Southern Belle Erica suggested we follow them to Rathbone's for $4 Coors Light. At that point, I didn’t need anything with a higher alcohol content than water. “Great wings in an old comfortable bar,” she said. Once we crossed 88th street, I silently acknowledged that I had never been north of 86th street (unless I counted the Yankees games in the Bronx). Rathbone's prides itself on being a “neighborhood favorite” for over 30 years. It seems they haven’t updated anything. In my boozy state, I enjoyed my Coors Light with my old and new friends.

It was matter of time before I glazed over as a cashless, sleepy, thirsty and satisfied hot mess. Before I could propose we walk up my 5 flights of stairs to finish off the remains of my gooey brownies for free, my arms were linked and I was actually skipping to Reif’s Tavern, just off of Second Avenue on 92nd Street. 

Ray is one of the bartenders at Reif's Tavern on East 92nd Street--photo courtesy of Reif's

Next time I will start my bar crawl at Reif’s. What’s not to love? There’s a full bar, darts, a jukebox, pool, and outdoor BBQ grills to use if I bring my own meat during the warmer months. (Not that I plan on throwing a raw hamburger in my handbag and fighting for a space on the grill.) I sipped a Bud Light and announced that if I were sober, I would've felt overdressed. Some heads turned, so I changed the conversation to the bottles of beer on ice ---literally, on ice. This divey pub is everything I’ve wanted in a neighborhood bar, and I’ll definitely be back. 

Beer on ice at Reif's Tavern--photo courtesy of Reif's

Despite the construction and the inconvenience of walking across Lexington and Third Avenue (joke), my friends and I had a great time bar hopping on Second Avenue. New Yorkers and tourists shouldn't let the subterranean explosions and inconvenient MTA hoopla stop them from visiting some of the best pubs in the city.

And in four more years, I'll get a seat on that 6 train because everyone will be checking out the new T train. Since I will have stuck it out during the building of the SAS, my rent will be cheaper than any of the newcomers, which will leave me plenty of extra cash each month to keep crawling.

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