327 Bowery, between 2nd and 3rd Sts
Rating: 4 L's
Walt Whitman once asked if a body can exist apart from its soul. Yes, he concluded, predating decades of Cancun co-ed revelry. Who cares about the essential spirit when all the pieces work?
To that, I sing (write silently) of the Bowery eclectic: home to substance abuse clinics, Whole Foods and velvet-roped bars. If you like your mojito with a chaser of community amnesia, the half-mile ‘round Houston is the drinking trough for you. But if your Stella needs a backer of soul? Then, and you saw this coming, I sing of the Bowery Electric.
Any bar that’s named for Whitman, a CBGB festival and the neighborhood’s long-lost Electrical Supply Company has a definite sense of history. Add in Mike Stuto (of Hi-Fi), Jesse Malin and Johnny T (both of Niagra and Black & White) as bar owners, and you’ve got highlights from the East Village scene backed by the birth of modern poetry, the pinnacle of punk rock and some basic knowledge of dimmer switches.
Last December, mostly skeevy Peeping Tom-playground Remote Lounge closed and Bowery Electric nuzzled in. And, like Remote before it, Bowery Electric goes without widows. The bar starts as a long, dark hallway draped in grays, blues and black, all velvet and felt, then leads into a back room full of antique trunks and tucked-away banquettes. Over the stellar sound system, Modest Mouse is likely to segue into Sam Cook, then the Ramones.
There’s a romance to this lush darkness that grows exponentially with alcohol; like its siblings Hi-Fi and Niagra, Bowery Electric offers a bevy of scotches, bourbons, tequilas and beer — the tap list includes Sapporo, Stella, Hoegaarden, Magic Hat #9, Brooklyn Lager, Bass and Victory Prima. But, keeping with its theme, Bowery Electric ups the ante with a sophisticated twist on East Village expectations; the bar has a sommelier-approved wine list and a custom-made cocktail menu, including the Bowery Electric ($7), a tart and refreshing concoction of vodka, Midori and lemon juice.
It’s no bar for semi-sober springtime sunset watching, though — it’s a late-night nook that mirrors the Bowery in its unique mix of all-dolled-up (sparkling hanging lamps, wenge bar, mohair couches) and come-as-you-are (film-noir lighting, the neighborhood feel, a bouncer with a heart of gold). If he were an alcoholic instead of an advocate for prohibition, Whitman would probably have approved — a bar with both body and soul.