Fat Baby, 112 Rivington St, 212-475-2172
Cheapest drink: $3 PBR in a can
Most expensive: $9 Oban Scotch, aged 14 years
The Lower East Side defies taxonomy. Architecturally, the neighborhood juxtaposes the haunted tenement houses of old with monolithic glass monstrosities like the new Whole Foods and the infamous Hotel on Rivington, sticking up like an otherworldly middle finger. The LES isn’t really a slum evolving into a posh hipster hive, it’s simply changed the type of immigrants it welcomes. The diversity remains as dynamic as ever. Sharing a block with the old-school LES oddball stores and graffiti-caked doors and the still-to-be-fully-tolerated aesthetic of the Hotel is a bar that tastefully imbricates the grungy and the ritzy elements of the modern day LES.
The storefront is another non-descript paint-covered former Chinese caterer’s warehouse. The inside, at first impression, is strikingly large. The ‘ground floor’ is backed by a sunken lounge area, and an elevated cage-like mezzanine looms above. The chandeliers are made out of some kind of ancient industrial fan cages, complementing the birdcage feel of the railings of the top floor. Aside from the comfortable faux-leather couches and lounge chairs, the top floor has the semi-sinister appearance of a mid-90s Nine Inch Nails video. The design is chic, dark, decadent, but tasteful. There isn’t a bad seat on any of the three spacious floors. Among the minimalist extravagance, though, the design does justice to the gritty faux-squalor experience that we seem to expect from hip LES hangouts. The exposed brick, cracked paint and ancient refrigerator doors that came with the place add the touch of history that most new hipster watering holes lack.
The entertainment offered at the Fat Baby is off to a good start as the basement stage has already seen a few good bands. DJs spin precariously from the top floor precipice on a regular basis. The jukebox can supply you with any music you want, provided that you have really good taste. The bar staff — two out of three sporting the standard issue slanted bangs — were entertainment in themselves. Travis, an intense personality with a down-home accent, has shared some creative ideas for parties, like Second Hand Shot Night, Wet Jock Strap competitions, and BYOBum. The only one of these that will probably ever happen is Cockfights, which finally provides a venue for women arm wrestling and other undefined “feats of inhuman and immoral repugnance” and music that will “loosen your stool.”
As a rock venue, beautiful/wealthy hipster party den, lounge, posh dive, and perhaps one of very few venues with a myspace profile, Fat Baby stands at the very least for its creative approach to bar life.